Today a customer began to raise his voice at me in anger in response to product information I was providing him. I smiled. I softly informed him that I would be happy to have my manager call him to provide additional information. He slowly calmed down.
Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (NIV).
About once per week–sometimes more frequently–I have opportunity to put this Scripture into practice in my place of secular employment. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard, especially when a person is being abusive. But why should I lower myself to the level of a verbally abusive individual? Why not take the high road? Why not prefer to receive a bit of abuse, rather than lash out in retaliation?
Do I set limits? Of course. There have been times when I have walked away from someone who is being verbally abusive. However, I refuse to allow myself to become bitter toward them in thought or action. If a person does not calm down in the face of a gentle answer, choosing instead to escalate his tirade, then I seek out alternative measures, always in respectful and kind, but firm and resolved ways.
In church, whether it is dealing with an irate parent, an angry work colleague, a bitter volunteer, or a child whose rage as gone out of control, those of us in Children’s Ministry Leadership will occasionally face difficult situations which require special attention to gentle answers in the face of harsh words. For me at my church, it doesn’t happen frequently (thankfully), but occasionally such situations will occur. I have to discipline myself to be diligent in practicing God’s presence with scriptural meditation, joy, thanksgiving, intercessory prayer and worship. To the measure I am immersed in following the example of Jesus (Philippians 2), I find that I have a greater measure of grace to deal with difficult situations and people. Even the angry ones. The harsh ones. By following the way of humility, I diffuse their ability to aggravate me and cause me to lose control. More importantly, I may even win some of them over in the love of Christ.
A gentle answer. Try it when the opportunity presents itself. God will give you courage to show grace in the face of unfair harshness. The joy that follows from a conscience which is clean will be contagious and might even win over your verbose counterpart.