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Proverbs at Work: Not Your Quarrel; Don't Get Bitten



“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” (Proverbs 20:17)

I was recently introduced to the expression, "Not my circus, not my monkey."** It sounded harsh to me, so I researched its meaning further. It is apparently a Polish proverb which millennials often use today as a way of saying, "Don't drag me into your drama and your issues—I'm not getting involved." Upon further reflection, it seems that there is a lot of wisdom in this expression.

Do you sometimes get drawn into a conversation (especially heated ones) without meaning to? Or do you have some emotional attachment to the person or topic, and so allow yourself to get involved?


Although the Lord tells us to look after each other, that is not the same thing as putting ourselves into a conversation we should not be in. The Lord tells us that getting into a conversation (or quarrel) which is not our business is the same as grabbing a stray dog by the ears. We will get bitten.


Indeed, sometimes we might see someone is being unfairly treated or harmed. There may be a danger to the person if we do not try to help. I am referring to something else. I am referring to the times when there is a conversation filled with drama, gossip, high volume, or ill-spoken words which you find yourself hearing. In these cases, there are many dangers to getting involved and include:


  1. Misinterpreting the conversation and causing more conflict

  2. Escalating the conversation if you appear to be taking a side.

  3. Making judgments without having facts and causing more tension

  4. Damaging your relationship(s) with the person(s) involved

  5. Causing resentment due to interfering in something which is none of your business


The Lord refers to the dangers of "rushing into a quarrel." This is different from rushing to help someone who is in clear danger. Then, you will want to help. However, there may be times when you should absolutely not "rush into a quarrel," and you can speak to the person(s) later. You can ask the person how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help. This differs from rushing to get involved when it is not your business. Each situation is different, and you must ask God for wise discernment at the actual moment.


Are there times at work that you put yourself in a conversation you should not be in? The Lord says that avoiding a fight is a mark of honor. It does not mean a lack of care; it means the presence of wisdom, patience, and discernment. This week at work, be very conscious of situations that are none of your business and ask God for insight to know when it is "not your circus, not your monkey."



Taking This to God in Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for your proverbs and principles guiding us daily. You have provided direction in what is wise and what is foolish. This week at work, help me to be aware of conversations I may be tempted to participate in that are not my business. Help me discern when it is right to speak and not to speak. Help me also convey my care in uplifting, positive, and productive ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Have a wonderful week, and God Bless.
Bonny, Christian Women at Work

** Reference to the Polish quote:

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1RXQR_enCA933CA933&q=what+does+the+phrase+not+my+circus,+not+my+monkeys+mean&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjhvMGxi_r9AhUBjYkEHcJaBXIQ1QJ6BAhKEAE&biw=1366&bih=649&dpr=1


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