This could change the world.
What if we started giving a gentle answer when we disagreed? I’m thinking mostly of online communication at the moment, because that’s where the harshness seems to thrive. Online conversations — if we can call them that — seem to be especially susceptible to harshness.
The Merriam-Webster definition mentions the word violence. When I considered this, it made sense. Isn’t that what’s at the bottom of all this online hatred? You can feel the violence, the fierceness, the aggression. It’s mentally exhausting.
Why is everyone so angry?
Maybe part of the reason is revealed in the second phrase of this proverb. A harsh word stirs up anger.
It’s an escalating cycle.
People are angry. They vent their frustrations online. Others respond. And anger is stirred. Again. Again. Again.
Back and forth.
Back in the Real World…
It’s not like this when I go to the grocery store.
I see people I don’t know. I’m not automatically mad at them.
I’m not looking for a weakness in them in order to correct them or make them look stupid.
When they try to help others, I don’t react with criticism.
I don’t spin their words or make them feel sorry for reaching out, for trying to make human-to-human contact.
At the grocery store, I see people I don’t know and I smile at them. Because I like people. (I’m an introvert, though, so some days I like them in much smaller quantities…hey, I’m being honest here.)
All this to say we behave differently online. Online we assume everyone is entitled to our opinions. (I’ve never been in the grocery store and blurted “I hate peas, except when they’re disguised in fried rice or a good pasta salad. Or this veggie thing I’ve eaten a few times but don’t know what it’s called. Here’s a picture of it, though.” I’ve never shamed people who put canned peas in their grocery cart. I’ve never polled everyone on the canned veggie aisle to see how many hate peas too. Wouldn’t that just be weird? And yet, on social media…)
So much anger out there.
But, What If?
What if we made an effort to give a gentle answer.
Take a moment to imagine the impact.
Instead of meeting harsh words with more harsh words, what if we were gentle?
Instead of meeting harsh words with silence, what if we were gentle in our answer? Sometimes it’s easier to say nothing. Crafting a heartfelt gentle reply is something that may take some practice. But wouldn’t it be worth it?
What a beautiful skill to learn. People would notice. It would be unexpected, appreciated, and contagious.
A gentle answer turns away wrath.
This could change the world. Because it’s truth, and truth has power.
It could change a workplace, a family, a marriage. The quality of your everyday life.
No better way to close this out today, than with James 3:13.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”
Wisdom is gentle. I like that.