My mom used to quote this verse to me often. Apparently, I had a problem with soft answers. ~smile~ Even now, I find myself jumping on the defensive when I need to step back, breathe deeply, release my pride, and answer calmly.
When is the last time you and your special someone came to verbal blows with each other? Was your first thought, “A soft answer turns away wrath”? Probably not. Although, if you quote this to yourself enough, maybe it will be at the forefront of your mind the next time you feel an unkind shout rising up within you!
This simple verse from Proverbs may just be the best advice for conflict resolution in the entire Bible.
It is Almost Impossible to Keep Yelling at Someone Who is Whispering to You
What makes a “good” fight a good fight? Insult tennis! I hit an angry comment at you and you hit it back to me! If I do not return the ball within seconds, you get the point for that round. There is heat, fury, passion, and power involved in a “good” fight. How frustrating is it to brawl with someone who is not fighting back? If you scream and he or she responds by whispering, do you scream again? Maybe, but each time you do you feel a little crazier than the last verbal volley.
The quickest way to deescalate a conflict is by speaking softly.
“You jerk! I hate you! You ruined my life!”
“I am sorry I hurt you.”
Where is the fight supposed to go from there? At first, the screamer may be frustrated by the kind, even-tempered approach; but, it is the first step to engaging in a rational discussion.
A Soft Answer Steals the Power Behind the Anger
Eric could say, “The house is a mess, Heather. What did you do all day?” If I respond, “I work hard, buddy! You want a play-by-play you irritating, control freak?!” then I am definitely stirring up anger. There goes our entire night – literally. That one exchange could have us brooding in separate rooms for hours.
Perhaps another answer might be (spoken calmly), “Eric, I know the house is a mess, but that is because I focused my time on writing for PreEngaged today.”
That may not be the end of the discussion, but it certainly changes the tone. Now we can discuss it rationally because I did not return the volley of Eric’s irritation.
That was a fictional example, of course. ~wink~
Calm and Kindness Inspires Rationality
Eric and I have “enjoyed” some humdinger fights over the years – and most of them were stupid. They often took place late at night when neither of us was feeling rational. My spiritual mentor, Miss Betty, says that we have a harder time hearing the Holy Spirit when we are tired, and I believe she is on to something there!
However, Eric and I have enjoyed some victories too! Sometimes, he will get an attitude with me and I will remember to respond softly. When I do, the situation defuses. And, believe it or not, sometimes I cop an attitude with him. (Shocker, I know.) And, when he responds graciously, it steers the boat back to calm waters.
Nothing gets settled when one or both parties are irrational. Soft speech encourages reasonableness to return. Once both people are calm, then a resolution can be reached.
How We Speak to Our Significant Other Teaches the World about Relationships
What do you want to teach the world about love? How do you want your future children to address someone they love? Consider how your romantic relationship reflects your relationship with God. When you spew anger, even if you are provoked, do you radiate Christ? The only time Christ showed anger was when His Father, God, was dishonored. When Christ was attacked, He turned the other cheek.
Speaking softly in those angry moments gives us an opportunity to show the world how God’s children are supposed to interact. What an amazing lesson for your future children. Even if you or your spouse fails, the other can teach the lesson by reacting with a cool head! ~smile~
How would Christ respond? It is a good question to ask. Get in the habit of taking a moment to breathe before responding. That moment could be the difference in an angry response and a soft answer! During that moment, consider if your anger is on behalf of yourself, or of God. If someone is dishonoring your Heavenly Father or lying about His character, that is the time to rise up and take action. However, if you are angry because someone is messing with your pride, (which I would guess is more than 99% of the time – like it is for me), then let your response be soft and defusing.
The Wisdom of Proverbs
Proverbs is filled with wisdom. In fact, it would not hurt any of us to read a Proverb each morning before we have the chance to open our mouths. There is so much wisdom in simply controlling this infernal tongue of ours! Proverbs 17:28 tells us, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (ESV)
How soft have your answers been lately? Has your tongue been displaying intelligence or foolishness? Mull Proverbs 15:1 around in your mind this week. Post it up in your home and office. Read it so often that it becomes your immediate thought in a conflict.
When we fill our minds with Scripture, biblical responses flow out of our hearts and mouths.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV)
What has been flowing out of your mouth lately? Soft answers or harsh words?