Martha Washington, the wife of President George Washington, often recalled the two saddest days of her life. The first understandably was December 14, 1799, the day her husband died. The second was in January 1801. This was not because of a death but rather a visit from founding father Thomas Jefferson. As a close friend explained, "She assured a party of gentlemen, of which I was one. . .that next to the loss of her husband" Jefferson's visit was the "most painful occurrence of her life."
But why of all things would that be such a terrible day? You see, she had come to dislike Jefferson for his frequent attacks on President George Washington. Attacks that came from newspapers Thomas Jefferson ran solely to slander George Washington, which he funded with Federal money. Money that he got from his position as Secretary of State, on George Washington's cabinet! Martha Washington felt that any positive things that Jefferson said or did in his memory were insincere and sarcastic.
The saddest part of this whole endeavor was that Jefferson really didn’t dislike Washington. His real problem was with Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson believed Hamilton, along with his Federalists, were bent on restoring a monarchy in the United States. Because Washington refused to completely dismiss the counsel of Hamilton, he believed that Washington had fallen completely under their spell. Jefferson used his press to paint Washington as a monarchist bent on destroying the rule of the people and a senile follower of the policies of Alexander Hamilton. His beef with Hamilton spilled over to George Washington and then brought Martha to such pain.
Things like this are not just reserved for politics however. How many good relationships have turned sour because we let our personal disagreement become feuds that are then turned them into full blown wars. And like many wars, the worst casualties belong to those on the periphery. Two deacons squabble over power until the church becomes involved and divided. Two young girls in spat spills over and the entire youth group is chaos. Even in Scripture we see it (Philippians 4:2). Personal battle rarely remain personal, and the fires started burn more than ever was intended.
That is why we need to remember the words of Romans 12:17-19;
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…
Just because we never intended to hurt someone doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The quickest way to end the feud is to never let it get started. Leave the slights to be handled by God. Settle things with your brother before they escalate beyond your control (Matthew 5:25). Don’t let you bad behavior be someone worst day!