I am THE QUEEN of saying things I shouldn’t. I’m that friend you have who is always calling or texting you later saying, I really shouldn’t have said that. I’m sort of the equivalent to the girl in elementary school who asked you fifteen times a day if you were still her friend. Even when I don’t call and express my regret over something that came out of my mouth, chances are I’m agonizing over whether I should.
So, if you’re like me and you hate drama and you really, really just want everyone to say nice things (including yourself), then this is the post for you. Because the writer of Proverbs gives us an encouraging word: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (15:1). This verse helps us see that soft, gentle words can help diffuse anger in a way that harsh words just can’t.
I’ve seen these five answers work well in my own relationship with my husband. Chad is the gentle answer hero, and many of these I learned by watching him carefully fix a disagreement between us simply by being kind and soft in his responses. So, here are five answers that turn away wrath:
1. I’m sorry. Right now you’re thinking, Well, duh! But, this is easy to talk about doing, tough to actually do. Especially if you really don’t feel like you were necessarily in the wrong. Saying these two simple words is a practically miraculous way to change the whole dynamic of a situation. Just try it and watch how your friend or spouse immediately responds positively.
2. You’re Right. This is an especially effective answer when someone is criticizing you. Our natural reaction is to get defensive and go into argument mode. But, if we stop for a few seconds and think about it, chances are we will see at least some way that the criticism is valid. There is generally an ounce (or more) of truth in most critiques.
3. Now I can see your perspective. Even if you find the person’s perspective to be erroneous in every way, this answer helps to communicate that you are listening. Half of the battle in settling a disagreement is simply letting the other person know that you care what they think about it.
4. But, then I thought, she’s my friend, and I can tell her this without making her mad. I had a friend say this to me once right before she asked me to stop doing something that was really bothering her. She opened the conversation by saying that she was afraid to confront me about it, but that she thought to herself that we’re good friends and she knew I wouldn’t get upset. Well, let me tell you, that opening worked like a charm. After she started that way, I felt like we understood each other, that we were bound by friendship, and that of course I was not going to get all worked up about something as silly as this little thing. Her gentle delivery made all the difference.
5. Please forgive me. Sometimes you just have to admit that you have sinned against someone. And, even if you don’t see it that way, if the other person feels they have been wronged, this is still the appropriate response. It’s a pretty rare person who will refuse to extend forgiveness if you sincerely ask for it. So, this answer is almost always a sure-fire way to end conflict.
All five of these answers require a setting aside of the pride that often keeps us from living in peace with others. But, we must remember that the Bible says that as far as it depends on me (and you), we should live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). These five answers are a good start toward peaceful living that reflects the love of God. And, we can (and should) apologize and try to see another’s point of view even if we feel like we’ll go to our graves believing we were right and they were wrong. Extending grace is never a bad thing.
So, let’s begin and end our day with gentle answers that turn away wrath, and enjoy the peace of our Lord today. That way I won’t have to call you later to ask if we’re still friends.