The fact of outrage is perplexing to many people. Much of the good life is wasted as we backtrack again and again over the much trampled ground... in the end, mostly, to achieve nothing.
Fire fighters work on the simple premise and understanding of the Fire Tetrahedron in doing their job to great effect. Even though the science of fire is incredibly complicated, fighting fires is made easier by simply removing one or more parts of this four-pronged phenomenon, breaking the continuity of the fire.
This is a really good metaphor for controlling the ‘fires’ in our relationships, with family, colleagues and others.
To put out a fire we must smother it, cool it, starve it or interrupt the chemical chain reaction. Likewise, with great and growing conflicts we can do the same things.
Smothering the Flames
Rather than deprive our in-fighting of oxygen, which fires need, we deprive them of any negative or divisive response on our parts. We don’t open windows allowing fresh air in to fan the flames—we close them. We control our responses, ‘throttling’ any escalation of the conflict.
Cooling the Fire
Slowly bringing the core temperature of the crisis down we’re patient, not blasting those flames with freezing cold water. We aim our patiently cooling action strategically at the base of the fire, not wasting our water on the flames—otherwise the periphery of the debate. We’re therefore directing our cooling of the situation in a tactical way.
Starving the Fire of Fuel
We simply don’t throw more fuel onto the fire. Proverbs has a useful piece of advice that says exactly what needs to be said:
“Without wood a fire goes out,
without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
~Proverbs 26:20 (NIV).
When we remove the fuel—the above example mentioning ‘gossip’ as the fuel—the fire of conflict naturally dies down. Of course, we need to apply our discernment to understand what ‘fuels’ consist of so far as our conflicts are concerned.
Interrupting the Chain Reaction
Conflicts are apt at becoming self-perpetuating. This is no good at all if we wish to live at peace and enter more of the good, productive, moving-forward life.
We should therefore use our insight to understand how to interrupt the chain reaction of conflict, so it will die down of its own accord, allowing us to focus on loving the person beyond the issue we got stuck on.
The aforementioned is really very much about living the Beatitude:
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”
~Matthew 5:9 (TNIV).
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.