Aloof from Strife

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling (Proverbs 20:3, ESV).

Proverbs are like beef jerky. You take a small bite, chew on it for a long time, and savor the rich flavor. In the book of Proverbs, we find profound life principles. Meditating on these thoughts sustains and trains our souls.

In Proverbs 20:3 we discover a life-changing principle on conflict. The verse begins with the concept of honor: that which is weighty or substantive, worthy of respect. All in favor of being respected? Then note this: “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife.” When being drawn into meaningless conflict, the wise person doesn’t get swept up in the drama. He steps back, aloof. The word aloof here draws from the Hebrew word Shabbat, the root word for Sabbath, which means to cease, to desist, to rest. When strife knocks at the door, the wise person doesn’t answer. He refuses to join the fray—not when attacked, not even to defend himself. He chooses to rest from fighting, keeping himself “aloof from strife.

Being aloof from conflict doesn’t mean being emotionally aloof, detached and unavailable to those who need you. Instead, being “aloof from strife” is a choice not to get into an argument, a decision to step away. When you have this perspective and can see which fights are meaningless and not worth engaging in, you do yourself, your loved ones, and everyone around you a favor.

This has real life applications and can make a significant impact on your relationships. After I taught this concept, a couple approached me a few weeks later to tell me their story. They had really taken this Proverb to heart. Like many couples, they had certain habitual conflicts. When a fight brewed between them, the husband engaged, trying too hard to make his point, he sheepishly admitted, hoping to goad her into the fight. Rather than repeating their normal patterns of marital warfare, the wife stepped back and said, “I aloof you!” After a moment, they both started laughing. She had literally applied this Proverb and detoured around the argument, rather than quarreling like fools.

What honor to stand aloof from meaningless conflict, to figure it out rather than fight it out, to defuse rather than detonate. While “every fool will be quarreling,” we can make the honorable choice instead. The next time you encounter the temptation to quarrel, try being aloof.


  • Some conflicts are important to engage in; others are meaningless strife. Think of examples of pointless conflicts that come up in your circle of relationships.
  • For those quarrels not worth fighting over, what difference would it make to follow this Proverb and “keep aloof from strife”? How might that change the dynamics in your relationships?

Thank You, Father, for the pithy wisdom of Proverbs. You’ve graciously given us so much to chew on. Help me to savor this thought today and then to faithfully apply it in my relationships. In those moments when I’m tempted to engage in an empty fight, please give me the self-control to make the honorable choice to stand aloof. Please give me the wisdom to see which battles are worth fighting and which are destructive, meaningless conflicts, more about my own preferences than principles. Jesus always knew when to fight and how to see through to the heart of an issue, and I want that perspective too. In His perfect name I pray, amen.