You could hear them screaming at each other five offices away. Heads poked out to see what was going on—I was afraid words would escalate to blows, but fortunately that did not happen. Don looked like he was going to have a heart attack, his face was beet red and he was shaking. Rich’s jaw was clenched and his palms rolled into fists but with three of us coaxing we managed to get them separated and back into their own offices.
I asked Rich what happened. He said he went into Don’s office to ask how Allie was doing on the project she was working with him. Don told him she was worthless and to get out of his office, he was sick of taking Rich’s broken employees and felt like Rich deliberately was out to make his life miserable. Rich said the way Don spoke penetrated his brain and hit his anger button. He knew Allie had her weak areas but he was proud of her hard work and resented Don’s judgmental attitude. Furthermore he didn’t appreciate the way the older manager always blamed people instead of trying to get along. So instead of finding a response to deescalate the tension, he spoke the first thought that raced across his brain, “Don you are a loser and I’m sick of trying to help you.” Those words brought Don out of his chair and began a two-minute shouting match.
Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
I read a quote not long ago that stated ten percent of conflicts are due to difference of opinion. Ninety percent are due to wrong tone of voice. I know in my marriage that if I am frustrated or impatient, I may use a tone of voice that hurts the feelings of my wife. Notice that Solomon described as “harsh” the word that stirred up wrath. Delivery is more powerful than content.
Whenever I deal with an agitated person(s) whether it be in the Army or in the civilian sector I have found that speaking words quietly and with a gentle spirit is as valuable as pouring water on an emerging fire. It is hard for someone to spew poison when gentleness is applied. It is far easier to help upset people reason when kind words greet their angry outbursts. But it is not just for the agitated that a gentle answer is wise—the one speaking also benefits. By choosing a calm answer I defeat the temptation to be sarcastic, retaliatory, mad, judgmental or rude. Gentleness demands humility—a recipe far more powerful than anything pride can produce.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.” Isaiah described Him with these words: “He will not cry out or shout or make His voice heard in the streets.He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick; He will faithfully bring justice” (Isa.42:2,3). Those who walked with Jesus for three years observed power carefully and wonderfully applied. Never do they write of Him losing His composure, yelling, screaming or erring in content or delivery. The Son of God chose gentleness and the way of the lamb to defeat evil. How much better we will be to learn from His example!
In a more exhaustive study, a psychologist analyzed 558 emotion words—every one that he could find in the English language—and found that 62 percent of them were negative versus 38 percent positive. —Chip Heath & Dan Heath in Switch
©2014 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the "Click here to receive weekly devotionals" box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)