I want to identify a tendency toward strife in some people’s hearts and help you lead these people well. I also want to help you identify this tendency in your own heart if it exists there.

We’ve all known folks who just seem to be drawn to conflict. They are always in tension with somebody, always embroiled in a fight of some kind. I’m thinking of a person I know and love. If I had a conversation with this person every day, I would hear about some new flare up, somebody new they are ticked off at. They always seem to have a “mad on” as my southern cousins say.

Now, it would be easy for us to distance ourselves from these folks and just assume they are angry, bitter, damaged people. They may be these things and they may need some help working through past hurts. Yet I want to suggest another understanding that has helped me lead people out of this tangled web.

I began to realize some time ago that people who are perpetually in strife are often people who like being in strife because they know who they are in the strife. Let me say that another, simpler way. Imagine a person who is pretty uncertain of themselves. They don’t know who they really are or their place in the world. Now, imagine they have some angry flare up. They are mad at their child’s teacher or their boss or their spouse or whomever on the national stage. At that moment, in that angry state, they may be more certain of themselves, clearer about where they stand and who they are, than at any other time in their life.

I remember confronting a friend who had a new “mad” to report nearly every day. I asked him if the reason being mad felt so good is that it gave him a sense of position, a sense of empowerment. He was certain of himself at that moment more so than at any other time. He said it was true and started to cry.

That admission opened up an opportunity, and here is where you come in as a leader in such situations. His confession gave me a chance to build in broader purpose and security into his life. I told him how I saw him. I described his gifts. I knew enough about his past to explain how his harsh father had made him an insecure man. I said that it was time for his angry, insecure days to be over.

I’m not complimenting myself when I tell you that this man’s life changed. He started seeing harmony with others as a virtue and he began to be the calm, peaceful, happy person who attracts people. His marriage and parenting improved. He rose in his company. He lived a richer life. Now, it took more conversations than the one I describe to launch him into all this, but that one conversation began turning the ship.

You can do this with the strife-bound in your life, too. Yet you have to do it in your own soul first if this negative cycle is working there. The solution is to replace a false purpose—the security of being angry and indignant—with genuine purpose and good. To state it briefly, anger and bitterness are false destinies offering a false sense of purpose. True purpose, true gifts, true God-given roles are the answer.