Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 31, 1952

How To Get Along With Other People

Rufus Clifford, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

One problem that every church faces is the problem growing out of people who, somehow, do not know how to get along with other folks. I heard a man say once that he had investigated the background of more than 4500 people who had lost their jobs, and he found that 83 percent of them were let out simply because they didn't know how to get along with their fellow workers! They might have been proficient in the particular work they were doing, but being unable to work with others caused them to disrupt the whole plant. And they were fired.

Inability to get along with other people has surely broken up homes, broken up friendships, stirred up strife in the community, and has even torn churches of the Lord asunder. It has set brethren opposite to one another for years at a time. These antagonisms often arise not over any great principle of truth or righteousness, but simply over some minor little irritation or difficulty.

Christians have a definite duty in this respect. Paul said, "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, live peaceably with all men." (Rom. 12:18) And Christ himself said, "Have peace one with another." (Mark 9:50) So it is the Lord's will, and was repeated by Paul, that we should live together in harmony and peace. Since this is our solemn duty as Christians, there are several things we will consider in it.

Looking To Our Own Selves

It is easy enough for us to look at the other fellow, and to point out his mistakes and shortcomings. But if we are to get along with men, each of us must take a long searching look into his own life. We must seek to cultivate those qualities that make for peace. If we are irritable, faultfinding, hypercritical, always looking for the evil in others, and never seeing the good, it will be impossible for us to "have peace one with another."

Christians are the "salt of the earth." Salt seasons. Food would hardly be worth eating without salt. Just as salt seasons the food we eat, so the spirit of Christianity sweetens and purifies. It develops within us such a spirit and attitude that, even though people may disagree with us, they do not avoid us; but rather seek our company and association. We can disagree without being disagreeable; we can differ with people without becoming antagonistic and hateful. We can even point out faults and shortcomings, and yet do it in such a way that our criticism will be appreciated and not resented.

An Interest In Others

One basic factor in all this problem of getting along with others has to do with our having an interest in other people. It is simply human nature for us to like people who are interested in us; all of us are more kindly disposed toward the other person who shows that he has some interest and concern in our welfare. I heard someone say that a dog is the only animal that doesn't have to work for a living. Hens have to lay eggs, cows give milk, horses pull plows and wagons; but all a dog has to do is bark and wag his tail. There is a whole lot of truth in that. Any man is kindly disposed toward the one who shows an interest in him. A dog runs forth to meet his master, and shows his affection for him. He is fed with a lot more pleasure than is the horse who may be a far more profitable animal to the owner.

What individual in the world causes more trouble and stirs up strife and difficulties beyond measure? Is it not the fellow who is only interested in himself? Is he not the one who is most likely to be always in the thick of any argument or fight that is in progress? And on the contrary side of that, who ever finds much fault or trouble with the fellow who is always trying to help somebody else? If we would only consider God's interest in us, we could understand how obligatory it is upon us all to have an interest in others. Think of the infinite pains and plans of God from the very beginning of time for our salvation; remember all the long, wearisome and patient years he led and directed Israel that he might prepare a nation to bring Christ into the world. And remember, too, how Christ gave his life for our sins. God's love toward us was manifested in that while we were yet in our sins, Christ died for us.

Watching Our Words

No man can get along for very long with others unless he is ever watchful of his words. Words are powerful things. Solomon said, "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger." And one of our modern verse makers, Edgar A. Guest, has said, "This is wisdom, maids and men, knowing what to say—and when." Lincoln's Gettysburg address needs not one word more or less. Artists with the master touch never use one phrase too many or too few. Jesus' sermon on the mount says exactly the right thing in words that are simple and easy to understand. And there are no surplus words.

Many times we say some nasty thing about a person, only to have the thing come back to us. Then we say, "Oh, I didn't intend to hurt any one." No, we never intend the consequences of our deed; but the consequences follow nevertheless. I heard of a lady once who had a running tongue, and when corrected one time on a particularly vicious bit of gossip, she said, "Oh, I'm sorry; I didn't intend to hurt anybody; I'll take it all back." She was told to bring a feather pillow, rip it open, and throw the feathers into the wind. "Now," said the one who was correcting her, "let us see you gather up these feathers and put them all back into the pillow." She saw the point. She might take back her evil talk; but it would be forever impossible to recall and gather up all the nasty, dirty hateful words that have been uttered. It would be impossible to make right the wrong that had been done. It would be impossible to correct the damage done to another's reputation, no matter how sorry may be the one who did the damage.

We have many church problems, some of them serious. But surely there is no more vexing and common problem than the simple problem of getting along with one another. And yet, at the same time, there ought to be no more simple and natural thing for Christians to do than that. The whole atmosphere of our living ought to be such as to make this the most normal and easy course of all.