Jump Start # 2301
Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
I like this verse. It sure is needed these days. So many seem to be walking around with a chip on their shoulders and if you look differently at a person, you’re sure to get an earful. This is especially true in the culture of politics. It appears that both sides are always mad at each other. It’s wearisome to most of us. We are busy with life. We have jobs, family and our journey with the Lord to focus upon. All the fussing out of Washington and on talk shows is enough to give one a headache.
Our verse today reminds us that you and I can change the temperature of a discussion. The choice of words and the way we say them can really calm things down or it can lead to a real dog fight. It takes two to argue. The righteous wise person recognizes the strength in a gentle answer.
Consider a few thoughts:
First, to be one who speaks gently, you must think first. That’s the problem many of us have. We are talking faster than we are thinking. We say things without running those words through any filters and without considering how they will be received. Like two armies engaged in a battle, one fires a shot and the other side returns. Back and forth this goes. Then as things get worse, volume is added. Shouting takes place. Then anger is added. Then body language such as pointing fingers, slamming doors, pounding on a table, is added. And, at that point the discussion falls apart. Both sides leave mad at each other. And, the problem only deepens.
Being gentle when the other person is ready to explode like a volcano is hard to do. But the gentle approach will cool things down and it will address the issue rather than attacking the person. In a heated discussion, there are words that you shouldn’t say. There is a volume that you shouldn’t reach. Remain seated. Stick to the topic. Be kind. Be gentle.
Second, to be gentle, stick with the topic of disagreement. So often, when one is upset, they will jump from topic to topic, without fully coming to a conclusion on any of them. The more doors that are opened the harder it is to close them. If necessary, write down all the other things that are problems and promise to discuss those another day, but for today, let’s stay on this subject. Some do not want closure. They just want to rant and air their complaints. They are not looking for solutions. They need the problem to stick around so they have a reason to be upset, mad and complaining.
Third, to be gentle does not mean you cave in, surrender your views or do not draw a line in the sand. You can stand firm, and yet, remain gentle. You can be bold and direct without being ugly. You can have convictions and still be gentle. This is a sign of meekness. To be meek does not mean to be weak. It’s strength under control. Jesus was meek. Jesus also had the power to call down legions of angels. He could have opened up the earth and swallowed his critics. But he didn’t. He was under control. He never had to come back the next day and apologize for something he said. He never was over the top. Jesus called himself “gentle in heart.”
Fourth, often to avoid wrath is to avoid more sin. Paul told the disciples to put away all wrath. Wrath, slander, anger, all seem to hang around each other. Where you find one, you’ll usually find the others. Some people know just what buttons to push to get you upset. Some, especially teens, like to do this on purpose. Some are looking for a fight. There are some disagreements that are simply not our business. You do not have to attend every argument that you are invited to. I wonder if some of the obnoxious comments people write on social media are there just to engage in a verbal fight. They say things just to get others upset.
Fifth, the gentle answer can open one’s heart to the Lord. There are some who have their minds made up. There are some who are as hard as concrete. There are some who are so stubborn, nothing will change their minds. However, there are those few who listen. They may actually give thought to what you say and noticing how you conduct yourself in these discussions, be swayed to hear more. A lot of angry stuff being said these days lacks evidence, logic and common sense. Some think if they huff and puff long enough, it will blow down the houses of faith. The gentle answer can clear the smoke and it allows others to see how ridiculous error is. Error is not consistent. Error doesn’t make sense. Error is not logical. Error is not factual. But if enough people repeat it, long enough and loud enough, some will accept that error is really true.
Sixth, the gentle answer must be presented in kindness to be gentle. Name calling, falsely accusing, attacking the character of a person is all the tools that error uses. Don’t go there. Don’t generalize. Don’t stoop to hatred, racism, or abusive speech. Don’t do what the others are doing. I remember a discussion I had with a guy about the origin of the Bible. I presented reasons for inspiration from God. He couldn’t accept that. There was no way. The Bible, he loudly informed me, was nothing more than a collection of fables, myths and legends that a group of men put together. I asked him where’s the proof for that? He shouted. I asked what fables? Where did they come from? He didn’t know. I asked him what group of men put this together? He didn’t know. I asked him when they did this? He didn’t know. I asked him what was their motive? He didn’t know. I asked him where was this done? He didn’t know. I asked him why there wasn’t any evidence or proof for what he claimed? He didn’t know. All he knew was that God didn’t inspire the Bible. I asked him if it was possible that a divine God existed. He said it was possible. I asked if that divine God could have the power to create the world. He guessed it could be possible. I asked if that divine God could communicate to the world He made. He said he guessed so. I asked if that divine God could communicate with words. He agreed. I asked if that divine God could have those words written in a book. It was here that he said, The Bible is not inspired by God. Tired, frustrated and feeling like I accomplished nothing, that’s how some discussions end. But even then, you must be kind and gentle. You’ll walk away from some discussions realizing that the person wasn’t logical. The arguments didn’t make sense. There was no proof. Yet, the person wasn’t moving away from them.
The golden rule demands that we treat others the way we’d like to be treated. Rather than reacting to the tone and spirit of the person talking to us, you set the tone by being kind and gentle. This works in marriage. This works with the kids. This works at work. This works in Biblical discussions.
The gentle answer is the way to go…