When people say crazy things to you, do you respond or react? There’s a huge difference between responding and reacting. Responding is a more thoughtful process where you took a minute to think about your words or actions. Reacting, on the other hand, is just immediately saying or doing whatever comes to mind.
Our verse today talks about the difference between responding and reacting, especially when it comes to our words. Far too often, we become bothered or offended by other people’s actions, or we misunderstand, and we fly off the handle unnecessarily.
When people say things to us that might cause us to react this way, we need to be ready to respond appropriately. Our verse today is Proverbs 15:1. It says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The idea is that if someone says something to you and you respond in a thoughtful way to deescalate the situation as opposed to escalating it, things will be better. On the flip side, if how we speak back escalates things, then we’re likely reacting out of anger.
When deciding how to respond, we should consider what we want the ultimate outcome to be. What do we want to see happen as the confrontation occurs? If you want to end up in a fight, then fuel the fire. If you want to calm things down, learn how to give a soft answer.
One of the biggest struggles we have with this is that we usually want to be right. But really we should ask ourselves: do you want to be right, or do you want to be heard? Sometimes you can be both, but how you respond in these situations matters. We often don’t care how our words come across, we just want to be right; but we should care.
This verse makes me think of a time back when I was in school where a white kid who was much smaller than me came up and called me the “n-word.” I knew if we fought that there was no way he could win, so what was he trying to do? He was intentionally trying to make me mad so that I’d hit him and get in trouble for starting a fight. But I didn’t fall for it, because I chose to think and respond after doing so. What I responded with wasn’t the wisest, but I did think carefully enough to not hit him first. Instead, I said something to make him mad. I wish I had had the Proverbs in my life back then. I wish I had known to give a soft answer to turn away wrath.
Think about your own life. When people try to push your buttons, whether they mean to do so or not, how can you deescalate the situation instead of reacting out of anger? Let’s choose to give soft answers.
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