The Gospel Transforms Angry Moments (Proverbs 15:1)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A family member or co-worker stands in front of you, face flushed, steam rising out of his ears. He’s piping mad. His anger is hot and raging. And, most concerning, it’s all directed at you. How can you deal with an angry person? Fight fire with fire?
Now imagine the last heated conflict, when he got angry, and declared: “You’re incompetent! I can’t believe I’m stuck with you.” At that critical moment, you’ve got a chance to make the anger go away, or to make it worse. What’s typical for you? How do you handle angry moments?
Solomon offers us very practical wisdom. He tells us: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). It’s not just what you say that matters, but how you say it. Both help the anger to melt away.
What’s a “soft answer” or “a harsh word”? A soft answer can be a gentle tone, with a welcoming facial expression, and relaxed body posture. A harsh word is often a belittling tone, with a facial expression riddled with disgust, and all of your muscles tight and constricted.
The soft answer is powerful. It’s so powerful it can turn away wrath and make it run in the opposite direction. Question is—do you believe that? Most people think, “Yeah, right. In the middle of conflict, no one cares about your tone!” But if you don’t believe in the power of a soft answer then you’re contradicting the Bible, right? (And you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?)
A harsh word provokes anger. Many of us know what a harsh word is because we’ve given and received belittling words in the heat of conflict. Harshness stirs things up, and anger then spills over onto someone else. Your anger is the 2,000 pound, scaly, fire-breathing dragon ready to burn up the noble peasant. It’s on a search-and-destroy mission, and it gets rid of anything in its path. So also is the angry person, who will berate anyone who gets in their way.
You might think, “In the heat of conflict, I can only say mean or belittling things. I don’t have the power to speak kindly and gently.” Here’s where the gospel can transform your responses. It gives you strength to do what you might find impossible on your own (Luke 1:37).
Because Christ died for us, He can give us the power to live out more godly responses to anger (Ephesians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:15). He can supernaturally help you to respond with love, to be patient, to listen, to speak softly, and to live a different life than you did before.
Your fleshly reactions don’t need to control you anymore. The Spirit can give you desires to honor God and live faithfully (not perfectly!), no matter how hard the conflict might be (Galatians 5:16-24).
Do you struggle with anger? Does it feel like it’s winning? Does real change feel beyond your grasp? It is possible for things to change. Anger can feel like a life-long battle, but don’t give up. Every day provides yet another opportunity for Christ to help you. Plead with Him for His aid.
Our sin is great but His mercy is so much greater.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a soft answer in the face of your own wrath? How did the other person's gentle tone affect your emotions?
Does the idea of answering anger with gentleness sound unrealistic? Do you feel helpless to change how you respond when you're angry?
Memorize this week's verse and pray. Ask God to change your heart as you practice giving gentle answers in daily challenges.
Deepak Reju is a husband to his best friend Sarah, father to five children, and pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC). He is the editor of the 31-Day Devotionals for Life series, and co-author of Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry, Rescue Plan: Charting a Course for Prisoners of Pornography and Rescue Skills: Essential Skills for Restoring the Sexually Broken.