What better example could I give of this verse in Proverbs 15 than that of my mother? She does a wonderful job exerting her gentle power to squelch discord.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).
My three siblings, their spouses, and I spent three days with my parents at a beach house near Newport last week. In my family this means the days are filled with our typical bantering and playful sarcasm. Mom doesn’t tease, not like the rest of us anyway. And when we get stirred up, she balances us with her gentle words.
We have the power to crush someone, and the power to bring life with our words. This theme seems to occur frequently in the book of Proverbs.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but the perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (verse 4).
Here’s one more. This verse says good news makes me healthy. Maybe that’s why I don’t watch TV much.
“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (verse 30).
By the time we drove out of the parking lot of the Grant County Fairgrounds in John Day, Oregon yesterday my head was full of disorganized snippets of a thousand conversations. The information sharing at our first family reunion in more than twenty years had been intense.
“From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:2-3 NIV).
With a group of people that size and the varying backgrounds and beliefs, it could have led to discord. But I didn’t see much of that, thankfully.
“Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored” (verse 18).
There’s a teaching from the book of James in the Bible that talks about the tongue being the hardest thing to control. If my memory serves me right, it says that our words are like a small spark that can set a forest ablaze. I’d be ashamed to be the cause of charring anyone.
I’d also like to avoid the “poverty and shame” part, and respond joyfully to correction. Success has come in the discipline of keeping my tongue in check when I set my heart attitude on being loving to others. From that just naturally comes better speaking and fewer sparks.