"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 NRSV
As many of you know, I spend most Saturdays volunteering at L Street Mission. Each Saturday, we provide food, hygiene kits, and emergency clothing items to around 50-60 people. Very infrequently, we have someone that is being difficult. My friend and co-servant, Rob, is a physically imposing presence, but in talking with these troubled individuals, his tone is gentle and empathetic. You can see the anger leave them like a balloon deflating. Again very occasionally, we will see some of our guests get into a confrontation with another guest. Most of the time, it starts with one hateful thing being said. These are sporadic incidents, the vast majority of the time, everyone treats each other with respect, and there are no problems.
Psalms 15 has a lot to say about how we are to respond:
"The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly."
"A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."
"Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention."
"To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is!"
There is nothing new here, and it is all common sense. We know how we are to respond, but we are continually fighting our human nature to reply not as we want but as we should. Our responses are to be thoughtful, loving, kind, and empathetic. We also know that we cannot do that on our own; we need the Holy Spirit's assistance to help us at all times in our interactions.
Our precious and loving God, we give you thanks for the gift of your Holy Spirit. We know that you have sent us to be your light to the world. Please help us to respond and say only those things that will glorify you. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.