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
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
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
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
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
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.
- 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.
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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
For readers who love a romantic time and place: A Wreath of Snow
For children who love a heartwarming story: The Pine Tree Parable
For friends who love being inspired: The Women of Christmas
This is one I really need to remember. My mother lives with me and it isn’t always easy to not reply in anger.
My prayer during this time of unrest in the world, would be for each of us to feel peace and extend that peace to each other, to share the love of our God and Savior with others. Thank you Liz, for doing your part. God Bless!
Boy The Lord is really after me today. Second warning from his word about treating everyone with gentleness and respect ant that includes my tongue. I am praying I will learn this wisdom and that it will stop my tongue from sinning.
Hi Liz from cold Saskatoon. I was so blessed when you were up here a few years ago with WJOF. God bless you, sister.
What a wonderful verse!! And wouldn’t it be a better world if we all followed that advise. It’s so much easier to accept a gentle answer so with God’s help lets try to be more kind and gentle to everyone.
Thank you for the beautifully true reminder. So easy to respond gently to gentle words but harsh? Not so much. Lord give me grace to obey your Word. Amen.
Your posts always encourage me, Liz, and I appreciate how you share the nuances of the words that add more depth to the chosen scripture. I so echo what you prayed. Nothing better than to “trust what comes supernaturally” from our limitless God!
Oh no!….God thank you for new mercies every morning (afternoon & evening too) and thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit (our helper) to accomplish such a feat!
It is hard for me to know when I should stand up for myself and when I should be quiet. I am an introvert and usually say nothing. It is something I am trying to work on.
Oh Liz, thank you. I have been so upset over something and just figured I HAD to say something! Thank you for reminding me that it is not necessary!!
I had verbally abusive people in my life. I made the decision not to behave in the same manner. I wanted to have control over anger and not allow anger to control me. But, for years I thought that I was weak. It took years to see there is strength in silence. Thank you for these blogs on Proverbs, you are a blessing and may you be blessed. Elaine
This verse is so needed, I firmly believe there is a time to comment and a time to be silent. If something really hurts I have learned(most of the time) to step away and pray about what words to say. A gentle answer or response is so much more powerful But I can not do it without God.
Ouch! Just yesterday, angry words flew between me and my 11 year old daughter. I get so mad at her selfishness, not even realizing that my own selfishness is just as great. Thanks so much for the timely encouraging reminder that I must put my pride aside and use gentle words to get through to both of us.
OUCH!!!!! This study stung my heart, stepped on my toes and warmed up my backside… Thank you…..it was gentle reminder…. even for those times we feel we have a right to be mean due to our circumstances…. I’ve been extremely hateful at others, at times, when I was too sick from my chemo to think of anyone else but myself. Thank you Jesus for your mercy, grace and forgiveness.
What a timely reminder to watch my words, to think before I speak and react! Lord help me to stop and listen to You before my mouth takes me to places that I do NOT want to go! Help me think before opening my big, fat mouth and let the Spirit deal with me quickly when I don’t. Humble this servant of yours O Lord! Amen
It’s so easy to pray for the world in general but sometimes its hard to see the fault in ourselves and therefore pray for ourselves. I am a hothead and so is my husband. It’s so easy to spew hateful words even though we do love each other. My prayer is for peace, patience, a bucket of ice to cool my hot head, and a shutoff for my tongue. I want people to know me as His and I sometimes fail miserably because of a quick temper and quicker tongue. Lord please help me show Your love through my own speech and actions.
You are not alone. Why is it easier to extend a gentle answer to a stranger versus our own family? Lord, please help us!
Liz, this is a tough one for me and one I my always in prayer about. The little speed bumps that happen in all our days are like water off a ducks back. But the deep, painful hurts, the life changing hurts, are much harder to turn the other cheek on. His miracles will happen in the right time and place. Thanks for the reminder.
