A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
What is the wise response to an angry person who says something cruel, false or demanding? Proverbs 15:1 helps us in those awkward moments at home, at work, in our churches.
The key is “a soft answer.”
So, you’re standing there, stunned by those words that have just exploded in your face. In that instant of decision, as your mind is forming a response, “a soft answer” is the category you need. What is that?
Maybe, for Sure
The word “soft” means tender, delicate, gentle, even weak. We don’t like being weak, especially when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of anger. We would rather justify ourselves. It is hard to be wronged. It is doubly hard to be wronged and not fight back but respond softly.
Of course, if the angry person is a heretic, bent on wrecking your church, he or she must be confronted strongly. But if that person is not a danger but only immature, then a tender, delicate, soft, weak answer might help that person see things in a new way. Maybe not. Maybe nothing will help. When God himself answered Jonah’s anger softly, Jonah wasn’t satisfied (Jonah 4:1–11). But with the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1, the tension in the air might not escalate. The awkward moment might even be turned into something positive.
But dishing out anger in response to anger will surely go badly. Here is what we can always expect: “. . .a harsh word stirs up [more] anger.” A harsh – literally, “painful” – response can include words with sharp edges, a tone of sarcasm, implied threats of retaliation. There are many ways for the encounter to escalate quickly.
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