A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
What comes to mind when you hear the word gentleness? A hand stroking a baby’s soft, pudgy cheek? A cooling breeze on a hot summer day? Ocean waters lazily lapping onto a sandy shore? That’s what I think of. And I also think about the power behind the gentleness that can destroy. The hand becomes a fist. The breeze a tornado. The water a tsunami. That which was gentle becomes that which can destroy.
The Greek word for gentleness is the same as meekness which is defined as expressing power with reserve and gentleness. We all have the capacity for choosing to gentle our strength. To choose NOT to use our power. While that is certainly not evident in our culture these days, we do have the power to NOT engage in verbal warfare AND to speak life and peace into situations with a gentle response.
The book of Proverbs were given to us by God to supplement the teaching of the prophets. It teaches that we need Godly, divine wisdom but also human, common sense. Both play a part in our daily lives. Chapter 15 tells us in as simple a way as possible that gentle answers, soft words defuse an angry situation. But ugly, hard words just stir up mess, anger and hurt feelings.
In this Easter season, we are reminded of the suffering of our Lord. 1 Peter 2:21 says God calls us to do good even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for us. Maybe this means when we have opportunity to choose a gentle answer or one that is hard, we choose to suffer by squashing the ready comeback. Like when someone we hold close says or does something hurtful, our humble response can be “Hey, is everything okay with you? You’re not usually like this. How can I help?” We can choose, with God’s help, to defuse and not heap gasoline on the fire and then fan the flames, creating a fire storm.
The Message Bible says a gentle response defuses anger but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Our words can be soft and encouraging or hard and destructive. It is always our choice. If you’ve ever watched an out of control fire on TV, you know that it sometimes takes weeks just to get it contained. Not put out completely, only contained. And then they wait for the embers to die to be sure a gust of wind won’t fan the flames into reigniting and setting ablaze whatever else it can find. Our words can be that wind or the water that puts it out completely.
Your Turn: Share with us when your words have changed a tense situation. Was it better or worse? Breath on Paper