Thank you Liz, for being obedient to God and addressing this. My husband and I had a huge fight on Saturday. My heart was broken for the rest of the weekend. I just couldn’t get past it. Afterward we talked about it (me wanting to figure out what went wrong). With an open heart and ears to really hear and understand it was a misunderstanding turned battle and I was fighting for my life. Not really but that’s what I do, I feel threatened and I fight to protect and survive. My sweet husband tends not to use enough words for me to know what he’s thinking so I assume with the non verbal and few words I get as to what’s happening. Reading this, what did Gid want to do in both our lives if I had wanted to understand him instead of protecting myself in order to survive. I don’t need to protect myself any more. I’m safe especially with my husband. God is my protector. I want to learn that He will take care of me, that’s His responsibility. Mine is to use gentle words, allow God to love me and through me to others and to strive to understand rather than protect. Thank you again Liz! I’m so blessed.
Thank you, Liz for the reminder to keep my words sweet and gentle. Harsh words often echo in my ears long after the anger is spent. And while I may be granted forgiveness the words are hard to forget.
So easy to forget to represent Christ in the heat of the moment. Thanks for the humbling reminder! Merry Christmas, Liz, and thank you for so much conviction and encouragement through the Proverbs.
This is a hard one for me too… I am praying that I will stop and pray before I give a retort right back to someone’s hot-headed words. And maybe the Lord will also put His hand over my mouth. 🙂
Bless you Liz!
This hit home tonight as I sit in the guilt that haunts me in this season of motherhood…praying tonight that this verse would lay on my heart so deeply that I can show my children the love that comes from God- that they would feel it and be encouraged through me to love Him and seek Him.
A gentle word! So true. We don’t know what has transpired with a person before we come in contact with them.
I am a retired high school teacher. I never knew what had gone on with my students before they came to my class: bad grade on a test, didn’t make the team, broke up with boyfriend, problems at home, etc. So hence, greet them at the door with a gentle word. I could tell when things weren’t going well. Do you need to talk? Is something wrong? All they needed was someone to care.
This one is way too timely not to comment… So many situations right now that are needing me to keep this verse at the front of my mind and heart…
Oh Precious Lord, you know how I needed to hear this mesage today. Remind me in the moments when anger comes up to the surface, that “I follow the example of the Lord, who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving kindness” Psalm 103:8
This verse is a toughie. I call it to mind often at work and at home. But it really spoke to me during hard times with my now ex-husband, and I’m thankful it did. Although we couldn’t resolve our issues, we remained on good terms.
Good Morning, Lizzie!
WOW…what a perfectly timed post with the Christmas Crush/Rush…I’ve copied your prayer into my journal: “Lord, Help me to trust in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to:
Calm my heart
Guard my tongue
Guide my actions….”
Along with Col. 3:12….My we all put on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Forwarding your post to my Bible study girls. Thanks as always for wisdom from His Word a la Lizzie.
Hugs across town!
Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to heed the words of the proverb, to be sensitive & listening to the promptings of your Holy Spirit, to pray before responding (perhaps a word of wisdom from your Word is needed), to see the true situation and the real enemy (most likely not the face visible in front of me), and to be humble (not trying to get the upper hand or impress someone with my quickness of retort). In the name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.
Robin, thank you for the reminder to remember who the real enemy is!
Thanks for your insight yet again! I struggle with this every day dealing with a child with ADHD and other emotional issues. I pray for God to help me be kind and gentle with him and with others. This verse is always a good reminder!
So true. I pray I never read those verses with glazed over eyes again!
This is one of my favorites, too — and a verse much needed! “Lord, help me to stop my first response when someone hurts my feelings — and give me loving words to say, so that Your love can reach that person. Amen.”
Ouch. This one leaves my toes sore. And how I need this reminder! Thank you.
So hard in the heat of the moment to not respond in kind. Such a great reminder!
During the holidays when fatigue is our constant companion and tends to override our better nature, this scripture is such a great reminder that a gentle answer actually HELPS us!!! Thanks, Liz!
I remembered these words when my husband came home from a trip last night in an angry mean mood using strong offensive language after using harse words with a treasured employee and attacking the employee to his very core. My refusing to engage has only made him angrier. He would not eat the meal I had prepared and now turned away breakfast. Went to bed that way and woke up that way. So…. here we go into another day.
