There’s an old saying that goes, Live and Learn. On a very basic level that is probably true: hand on hot stove a case in point. But looking back after a lifetime, I know that I could have learned and practiced some far more constructive behaviors before I did. Here’s an illustration: teen-age daughter is balking at doing her share of chores. Mother angrily confronts her with, “You are becoming lazy and uncooperative and not doing your share of the household work.” Suppose instead of responding in kind, the daughter says, “You may be right. I have let some things slip lately, and I’ll try to do better.” Daughter has just de-fused a volatile situation, and mother has made her point. Argument over, dead in the water. Daughter has raised her own self-esteem a couple of notches. Mom is mollified. Peace reigns. This illustrates the “turning the other cheek” philosophy. And how I wish I had practiced it fifty years ago! But I didn’t. I came into marriage and family with no practical experience. When I was verbally attacked, I felt duty-bound to defend my turf. At the end of an angry confrontation, I was frustrated and in tears. My husband was angry and disappointed. A lose, lose situation. How I wish I had applied the better way. (Can’t say I didn’t know it.) It would have made a much happier home life for the whole family as well as for me. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Unless one of the parties to the argument is irrational, this calm approach by at least one of the participants will make for smoother everyday living in families, workplaces, communities, anywhere differing opinions may occur. The other approach accomplishes nothing except laying groundwork for more discord in the future.
My regret knows no bounds that I could have made a major difference in the tenor of our family life by exercising this simple but life-changing principle. I suppose my purpose in writing this is the hope that someone will recognize the harm that can be done by a fragile ego that feels the need to defend itself, causing friction, when a generous spirit can avert it. Mean-spirited arguments can in time destroy relationships, while restraint and forbearance will in time produce harmonious daily living, with no loss for anyone and gain for everyone. The one who speaks softly gains self-esteem, and the other perhaps will feel no need to press the issue any further. A soft answer does indeed turn away wrath, and that’s a win-win situation.