A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Occasionally, a person will walk into my office or approach me on the campus, worked up about something, and lash out at me. Rarer is when a person eviscerates me immediately after worship, as my “soft white underbelly” is exposed from an incredible expenditure of emotion while preaching. Thankfully, the LORD engrafted this Proverb verse in my spiritual DNA. Without it, I would strike back at my disturbed neighbor and worsen matters.
Sure, one of these assaults takes time to recover from, but in recuperation I work through a decision tree in my head. The first stop is questioning whether I personally did something to cause their angst, and if the answer is “yes,” I try to apologize.
But more often than not, the answer is “no.” So I continue down the tree, searching for an explanation for the hostility. I can usually discern that something is going on in their life or some past wound reopened, and I was just a convenient target. Maybe they were grieving, or perhaps a pastor or church people from their past breached trust. Maybe they are struggling with a life change or gripped with fear (an ever-present antagonist during this pandemic and social upheaval). And sometimes, their rage is an enigma.
Imagine if I had lashed out harshly in any of these scenarios. This reaction would be equivalent to throwing gasoline on a fire, a flaming disaster that can burn out of control. Instead, the measured and loving response in that present opens up future opportunities for healing, reconciliation, and relationship.
Turning back to today’s scripture, “42” inspired these words of wisdom:
A soft answer turns away wrath.