A gentle answer turns away rage,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out a flood of stupidity.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere.
They watch evil people and good people.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.
(Proverbs 15:1-4 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 15:1-7 GW)
I don't know about you but I'm fed up with the rancorous political rhetoric and mudslinging that goes on at election time. And it seems to get worse each election!
And the news media, including social media, plays off of it all and ramps it up even more. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you're on—it comes from all sides. If it doesn't bother you too, you're probably caught up in it too much.
All of this rancor and uncivil debate confirms the second line of this verse—
...but a harsh word stirs up anger.
But what about the first line of the verse? How can a gentle answer turn away anger or rage? At first glance, it may seem absurd or naive. But it's true. I've seen how it's true firsthand.
I can get emotional and passionate about what I think is right or when I think I'm right in a heated discussion (aka– argument). My wife and good friends have turned away my anger and rage on more than one occasion. Thankfully!
It's been helpful to me personally but also an example for me to do the same. I'm also thankful I've become less easily angered over time, as the Lord continues to work His grace into my heart and life.
Perhaps this is why I'm bothered by combative talk, especially when one party really isn't hearing or considering what the other is saying.
As said many times before, it's not just what you say but how you say it. So, how can a person do this? How can we learn to give a gentle answer in the face of someone else's wrath?
The first thing is to observe how effective it is when someone else does this. For starters, we can all learn a lot from how Jesus deflected the animosity and opposition aimed at Him.
But how is really more about who—our character. This isn't an encouragement about self-improvement exercises or things to say. It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature.
It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature
Reading further in this chapter, three verses stand out to me in relation to this first verse—
The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge (Prov 15:4a GW)
The lips of wise people spread knowledge (Prov 15:7a GW)
A soothing tongue is a tree of life (Prov 15:4a GW)
The first two verses speak of the character of a person and how they speak and what they say. Wisdom isn't gained by osmosis or by birth—it doesn't just come by being around it. It's gained by taking wisdom in, considering it, understanding it, and then living by it.
The first part of verse 4, the third verse mentioned, is very similar to the first verse. It's a little different in its wording but conveys the same thing—a gentle answer... a soothing tongue. These words have power but are not intimidating.
When you speak gently to a scared animal, it tends to calm them down. Talking loudly and forcefully only reinforces the fear in an animal or a person.
When a baby is crying it doesn't help to yell, "Stop crying!" at the baby. But when you speak in a soothing way with encouraging and comforting words, it helps relieve tension and is reassuring. This is true for a baby, a child, and an adult.
So, when confronted with someone's anger or rage next time, try answering them in a gentle way and speak with a soothing tongue—whether in person or in some form of social media. Choose to lower the tension. Choose the wise way—the godly way.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)
If we want to give a gentle answer in response to anger or wrath, we need to embrace the wisdom from above and let it bring a change deep in our soul—our heart and mind.
Ask God daily for His wisdom—it's pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere—so you're able to give a gentle answer in the face of anger or rage.
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