106 – Never Threaten

The very act of making any kind of threat means the threat-maker has become unhinged. Listen, understand, make your case, then accept and confirm their response. Let your actions in the days and years to follow be your rebuttal. Develop a reputation for meaning what you say the first time. Make sure people know, by your actions, that you respond without second warning—your initial conversation was the first and only warning.

If you catch a murder on tape, don’t walk up to the killer and threaten to go to the authorities if he doesn’t turn himself in. He already knows he did what is wrong. Lay low, keep quiet, survive, and report the crime as soon as you can. If a police officer is wrong in his work on the street and you can prove it, never tell him. Suggest that he do what is right once at most. After that, be diplomatic, be respectful, say, “Yes sir,” as often as you can, then go home and make sure he never works in law enforcement again.

This does not work the same relationships. A police officer has authority and force, which he can use. Never interfere with a police officer’s work on the scene, the same goes for any authority or criminal. Catching criminals safely and surely requires due process. If a revolution is in order, that must involve action on a larger, legal, respectful scale. Don’t just be a bumbling rebel. Like “tank man” who stopped the parade of tanks in China, wave around your grocery bag, then be on your way, he didn’t demand that anyone abdicate.

The Bible is clear about conflict in relationships: first one-on-one, then four at most, then the assembled authority. In a command structure, there are supervisors who must carefully review and verify at every step along the way. But, in that first one-on-one confrontation, don’t threaten to use that system; just use it. Kindly explain the right thing, the right reasons, and the right action. If the person doesn’t listen, go home and move to step two. When you must escalate, neither threaten nor warn. After all, a warning is a threat to the person being warned.