“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels.” Proverbs 15:1 (LB)
It’s one thing to talk about living a life of gentleness, and letting God be in control. But how do you apply this practically when someone confronts you or pushes your buttons and you feel the anger rising inside yourself?
Proverbs 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop the argument before it gets out of control” (NLT).
How do you stop it? How do you break the cycle of verbal retaliation when someone confronts you? You do it by choosing to exchange harsh words for “a gentle answer [that] turns away wrath …” (Proverbs 15:1 LB).
Gentle means with humility. It means you recognize where you are wrong, which is not easy to do. That’s why you ask God to give you the power to exchange your natural reaction of harsh words for gentle ones in that situation.
What if you’re dealing with a person who appears hard-headed and incapable of responding to gentle words? God has an answer for that: “A gentle word can get through to the hard-headed” (Proverbs 25:15b NCV).
This may mean that you stop and pray, even just a silent prayer in your mind. It may mean stepping away from the situation so that you can ask God for the right words to say.
One of my favorite prayers is Psalm 141:3, “Lord, help me control my tongue; help me be careful about what I say” (NCV). This is a quick prayer that can make a difference when you feel yourself getting angry. Try it this week and see if God doesn’t show up with the power to help you respond in love.
Tom Holladay is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church and author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus.
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