Proverbs 15:1 –“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
None of us are perfect. I felt that I needed to be the way that I led this devotional, because, even for me, this proverb trips me up.
Anger is an emotion that has its place alongside all others as a healthy and an appropriate response to situations, people, and the downright ridiculous. While this may be true, scripture also tells us “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV). Anger is okay, but our behavior while experiencing the emotion of anger is not always okay. And so, when we come to Proverbs 15:1, we are challenged to consider the pros and cons of a “gentle” word and a “harsh” one.
My son, nieces and nephews, and other small children in my life are entranced by the PBS Kids Television Program Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It is essentially a cartoon spin-off of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which was a hallmark of childhood development (particularly the emotional IQ) for previous generations. Daniel Tiger has a common phrase whenever he or one of the other children get upset. After an adult helps them express that they are, in fact, mad, then they proceed to sing a tune. “when you feel so mad that you want to roar take a deep breath (pause)And, count to four1, 2, 3, 4”
This allows for them to calm down and think about how they want to respond to the situation. Oftentimes, as older people we teach this to little people, but do not put it into practice ourselves.
Proverbs 15 is about the interaction between people. It is calling on us to consider that if we respond to someone harshly or with disparaging words, this will only escalate the situation. And, where is the God in that? If we choose to respond to someone with gentle language and tone (because that matters!) de-escalation is possible. Notice, I said it is possible. It doesn’t always mean that it will be immediate, but you have to do your part. We have to be obedient to what The Lord is instructing us to do, and leave the rest to The Lord. Our lives and the lives of others are made better and blessed for it.