Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the art of the gentle answer

This last year, one of the ways God has grown my husband is in gentleness. I've learned a lot from Steve about the way a gentle answer (his) can take away wrath (mine). Here's 3 examples I can remember.

  • I went into a rant about some person who had done something in some way to upset me, and instead of saying, "Get a grip!" or "Stop being so judgemental!" or "You're absolutely right!" he said, "You must be feeling bad." Deflated. Me.
  • I went into a rant about something Steve had done (I think it was something significant like the way his belongings affected the look of our living room) and instead of saying "It's not my fault!" or "Well, you did such-and-such!" or "I live here too, you know!" he said, "That must be difficult for you." And he wasn't being sarcastic. Sigh.
  • I went into a rant about how some major life-changing decision was going to affect our lives and the lives of our children and the lives of everyone else we know, and instead of saying, "Well, that's just how it is!" or "Stop whining!" or "Suck it up, princess!" he said, "Yes, I know it will be hard for you", and gave me a sympathetic hug. Aaaah.

My husband is far from perfect - as he would be the first to admit! - but I've learned a lot from him about gentleness, me being a shoot-your-mouth-off let-it-all-hang-out tell-them-how-upset-you-are (as-long-as-they're-family-but-not-otherwise) kind of gal.

I can tell you from experience that a gentle answer is a salve on the bee-sting of irritation - or a pin to the balloon of wrath - or a calm which sucks the wind from the sail of anger - or something like that, anyway.

A gentle answer has long-term effects, too. Months later, when Steve's belongings still decorate the living room or I feel the effects of that life-changing decision, I surprise myself by responding with grace rather than anger. God's word is proved right once again:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

image is from stephen.h2010 at flickr


Sarah said...

Hi Jean,

Thanks for these examples. My husband and I attended a Marriage Enrichment day at Moore College on Saturday and one of the big lessons we took away from it was exactly this same issue! So, 'soft start-ups' are being practiced in our household at the moment, in order that our lives more readily reflect Proverbs 15:1.

I've just thanked God for growing your husband in gentleness, and prayer that he will help both you and I to keep growing in this area too!


Jean said...

Thanks, Sarah, for your prayers!

GretchenJoanna said...

I love real-life examples like that. I can just picture your husband...it makes me want to do better and be more like him.

Deb L said...

Thanks for this reminder, Jean. I find it particularly hard to give a gentle answer when the children are being extremely disobedient. It doesn't help when I answer them in anger and add fuel to their fire. But I find it so hard to be gentle when I'm trying to create order. In my desire to control, I get angry and harsh very easily. But when I can be self-controlled, things are much less likely to spiral into all out tantrums. It so easy to see gentleness as weakness. I think if I speak gently, they won't listen. But the truth is it takes a lot more strength to stay gentle than it does to blow my top!

Sarah said...

Wow! What a great man you have. That post rebuked me when I read shoot-your-mouth-off let-it-all-hang-out tell-them-how-upset-you-are (as-long-as-they're-family-but-not-otherwise) kind of gal and I had to nod my head in shame that I am exactly like this.

My husband often says nothing when I go into a rant which tends to make me angrier. He then says, "I don't know what to say." Perhaps I should show him this post...and pray that God would work in me so that I start using gentle answers myself.