The Attitude in the Answer
June 9, 2021
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1 NLT
You’ve been there. You know how it happens. A couple of people are together, and the conversation turns a little testy. Person A says something with an angry bite, baiting Person B. Person B takes exception to the comment, even though it’s nothing really important, and delivers a somewhat witty zinger back. Annnnd….we’re off to the races. The unimportant statement has now become a thing. Tempers are flaring, the relationship is in danger, and productive communication is over. The little thing has begun something that may smolder and divide for years.
Solomon in this proverb sets up a different scenario. A couple of people are together, and the conversation turns a little testy. Person A says something with an angry bite, baiting Person B. Person B pauses and thinks, “Well, that didn’t feel good, but it’s a little thing. He must be having a hard time. I’m bigger than this.” After a moment he just calmly says something like, “Things are kinda tough, aren’t they? I’m feeling it too.” The testy atmosphere takes a step back, and the relationship has a chance to grow. The tension disappears.
It’s always true. Giving a harsh, critical, defensive answer throws fuel on what may be just a tiny spark, and before you know it you have a raging inferno of anger. But a soft and gentle response will be a surprising dose of calm and reason. The atmosphere has a chance to lighten up and become workable.
Many of Solomon’s other proverbs teach about the power of gentle speech:
- Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
- Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24
- A person's words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook. Proverbs 18:4
It’s not just powerfully effective for others when you are gentle, it directly impacts your own soul. “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel” (Proverbs 11:17).
Jesus Himself said we will give an account for the words we speak, and our own words will be the testimony for us or against us. Our words set the tone for our destiny and our testimony. May they be gentle.
- May the words of my mouth and my thoughts be acceptable to You, O God.