The first line of King Solomon’s Proverbs 15 always stops me in my tracks:
1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV)
The reason this verse gives me pause is because I have read it many times, but in the heat of the moment, can have a very difficult time remembering to use it. It is a simple concept filled with divine truth, yet is hard to remember to lean upon in times of upset.
We spend much of our day interacting with others. From time to time, each of us is subject to our own internal pressures, stresses, fatigues, and frustrations. These can result in a burst of negative emotion directed towards someone else, and give a sharp edge to subsequent social interactions. These feelings may express themselves in some form of disrespect towards another, such as a disapproving scowl, a criticism, the blast of a car horn, or some other form of rude behavior.
How should we respond when others treat us this way? Solomon tells us to use as soft or gentle of a response as we can muster. If we have the self-control do this, the offense and its repercussions will often just melt away.
Humbly resisting the temptation to strike back or get even will often defuse a tense situation, and a spirit of peace can quickly return to all. An angry response will often escalate the problem, causing a much greater internal turmoil that can linger for a whole day, or much, much longer.
If we are the culprit who has made another a victim of our own internal frustrations, failing, or not even attempting to restrain or tone down our angry response to them, there is a solution. If at all possible, we promptly but gently admit to them that we were wrong. After doing this, we make amends as best we can for our angry outburst or offense.
If it is not possible to atone for our actions, we redouble our efforts to use a softer response the next time we become agitated. In the meantime, we can make some restitution by doing something positive (and perhaps anonymously) for someone else in their place. We seek to humbly submit to God and all His children in a community of blessing and love in the kingdom of God.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)
Where do I need to do a better job of implementing Solomon’s wise principle of using a soft answer to turn away wrath in my life?
Dear Lord, guide my thinking today, and help me to use wisdom when tensions arise. Help me to draw upon Your humility to choose a soft answer when the temptations for anger or rage are stirred up by the words or actions of another. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.