Wednesday, October 26

Gentle Answers

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


At one time or another, each of us has had to deal with conflict in some form. Conflict requires resolution, which cannot be obtained without enlisting the help of that dreaded "C" word--confrontation. Many people fear confrontation, especially since it involves fear of the unknown. Whether we are on the receiving end or the initiating end of confrontation, there is always the risk of being misunderstood or worse, not having our viewpoint heard at all.

Confrontation is easily confused with intervention, and unfortunately, many problems arise from this. To clarify, one is mainly communication, while the other involves action. Both should be bathed in heartfelt prayers and carried out with an attitude of humility. Because confrontation is largely verbal in nature, it is important that we ask God to give us discernment about how to proceed in the conversation.

A gentle answer turns away wrath. Personally, I find this very difficult to remember. So often I jump right in with my defensive attitude before the other person can even say his piece. This only frustrates the other person, and immediately the tone of the conversation transitions from calm to terse. Before long, these terse responses may give way to a verbal spar as emotions run high and each of us fights tooth-and-nail to have the last word.

All too often I have unintentionally stirred up anger in another person. I have also allowed myself to be unnecessarily provoked to anger. I cannot control how other people react when I confront them, but I can control how I react when confronted by others. Even if the other person irate or insulting in some way, I must try to keep my temper. A solution can never be reached if all of my useful energy has been put into stoking my emotional flames.

Even in the midst of conflict and confrontation, God needs to be glorified. He knows each careless thought that zips through our brains in the heat of the moment, and He sees the intentions of our hearts. In all we do, whether in word or in deed, we need to remember that the world is watching us to see how we respond under pressure. By relying on the strength that comes from God, and asking for gentle words to come to us from the Holy Spirit, we are able to successfully navigate the stormy waters of confrontation.

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