Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turns away wrath,

    but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1 ESV

Ever catch yourself in the midst of a disagreement making your point with increasingly more “clarity” and “emphasis”? By clarity and emphasis I mean turning up the attitude and the volume. Why do we do that? So much of what we have learned (by word and observations) about navigating through life is based on the idea that “might makes right.” If I’m stronger than you then I’m right and you should submit to my desires or ideas. The other component is a selfish heart that desires what it wants and will fight tooth and nail to get it.

My observation is that in such situations, my interlocutor usually turns up the attitude and volume, too. That sounds a whole lot like “a harsh word stirs up anger.” If we could step outside that event on the moment, we would see something quite pitiful as the volume and sharp words increase, like two heavyweight boxers matching each other blow for blow. Think of each blow being another can of gasoline being poured on the fire.

Have you ever gone into a disagreement ready to do verbal battle only to have the other person not play along? In other words, they didn’t respond forcefully or unkindly? What a let down! Who wants to argue with someone who refuses to argue? Our culture and flesh demand that we respond in kind: “If you poke me, I’ll poke you harder.” Wisdom demands that we not fall prey to the folly of our culture or flesh. Wisdom teaches that a man can refuse to pour gasoline on the fire by answering softly or kindly. That’s not always easy, but it is right.

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