“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” – Proverbs 15:1
The COVID-19 pandemic might be over. Its impact on our psyches remains.
The roughly two-year stretch of shutdowns and societal disruption opened very raw wounds. Stressed people found their patience gone, and accompanying tolerance seriously diminished. Small, incidental disputes could quickly become major confrontations.
We all remember the debates: Mask or no mask? How far apart should we stand? Vaccine or no vaccine?
History and science will decide – if it is possible – who was right, and who was wrong.
At the height of the pandemic, though, it did not matter. Those on opposing sides were equally certain of their righteousness. Name-calling and vile accusations often ensued. Middle ground was non-existent.
Sadly, harsh temperaments remain the disposition of the day. The world around us seems more tense and on edge than ever. In a word of (metaphorically) tinder-dry kindling, the ability of sharp words to start fires is greater than ever.
How Should We Speak?
“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:6
The late, great Rev. Stuart Briscoe famously said (paraphrasing), “Some see difficulty in every opportunity. Others see opportunity in every difficulty.”
Let us be part of the latter group. In these societal walking-on-eggshells times, employing the “gentle” verbiage cited in Proverbs is not just about defusing situations. It is an
opportunity to demonstrate faith, and the love that Jesus embodied.
Do not forget Christ’s example. He was eminently powerful. The man who cast out demons, and walked on water, could have summoned immense, earth-altering forces to create the world He envisioned. He did not.
Instead, He led by word and deed. He allowed himself to be led to the cross. Even when dying there, His only act was to assure the convicted criminals also being crucified that they would soon be in paradise with Him.
Jesus lives within us. We do not have to be told this – we know it. So, let us respond to anger and venom with kindness and gentleness. His spirit will guide us … if we let it.
Responding and Rejoicing
“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” – Proverbs 12:18
Being verbally accosted by others is never pleasant. Sometimes people need to be rebuked. In those moments, do so with love.
Sometimes, it is not even clear who (or what) others are upset with. Is their anger misdirected? Are they just lashing out at the nearest target, as a release for pent-up tension and frustration?
Hard to know. It is clear, though, that in today’s world there is not a lot of space for grace. We must find and create that space.
How? Avoid hair-trigger responses. Instead, in confrontational situations, employ a seven-second delay. Allow yourself the luxury of pausing to respond. Seek out a kind rebuke, instead of the escalatory accusation.
Or, show vulnerability. Accept some responsibility for the source of the dispute. Admit you have been in a similar situation before, and apparently did not learn enough from it. Often, the other party will admit to a similar failing. A peaceful resolution results.
Winning the battle, while losing the war, is still a no-win. The conflict – to keep our world from becoming a darker, unloving place – is too important. Let us dull our sharp tongues, and speak in a fashion that leaves no doubt about Whose we are.
(If you’re ready to embrace Christ, He’s ready for you. Visit C Suite for Christ to join in Christ-centered fellowship with other professionals. Join us as a member. Plant a chapter where you live. Consider becoming a corporate partner. Follow C Suite for Christ on LinkedIn and Facebook. Questions? Contact Paul M. Neuberger at (414) 313-8338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)