Ways to turn away anger.
Sometime back, I was coaching an angry client. She interrupted, argued and progressively got agitated. Nor was I immune. As an old minister friend would say, I could feel my human nature crawling up my back!
Then I remembered Proverbs 15:1 that says in part, "A soft answer turns away wrath." So I lowered my voice and made my reply calmly. Another eruption; in repeating my counsel, I deliberately lowered my voice under hers. One more eruption. Once more I softly repeated the same answer.
Suddenly, she stopped and laughed. I thought "Aha!" The rest of the story? She quietly took my advice, and I gave it without antagonizing her.
Having once been an angry person, I found this marvelous! The Bible came alive. I saw what Proverbs 15:1 looked like!
Let's finish the verse: "But a harsh word stirs up anger." What does that look like? Picture my client with clenched fists, grimaced face and shrill words.
How can we bring Proverbs 15:1 to life?
1. Under duress, valve the stress.
Lowering one's voice brings calm and peace when communications become strained. Opposing viewpoints naturally occur, such as between husbands and wives, different personality types, employers and employees, etc. Truth is in the eye of the beholder: both can be dead right and dead wrong.
So we need to hit the pause button, as Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says. We should lower our voice, valve our stress and try to see the right in the other person's view. We need to ask God to help us choose to be righteous instead of being right (that's another article for another day).
2. Don't interrupt—zip it up!
As much as I dislike being interrupted, I still struggle with this bad habit, especially if I slip and allow myself to become emotionally entangled. Yet with God's help, I have made progress over the years, and you can, too.
And we must! For when we interrupt, we are devaluing the other person. We may as well hold up a big sign that proclaims, "My thoughts are more important than yours." This completely selfish gesture violates God's law of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Besides, only God has the right to say in effect, "My thoughts are higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Besides, love is never rude—the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 speaks to this.
Another minister friend taught me a valuable principle: God's way of life is focused all the time on what is good for the other person. That's a tall order! None of us can do that alone. But Jesus Christ in us can. And He left us the perfect example. The God's Word translation of 1 Peter 2:23 makes this plain: "Christ never verbally abused those who verbally abused Him."
I needed this reminder, for Satan is angry. The world is angry. