Posted May 27, 2013
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Just as God spoke the world into creation with his words, so our words have a constructive and destructive property to them. Ray Ortlund said, “Words mark us as human, in the image of God. Like God, we use words to create trust and form relationships and build community. But unlike God, we use words to destroy trust and break relationships and divide community. Like God, we use words for one heart to touch another heart at a deep level. But unlike God, we use words for one heart to break another heart at a deep level.” It is simply not true that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” They do hurt, and they do heal. In this proverbs, we are given two ways of communicating:
The Soft Answer
On one side, there is a soft answer. This proverb presupposes a conversation that already in process; an answer must be in response to a prior interaction. Not only is there a prior interaction, but it seems this person is displaying wrath. It’s not a pleasant conversation, but rather a difficult one. What is our goal in responding to this person? To win the argument? To “out-wrath” them? To vindicate ourselves? To show ourselves to be wiser in their eyes? Do we recognize that our responses actually can determine where the conversation heads? That we can dismantle verbal bombs with our responses? Remember that the way you say something is just as important as what you say (hence “soft”).
The Harsh Word
On the other side, there is a harsh word. The word harsh literally means “word of pain”. The purpose in speaking this word is aggressive and cutting in nature. We might justify it by saying it was a deserved harshness. Take the time to review the Romans 12 verses we’ve just memorized (see the last 5 weeks). Paul called us to love our enemies, and to overcome evil with good! Should we respond with harshness to a harsh statement, we are actually being overcome by evil. This does not mean we don’t speak the truth, but rather that we speak it in love. This does not mean we never say things that might hurt them (Jesus did it all the time), but with the intent to heal.
Song by Danielle Dwyer.
Produced by Greg Jehanian.
Artwork by Juliann Itter.