This reading is a boost for my spirit as I leave today to spend time with my new step-grandaughter. She is 15 and is ill with an eating disorder. I am inately gentle in spirit and this is a reminder that handling her protests to eat can be nudged along with love, grace and mercy. Her parents are worn out in the battle and I pray that I will bring a sense of peace and calm to their home as well as make some inroads with my grandaughter.
Dear Liz, I really needed this verse today. My husband has been diagnoised wirh Alzheimwers. Lately, he has become very aggitated and angry with me. I have found God’s Word to be true and alive. Each time this happens,if I ask God for His peace and knowledge my husband will quiet down but when I respond in kind everything gets out of hand. How I thank God for his Word that stands true for eternity. Lillian
What a great reminder for all of us, especially, at this time of year. It is so easy to get caught up in all the “rush” and “busyness” of this season and tempers flare far too often. For some people who are ill, lonely, depressed, dealing with money problems, divorce, death, etc. it can be a doubly hard time. It’s good to remember that sometimes when others lash out at us, all they need is a hug because of what they are facing in their lives. Thank you, as always, Liz, for sharing God’s great news!
Along with your other blogs on Proverbs this year this one adds to what I am using to develop my forgiveness that had to be brought to bear as I have healed from a major 4 point pelvic fracture of 2004. Yes it has taken that long to let go of the pain from all quarters.
I am getting to where I can stop & think before I react when I am in volatile situation. I’m single so I don’t have to deal with an angry husband. Thank goodness!
I love your books A Wreath of Snow & The Women of Christmas. I read them each year. Love to you for all you’re giving me as we grow together.
So many quick retorts meant to cut deep escape these lips, Liz. At least I apologized this last time. But another type of harsh word often sneaks out of my mouth, criticisms and put-downs. Oh, how I hate it after I say them, but I nearly burst trying to hold them in. Praying for the Holy Spirit’s discernment and strength to resist using hurtful words of all types, whether they are inflicted with the sharp point or the flat blade. Blessings, dear sister.
Praying for a new default setting in my heart. Too often ignore or forget the Lord’s good advice!
Perhaps if we could learn to live this Proverb the way you made it real for us, Liz, just maybe there would be a chance for world peace this Christmas season.
I definitely used this with young girls at a detention center. They would get so upset about something and I would just stay calm and their anger would just slowly disappear.
Some times it is difficult for me to not get caught up in my son’s escalating anger.Waiting a moment before I react and speak, allows me to think of a gentle answer. This always brings a better outcome.
What a great reminder this time of year as we have expectations of the ” perfect ” family get togethers. In 1 Thessalonians 1 , Paul writes about the labor of love. I had never considered that love required labor, but how true it is. Part of this labor is knowing when and what to say to those we love , so we show God’s love to them. How much easier it might be , to blurt out our gut response . A gentle answer shows them God through us.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the many times others have shown me kindness and turned away from anger and wrath. Help me to be a witness of Your love and mercies, use me, work through me to share Your love and unending mercy. Work through me to build Your kingdom and bring others closer to You. In Jesus Name ~amen
Focus on reconciliation not retaliation. Powerful. Thanks Liz!!
Thank you for this proverb! Working to heal from past stuff, learning the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger is tough and I have my moments :P. It seems that the Spirit keeps showing up with His gentleness to help. Thank you to our Savior 🙂
Help me to not lash back, because I don’t know the other person’s story – hurt, disappointment, rejection, etc. – but you do. And you love us both! Thank you, Lord.
Thank you for this Proverb. With a family Christmas coming up it was just what I needed. We have a family member who just loves causing problems and doesn’t join in but makes comments that always bring retaliation from other family members. Because it hurts the others I tend to get very angry with this person and I must admit that then I don’t think about what way God would have me react. This year I pray that I will react God’s way and with His strength show His love to this person as I should do.
