“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”Proverbs 15:1
“A soft answer.” “A harsh word.” Goodness, am I always careful in how I speak?
Our political discourse is getting challenging. Epithets, sometimes vulgarities, charges and counter-charges; sometimes we yearn for politicians of former eras whose rhetoric was at least dignified, even if we did have to watch their behavior carefully! My seminary dean used to say that “Profanity displays a poverty of linguistic ability!” He had a point. And the result of our rhetoric is not increased understanding, perhaps compromise, or at least enlightenment on the issues, but oh so often further distancing and anger. And it happens in the church too.
I daresay we all have been on the receiving end of a ”harsh word.” It makes us have many feelings. All too often we respond in kind. And we’re off to the races. The Letter of James describes the tongue “as a fire,” and that “no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil full of deadly poison (see James 3).” This does not mean that we must remain silent in the face of evil and injustice. But it does mean we must take care that our words, our tone, our way of speaking do not further isolate and harm, both ourselves and those we address. Yes, sometimes it is not what we say, but how we speak it. This pinches us all, I believe. As we seek to build community, Christ’s love must control our speech, for our speech ultimately reflects our souls.