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A Soft Answer
by Brian Leshley
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Proverbs 15:1 (KJV): “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

What a way to put it! This one phrase from Scripture states a great truth. Think about a time when you have had your feelings hurt, or someone said something that made you angry. No doubt, you shot back with a smart remark and a seeming war broke out. We do this in our marriage at times, causing more trouble than it was ever worth. At the end of these arguments we look back and can not remember why we were fighting in the first place. But, oh, how the words said in the heat of it all, even the ones we don’t really mean; hurt and leaving scars that takes much time to heal.

It takes months to build a house these days. Many man hours of planning and labor, blood sweat and tears—sometimes lives are lost as well. When I purchased my first home with my wife we bought a lot—no house was on the lot the first time we saw it. We watched the stages of the life of our soon to be home. It took three and half months. The excitement we felt was not withstanding and we spent the first night in the home in sleeping bags on the floor—we had the moving van rented the next day for all our stuff, but we could not wait. Thinking about this and hearing that we are close to a possible fault line made me think that all that we worked to build could be destroyed in a matter of minutes, by a strong enough burst of energy in the form of an earthquake. A marriage is a lot like this analogy, built on solid ground and exciting in the beginning, but as with many other parts of our life things begin to change in our marriage.

A burst of devastating energy is exactly what grievous words become. Divorce and separation have resulted in the simple slip of the tongue during a heated argument. If only we could hold our tongue and respond to wrath with a soft answer. But this is not always easy to do, especially when we are emotionally invested, such as in a marriage. We spend countless years and hours to build a marriage, ‘til death do us part.’ We feel slighted, challenged or attacked, so we must defend ourselves or counter attack. Sometimes we can lash out when we see a certain look or believe we hear a special tone from our loved one. We only see the error of our ways in the aftermath, when we profusely apologize for weeks for the things we said or did. Sometimes that is not enough. Only through heartfelt change can the scars and hurt begin to heal. Patience and soft words are needed to keep the hurt feelings from flaring up again.

A soft answer is not what is expected, particularly when we have been known to do the opposite. Do something different is the advice of Proverbs 15:1. I am not suggesting that we should stay in an abusive or violent situation, by all means seek help in these situations. I speak of the times when we begin to notice what I call ‘the pattern.’

The pattern is when we get into the same argument every Sunday night just before bedtime. We are in the same place every week and one of us says the same thing that set us off last week, and the week before, etc. Then a tirade of words, slamming doors, moving from room to room yelling and then crying and weeping. Going to bed three or four hours later, exhausted and both apologetic, promising we will not do this again. Any of this sound familiar?

As we notice these patterns it is infinitely important to open the lines of communication and do something different. The best time to open communication is when things are calmer. A good idea is to do something different. Listen to each other, I mean looking in the eyes of your spouse and holding your tongue when you begin to feel the urge to respond. Take the time to be with each other in different settings, prepare dinner together, have tea or coffee together or find a common hobby to do together. My point is to find something that is mutually enjoyable to learn how to communicate with and become attentive to each other in a non-threatening way. Eventually there will be no more Sunday night arguments, in fact when an argument begins to ensue we can improve effective communication with each other and to be like water—the softest answer to the hard rock bed.

I urge you spend time with your spouse. Ask questions such as “How can I be of more support to you today?” and “How do you feel?” Pray together and ask God for a loving heart. Seek God in your marriage every day—He is there and He wants your marriage to be joyful and loving.

Who do you want to have at your side when you are on your deathbed, in the last moments of your life? Do you want your boss sitting there holding your hand? How about the stranger at the supermarket you held the door for? I want the wonderful woman I fell in love with so many years ago and continue to fall in love with every day. At the end all you will have is each other and God. When you feel the flair of anger or frustration approach, recognize it and respond in a different way. Things will not change immediately, but you will notice a difference. Respond with a soft answer, through this answer you will find understanding and through understanding you will find love. Love overcomes all things and when we love with God’s love we can do anything.

Bio: Brian has written his poetry book, Poetry for Browsing, a collection of poems. The book may be purchased at www.publishamerica.net.

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