By Dannah Gresh
Does anyone in your house LOUD-TALK during a Zoom call? Before the swell of Zoom use in 2020, women had no forewarning of the reality that many men have an inability to talk at a normal tone when on a Zoom call, including my husband Bob!
Confession: this made us talk loud to each other after Zoom calls.
Translation: I did not respond well.
But Bob did. He calmly de-escalated the situation by gently saying, “Let’s take it down a notch.”
I did not like my strong, loud reaction to such a small, insignificant problem. When I prayed about this, the verse God brought to mind was:
“ a gentle answer turns away wrath…”
Proverbs 15:1 NIV
I felt the Spirit’s gentle tug to learn how to express my frustrations with gentleness. I tried to just say the verse under my breath every time the conversation between Bob and I got complicated. But guess what!?
It didn’t help.
My heart wasn’t changing.
Nor was my tone.
I believed the lie that my harsh answer was useful for me. It could “protect” me, “advocate” for me, “defend” me.
My belief---not just my behavior--- needed to be changed concerning the way I responded to Bob when life didn’t go my way. My mind required an inward transformation of the Holy Spirit...a total reformation of how I thought...about how I approached bothersome interactions and conflict.
We all experience conflict in our lives. Often, we end up on both the receiving end and sending end of verbal blows. But we shouldn’t be on either end. God’s Word teaches us that the power of “a gentle answer” can change the trajectory of a conflict and maybe even a relationship.
Do you need some help with a high-conflict relationship? Do you struggle to control your tongue when you respond to others?
Dive into the first four verses of Proverbs 15 with me where we’ll discover what God’s Word says about the power of a gentle answer!
In fact, let me encourage you to even grab your Bible if it’s nearby and you’re able. You’ll learn so much more from God’s Spirit that way.
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
Proverbs 15:1-4 ESV
Solomon wrote Proverbs 15 as a sort of tactical guide to quelling anger/repairing the peace when conflict arose in relationships. Now, as a king—in that political position—with lots of other kings who were in opposition to the nation of Israel, this leads me to believe he probably knew something about solving conflict!
Where does this man begin to guide his readers through conflict? He starts with the power of a gentle word, or in the version I'm reading from, “ a soft answer.”
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
In other words: If you respond to your frustrations with a gentle answer, you’ll defuse rage. BUT if you respond to your conflicts with sharp-cutting words, you’ll make things worse!
Think of that! The power of words—gentle words have the power to turn off wrath -- OR harsh words have the power to stir up greater anger! That’s no small thing!
Anger stimulates more involuntary reactions in our bodies than any other emotion. That is, the sympathetic nervous system takes over! The brain shuts down blood flow to the gut and pushes it towards muscles for reactivity. (This is part of the fight or flight response.) Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration increase. Body temperature rises; perspiration increases (Maybe that’s why we refer to an angry person as “hot-headed!) An angry individual, in many ways, is not a controlled individual. But God says a gentle word can change all of that!
I’m not suggesting you lie or make up hollow compliments. Instead, I encourage you to dig down deep under your own ruffled feathers to find your heart. See that person as someone God values and loves and find a truthful way to compliment them. CHOOSE the gentle word.
The power of a gentle WORD changes me (and you)!
Take, for example, my sweet husband Bob...and his loud Zoom talking. I began to apply this verse over and over. Each time I felt my emotions flaring...I breathed! In that breath, I asked for God’s Spirit to control me.
And here’s the thing: MY anger was quelled.
Then words that came out were...gentle. Because what was inside of me was de-escalated! As I search for a softer response...my own anger is quieted. Think about that---the search for a gentle answer.
It changes me. It changes you.
Next time someone gets under your skin and you feel the anger rising inside of you… pause, take a deep breath, and respond with a gentle answer!
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