Posts Tagged Proverb 15: 1. offense

Grace is Gentle

Proverb 15: 1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is gentleness (Gal. 5: 22). In all our ways we are called to be gentle, even in our speech and our communication with others. I was reading a book this week wherein the author said that one of the biggest problems we suffer in the church is that we tell people the truth but we do it in a harsh manner. The truth ends up offending. People need to hear the truth because only then can they be free but if we deliver it in a manner that they cannot hear it then what is the point? In telling a person the truth we are usually trying to lead them into growth and self-improvement so that they will experience greater victory in their life. However, when we deliver it in a harsh manner they spend all of their energy defending themselves that they miss the truth. They will fight ‘til the death for a lie because their personalities must defend themselves. So, we have just lost the battle.

How can we reconcile a brother to the way if he cannot hear us? How can we stimulate growth in a person if their personality forces them into rationalization? The answer is that we cannot. I confess that I am most guilty of this error. I have always preferred that a person tell me the plain truth rather than the candy coated version because I didn’t want to miss the message. So I was geared for hearing the hard truth and much preferred that to living a life of ignorance or stagnation. Then I mistakenly assumed that everyone else was the same way so I have tended to shoot from the hip. I tell you the truth because I love you and I want the best for you but it does no good if it causes you offense. When a person has received a perceived punch, even if it is verbal, their nature is to defend themselves. It is an automatic reflex meaning that most of us cannot stop this response even if our mind realizes what is happening. Truthfully, though, at those times the mind tends to disengage except to the degree that is serves the personality as it tries to defend and repair itself.

My theory on leadership and parenting is to catch your employee or your child doing something right and praise them. I can’t say I perform perfectly according to this theory but I have seen how powerful this approach is. Too many times we as ministers see what is wrong and spend our breath and effort trying to correct it and perhaps parents and bosses fall prey to the same dynamic. We must recognize, however, that there are times we must correct others. In that time above all others we should embrace the principle from today’s verse. Speak gently with folks. This even applies to your spouse and children. If you are raising your voice and yelling at your spouse, child or employee you are only doing harm. You are damaging the person, your reputation and your relationship with them. There can still be consequences for people’s actions without demeaning their character by speaking to them harshly. A gentle response will turn away wrath while a harsh response will only provoke anger and their self-preservation mechanism. Once that mechanism is triggered then they will, even unwittingly, spend all of their energy justifying their action. So even if they were wrong in their act and even if in their heart of hearts they know they are wrong, that self-preservation instinct is so strong that they will end up reinforcing their position. This is not going to help people grow as Christians, grow into healthy adults, nor help them become model employees. And the damage you do to your spouse with harsh language is incalculable.

So, let us all try to hear the truth without becoming offended but also let us deliver the truth in the love that Christ has for each of us. We must love people into truth and change and inspire them to be all that God created them to be.