In my earlier life, I used to go fishing down at the river a short distance from my grandfather’s house. It was thrilling to feel the fight put up by the fish as they tried getting off the hook they’d swallowed. It has been a long time since those days. I’m faced with decisions almost every day about how to handle bait that someone or some situation presents to me. You probably have this experience too.
What is bait?
Some fish may seem “smart,” but fish are creatures without the intelligence to make decisions about what’s good and what’s not good for them. The Creator endowed human beings with tremendous intellect. We have the ability to think, to decide. Therefore, whenever faced with the prospect of conflict based on the intentional and unintentional acts of another, don’t take the bait!
What is bait?
For purposes of this article, I consider “bait” to be any kind of provocation to enter into conflict with another. It could be a snide remark, an off-putting attitude, throwing “shade” on social media, a terse text message, etc.
It is in our best interest to avoid all conflict that’s preventable. Unfortunately, too many fail to give due regard to intentional peacemaking, choosing instead to simply bumble along, living incident to incident without any specific plan to live peacefully. The peacemaking lifestyle involves making definite plans about how one will choose to live, regardless of circumstances. This peacemaking lifestyle is best achieved through intentional planning. It will not occur by happenstance.
You are going to be tested
People often live like the fish, picking up whatever dangles in the water. They just “have” to respond. These individuals have to defend themselves. They simply have to engage. They cannot “let it slide.” This is not the most beneficial way to live. Rather than being “victims” of situations, the goal should be to live as masters of life’s realities. Someone is going to say something off-putting. People will sometimes display nasty attitudes.
If you’re on social media, you should know by now that someone is going to be argumentative, rude, disrespectful and even judgmental without knowing anything about you. A text message or email (whose actual tone you cannot judge with one hundred percent certainty, since it is not verbal and in-person communication) will rub you the wrong way. Someone will snap at you just because they’re having a bad day (has nothing to do with you). The store attendant may respond dismissively when you ask for assistance. Your spouse will sometimes unfairly criticize something you did.
There’s no escape, life happens
In other words, life happens. The question that each person has to answer for himself or herself is “how will I choose to respond or react to these provocative events, recognizing that my choice could either escalate or de-escalate potential or occurring conflict?” There will always be something or someone that grinds against your patience and even your ego. Each trigger that tempts you to react or respond in a non-productive manner is “bait” for us to make irrational decisions. These are decisions that we usually regret. We have the power of choice to not take the bait!
You have to be prepared for “messy” people
There are individuals all around us who do not value peacemaking as a treasured principle to live by. Some types of bait used to stir your anger include reckless speech, rude manners and disrespectful attitudes. Some thrive on conflict. That’s how they feed their emotional need to feel relevant. They do not mind that it’s negative attention. The important thing for them is that they’ve succeeded in turning the spotlight on themselves, for good or bad. They live by different rules than maybe you care to live by. They’re willing and prepared to get into “messy” conflict with you.
You care about how you represent yourself. They don’t mind how they appear as long as they’re getting the attention they crave. Such individuals know what to say to stoke your anger, to frustrate you, to make your life unpleasant. They are naturally manipulative and intentionally provocative. In other words, they know how to bait their victims. Their expectation is that you’ll take the bait and react in the way they anticipate.
It is important to know and understand that when people intentionally “bait” you, they already anticipate how they think you will react, and they have planned for you in terms of their next move. Those who “bait” their targets always seem prepared to “get into it” when the targets react. Those who commit to living the peacemaking life must recognize that there are people who do not share their values, therefore the peacemaker must plan in advance about how to handle these types of situations.
So make up your mind now to not take the bait! Whether intentionally or not, whenever someone presents in a conflicted manner, you can choose to not engage them on their terms. You have the right not to return the unpleasant behavior was displayed toward you. It is your choice to exercise this right. Don’t be like the fish, taking bait, just because it’s dangling in the water. You don’t want to end up on a hook, caught unawares and unable to release yourself from the situation.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.James 1:19, 20 (NKJV)