Soft Answers Do Work
By: Anne Peterson
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. - Proverbs 15:1
There we were. I could tell things were heating up, but both of us thought we were in the right. Neither of us was backing down. And isn’t this when it’s so easy to forget what we’re supposed to do, and all we can focus on is getting our spouse to agree with us?
Or at least, that’s how it is for me.
It’s times like these, it’s good to remember God asks us to encourage one another, to build each other up. But when we are disagreeing, it feels more like we are tearing each other down.
1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) tells us that love considers the other more important than we are. But in those heated moments, it seems that all that matters is proving to someone that we are right. Jesus was right all the time, yet, he never argued with people to get them to see it.
If we just take the time to breathe in and out and send up a quick prayer, the Holy Spirit can remind us of the truth, which is, people matter more than things. They matter more than being right. And believe me, being right really mattered a lot to me. Still does at times.
When we are at odds with our spouses, it’s so easy to think of previous disagreements. Those disagreements seem to parade in front of us in living color. They fuel us, making it harder to see another person’s side. We hold our ground, dig in our heels and wait with teeth clenched for them to say something else wrong.
Years ago, in school, we heard about the golden rule, how we’re to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. And it’s an actual verse in Luke 6:31. That makes it harder to ignore.
So the last time my husband and I were at odds, I decided to give it a try. When tempers flared and it would have been easy to keep raising my voice, I took a deep breath and I answered softly, instead. And it diffused the situation. It also gave us needed time to think about the words we were saying to each other.
God tells us in Ephesians 4:29 that we should not let any corrupt words come out of our mouths. And in verse 32, he tells us to be kind and tenderhearted.
God is working in us and one day we will look like Jesus. But in the meantime, we are works in progress. If we choose to be kind and tenderhearted, our spouse will be more likely to respond in the same way. Good communication is responding to one another, not reacting. And if we choose the higher road, even if we don’t get the desired results, we will not feel bad about how we handled things.
We need to take a moment and think back. Think of how we could hardly wait to see this one we ended up marrying. We hung on every single word he said. We’d talk for hours. Talk, not yell.
We can get back to how we communicated before. Sometimes all it takes is a little thought before we let the words tumble out of our mouths. God says in James 1:5, that we can always ask him for wisdom and he will give it to us readily. Sometimes wisdom is just listening more and being silent.
And when we are in a conversation, If we feel ourselves getting angry, we can agree to have a time out. To wait till things don’t seem so urgent.
One tip I’ve found which has been helpful, is to make sure both of us are rested and fed. We have hurt each other needlessly because we were overtired or hungry. I remember one time in particular that I just slipped into the other room and made my husband a sandwich. Then when we resumed our conversation, it was completely different.
A soft answer does work. I know because I’ve tried it.
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 14 books, including her memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Anne has been married to her husband, Michael, for 43 years. Sign up for Anne's newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook. Or connect with her on Facebook.
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Originally published Thursday, 02 November 2023.