When to back down

As this New Year started, we are normally full of enthusiasm, but when met with difficult situations we have to make difficult decisions and sometimes make the difficult decision to back down and let it go despite our pride and reputation. This is not the popular decision, because the world wants us to be winners of all.

A few years ago I had to learn to back down not to damage the kingdom of God. It hurt very deeply as I left, but I know it was the better decision for the people involved. Friends and foes were both sad and glad I left, stories were slung around, but God knows the truth, and that is all that count.


We read in God’s Word in 2 Samuel 15:1-37 of a back-down situation king David experienced. David’s own son Absalom conspired against him by organising a rebellion. Absalom revolts against his father in an undermining way and steals the hearts of the people by assuring them that his kingship would bring about a far more just society than his father’s. The rebellion begins in the city of Hebron and became widespread. He also sends messengers to other parts of Israel to stir up trouble. When David learns of the rebellion he made the difficult decision to back down.
If David did not escape from Jerusalem, the possibility of a fight would have caused his death and those of many innocent people around him. It might also have caused the destruction of Jerusalem. After all he still loved his son, Absalom.

Some battles we think is necessary can be costly and can ruin the people around us. When this happens, it might be wise to back down even if it hurts your pride. It takes courage to stand and fight for what is right in your mind, but it also takes courage to back down for the sake of others. Before you fight, consider the damage it may cause.

Our mettle will be tested by adversity. Godly people are those who know when to say no to a fight and back down. It is unfortunate that the world calls “back-downers” as quitters. It might be better or more correct to rather admire them for their guts to know when to say “no.”

How to evaluate when to back down?

  • Will it honour God? To take the challenge/fight might fuel your pride, but it may dishonour God. Remember, to win is not the goal of Christianity, but to honour God.
  • Will it build God’s kingdom? Not to back down may build your kingdom and not God’s. Will it cause damage to the kingdom of God locally or broader?
  • Know the odds. Assess what you are up against. Weigh the costs of going forward against the costs of holding back.
  • Know the people who will be influenced. How will either decision influence the people involved?
  • Know yourself. Evaluate why you want to go ahead or back down.
  • It can take a keen sense of self — and a certain kind of quiet confidence — to know that what you are facing is beyond your abilities.

Though you don’t always get medals for common sense, backing down demonstrates sometimes more valour than foolishly forging ahead.