(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Randy Frazee entitled, “BELIEVE.”
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
How many conflicts have you been involved in that escalated because the tone and volume of voices continued to increase?
I have been at the receiving end of some pretty direct and harsh criticism. I feel my heartrate increase. I feel my defenses come up. I am ready as soon as the other person is done talking to not only defend myself but to attack back.
This doesn’t go well.
Does it work for you?
I doubt it. Wrath returned with wrath just creates more wrath. In fact, if never resolved creates division, hurt, and sometimes lifetime rifts in relationships.
So in one short statement of wisdom, Solomon guides us in a different direction.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
I have found that when people are upset at me a few things are true.
- They are upset – their emotions are valid.
- They are directing their frustration at me – which has some percentage of truth to it.
- They are wanting understanding and resolution – even if they aren’t articulating it well.
So here’s what I’ve learned that helps to return a harsh word with gentleness.
- Remember it’s not about you. (Even though it will feel that way.)
- Listen. Listen. (When you listen, really listen to understand, you will get an opportunity to clarify any misunderstood or false statements.)
- Validate the emotion. (I see this has really upset you.)
- Summarize the issue. (From what I am hearing, _______ is what is making you upset.)
- Apologize: (Find the 1% or more that is your fault and apologize. Let go of pride and needing to be right.)
- Restore: (Affirm the relationship. Seek the pathway forward to avoid the issue in the future.)
- Clarify: (May I explain my side? Clarify, if needed, what happened to seek understanding and restoration.
- Do all with gentleness. (Use the power of the Spirit to refrain from lashing out or spewing anger. Respond with a heart of love and words of gentleness. The strength of your response is not in the volume or in attack, but in the spirit of love and restoration that God drives in you and through you.
How is this working? Very well. The conflict is much shorter. Understanding is reached. The dialogue is productive and the relationship is strengthened.
I’ve learned “winning an argument” often is at the expense of damaging a relationship. Responding to wrath with anger simply creates more wrath and anger – not fruits of the Spirit, but fruits of the sinful nature.
So repent. You are covered with the blood of Jesus. With the Spirit’s help, next time there is a heated word directed at you, turn away wrath with a gentle answer.
Apply: Simply try returning a harsh word with a gentle word and see how the Lord blesses it.
Prayer: Lord forgive me for letting my anger add to someone else’s anger. Thank you for always speaking the truth in love to my soul, forgiving my sin, and empowering me with your Spirit to turn away wrath with a gentle answer. AMEN.