Your 50 Favorite Proverbs

Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #5 It’s Hard to Be Gentle

December 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs | Liz Curtis Higgs

When common sense is no longer common, we need God’s wisdom more than ever. Take today’s verse from Proverbs. It sounds easy. The kind of thing everybody knows how to do.

But, knowing what’s right and actually doing it—well, that’s where wisdom comes in. And the strength to do it? That’s where God comes in.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
   but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 

"A gentle answer..." Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer… Proverbs 15:1

When someone is being nice, it’s easy to respond in a way that’s “soft” (ASV) and “sensitive” (CEB) and “mild” (DRA).

But that’s not the situation in this verse. The person in question isn’t being remotely “tender” (EXB) or “kind” (CEV). He or she is full of wrath. Downright cruel. Lashing out.

At this point, we have a choice.
We can either defuse the situation or we can make it explode.

"...turns away wrath..." Proverbs 15:1

…turns away wrath,… Proverbs 15:1

Amid the “fury” (CJB) that’s flying around the room, the “anger” (EXB) that’s heating the air, the “rage” (GW) that makes us want to strike back, the Holy Spirit quietly nudges us.

Give them the last thing they deserve or expect.
Give them mercy, kindness, and love.

Seriously? Yes. The Hebrew word shub means “to turn back.” In essence, to help someone repent. Turn around. Go back to God.

When we respond to anger with kindness, we show people how much God loves them and longs to welcome them into His embrace.

That’s why His Word urges us, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

The Lord knows that gentleness “deflects” (CJB) negativity, then “diverts” (ISV) it in another direction. A genuine word of compassion “soothes” (CEV) ruffled feathers and makes anger “disappear” (ERV).

Angela chose Proverbs 15:1 because it helped her “be more cautious with my words, bringing more peace to my life.” Rischa agrees this verse can “stop a lot of arguments before they even get started.”

Through your faithful obedience, God can use you to halt anger in its tracks and draw others unto Him. Wow, right?

"...but..." Proverbs 15:1

…but… Proverbs 15:1

Yes, but. This is what happens when God’s wisdom runs counter to our flawed human nature (which it generally does). We know in our hearts and minds what we should do, but we follow our raw feelings instead.

A vague memory of God’s command to “turn your other cheek” (Luke 6:29) may flit through our minds, but we’re too hurt or embarrassed or red-faced or hot-headed to consider why the Lord might ask us to do such a difficult thing.

In the heat of the moment, we don’t act; we react.
We fight fire with fire. We strike back.

"...a harsh word..." Proverbs 15:1

…a harsh word… Proverbs 15:1

Our words are “sharp” (EXB) like a knife, “rough” (ERV) on the ego, and “grievous” (ASV) to the heart. We are “offensive” (CEB) by choice and are “mean” (NIRV) by intent. That frying pan? Back up.

The “hard” (WYC) words we speak are designed to inflect maximum pain. We may call it self-defense—“Hey, she started it!”—but our response doesn’t demonstrate our faith in a grace-giving God.

After that, things quickly go downhill.

"...stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

…stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

That other person? Now she’s really mad. “Tempers rise” (CJB) in tandem, and “fury” (DRA) escalates. Our heart rates go up, our blood pressure increases, and our bodies produces more testosterone. That leads to “more anger” (NCV) and a strong desire for “vengeance” (WYC).

This Hebrew word aph not only means “anger”—it’s also the word for “nostril, nose, face.” We literally get in each other’s faces, nostrils flaring. This anger isn’t only on the inside; it’s very much on display, and it’s ugly.

We may not hit each other, but we will definitely hurt each other, inflicting painful wounds that often fester and refuse to heal.

Is the problem the other person’s anger? No, beloved. The problem is our own pride. The pride that won’t bow to God’s leading. The pride that’s determined to win battles, rather than win souls.

Oh, Lord Jesus. As I type these words, my heart is heavy. How many times have I used a sharp retort, focused on retaliation instead of reconciliation? How many hours have I wasted grinding my teeth, when I could have humbly submitted to your Word and watched a miracle take place—a relationship restored, a soul saved?

Forgive me, Lord. Help me trust in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to calm my heart, guard my tongue, and guide my actions. Help me think beyond the present outrage to the possible outcome. Help me put You first, other people second, and myself last. Help me resist what comes naturally and trust what comes supernaturally.

Proverbs 15:1
Now it’s your turn

  • Barbara, who also chose this verse, admits, “Allowing God to quiet my spirit and my mouth is not always easy; but I know it is best.” After reading today’s study, what might your prayer be?

Thanks so much for clicking Post a Comment below to share what’s on your heart.

A reminder that each time you post a comment from now through December 31, 2014, you’ll be entered to win a lovely prize that features Our #1 Favorite Proverb of the year. One comment per post, my friend? Just to be fair?

Minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’ll chose 10 winners at random and give away 5 silvery necklaces and 5 colorful prints. Yay!

Your Printable of Proverbs 15:1 awaits you, as do all our favorite Proverbs on Pinterest.

Today’s verse really nicked close to the bone for me. Not always comfortable, but always necessary. Thanks, Lord.

Your grateful sister, Liz
@LizCurtisHiggs #50Proverbs
Your sister, Liz Curtis Higgs BibleGateway Blogger GridCelebrating Christmas with Liz Curtis Higgs
For readers who love a romantic time and place: A Wreath of Snow
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