Thursday, January 8, 2015

Abigail: The Wise Negotiator

Experiencing conflict is a definite fact of life. There is simply no getting away from this fact. As a
leader, as a human being, it is inevitable that we will face interpersonal conflicts.
Jean Varnier, founder of L’Arche communities confirms it: “Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. Tensions come from conflicts…. A tension or difficulty can signal the approach of a new grace of God. But it has to be looked at wisely and humanly.”  Wisdom must be applied in every conflict that arises in our lives and a Bible character named Abigail exemplified its value (1 Samuel 25).

How did Abigail become a wise negotiator? Here’s the background story: A situation arose when her husband Nabal, which his name means, “fool,” reacted irrationally to one of David’s request for assistance. As a result, David was enraged at Nabal’s reply and uttered death threats. Here’s where Abigail “…an intelligent and beautiful woman…(25:3)appeared in the picture when a servant reported to her how Nabal insulted David’s men and unintentionally caused a potential disaster as a result.

Upon hearing what transpired, Abigail acted quickly to provide what was requested: She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs[b] of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. She met David, bowed in humility and appealed to David’s prominence versus Nabal’s foolish nature, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him.” Then, Abigail reminded God’s plan for David:
“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,

Because of Abigail’s courageous action, David was impressed and said: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.” Furthermore, David recognized Abigail’s wisdom, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.”  Due to Abigail’s judicious intervention, David gave up his vengeful plan for Nabal, “Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

Abigail revealed how wisdom and resolute action need to partner in order to save good people from disaster. Being wise in itself may not be sufficient in some situations because it is possible to simply stand by and watch destruction happen that could be avoided if immediate action are not taken. Abigail's example points to the importance of the words chosen when speaking in tense situations. Harsh, loud words may become the catalyst to an unnecessary explosion. They may drive individuals to actions contrary to the intent, which will be regretted later. In contrast we see how calm, carefully calculated words can lead to a peaceful parting or solution: "A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

Allow me to share how to P.A.U.S.E. in times of tense situations:
  1. Plan definite actions (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel and develop options).
  2.  Anticipate the effects (show genuine concern and respect others with humility).
  3. Understand the situation at hand (identify other’s concerns, desires, needs, limitations and fears).
  4. Seek the best solution to diffuse the conflict (prayerful brainstorming).
  5. Evaluate possibilities or scenarios objectively and reasonably (assess, don’t argue).

Remember that conflicts can’t be avoided, but a truly wise person can manage them and to learn how to do just that. A man named Charles M. Campbell quoted in New Outlook gave an important advice to consider: “The simple realization that there are other points of view is the beginning of wisdom. Understanding what they are is a great step. The final test is understanding why they are held.”

Let’s talk again!