All of these have been so helpful to me, Liz! I would love to see a book I could purchase and write in the margins my thoughts of them all…
I’ve never been a gentle person, but God is helping me become more gentle in my relationships. I’m truly grateful and trusting God; for I cannot be gentle without Him! This proverb is a vivid reminder.
For a long time this has been one of my favourite proverbs. I try to be intentional about following its advice but it’s not always easy. Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂
When I am faced with wrath I do get very upset, and I do want to respond with a gentle spirit but it does not always happen. And I realize how much I need the Spirit of God to help me do that.
Thank you for this reminder of what God wants me to do and that is to come to Him when it happens. It makes such a difference and it does turn away wrath.
Hi Liz! Yeip, it took me a long while to get this concept, especially with my husband! But, God’s ways always are true, and a gentle response does make a huge difference. It’s like a “magic formula” to bring about another truth “as long as it’s up to you, bring about peace with one another”. (my loose translation!) It is hard to do, because our pride does trip us up. But, the more we stop, think, and practice, the more our actions become Christ-like. Thanks again!
Yes, I also have had to learn to watch what I say when I encounter an angry person. Being abused most of my life, I was always on the defensive to protect my woundedness. But I have learned through my studies and fellowship with my Christian friends, to respond in love. I have come to realize just how powerful our words are!!! That old saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, is false. I have seen many times since becoming a new Christian in June of 2013, how effective it is to show kindness and love in response to anger and bitterness. I have also learned the huge importance of forgiveness too! I love your posts Liz. Blessings to you!!!
Although your post was almost a week ago, I just read this before going to bed. Tomorrow, will return to the office where there has been a lot of conflict and change. I needed this reminder about “a soft word.” I need God’s wisdom and strength to respond in ways that will reflect the love of Christ. This devotional was timely for me. Thanks so much….please pray for me.
Jesus, you know what I’m like when someone is saying something that I really don’t want to hear or simply when they say something that is just not right … please help me now and through Christmas (and beyond) to reply with a gentle answer … knowing that this is your will for me – and if this is so, then it’s the perfect place to be and the right place to be, irrespective of how I may battle a bit inside. Thank you that you place a table before me, in the presence of my enemies, drawing me back to the good things you have given me and are giving me. Thank you for blessing me with my gorgeous boys (including hubby!!), who are my bestest boys!! Amen
… and Happy Christmas Liz, thank you for your weekly encouragement through your blog 🙂 x
My heart is easily offended lately, my words prone to lash out instead of heal. Praying this for myself the next time I feel wronged, proud, or angry. Thank you, God, for the hard lessons You are teaching me.
Such an easy proverb to understand, but often it’s so hard to put into action. Raging hormones don’t help. I know…. an excuse. This proverb needs to be tattooed on me somewhere. 🙂 If we could let go of that one moment, the next one and one more, and another…. while all the time praying and remembering to breathe.
I committed this Proverb to memory several years ago when I was struggling with my pre-adolescent son. I was losing my cool too often with him and this verse and several others were what God used to help me control my word and my tone with him.
Thank you Liz for this great reminder that we should choose our words carefully.
Dear Father, help me to say only loving and kind things even when I feel like getting even. Help my words and actions draw others to you. In Jesus name I pray , Amen.
This is an area I have to put in work. I try to speak softly, but sometimes my flesh speaks without asking me. I remember a Christian counselor I was seeing once made a comment, “It’s hard being held to a higher standard.” He was referring to speaking kindly. He is right, but sadly, it shouldn’t be hard, it should be an honor to shine forth God’s love.
Oh the harsh comments may not come out of my mouth, but they are so there in my head. Help me Lord! I need the Lord to change my heart.
As I was reading this today I was thinking of an incident that happened at a family gathering a few nights ago. I was a third party observing. My brother had misunderstood something that my Dad had said and was basically blowing up at him. I spoke up trying to help sort out the misunderstanding….I didn’t really need to say anything. My Dad didn’t get offended, spoke gently but firmly to my brother and everything was instantly de-fused! I think my Dad has mellowed and learned how to really live out this verse! (BTW- we’re all “grown ups”….my brother and I are in our 50s and my Dad is 75!)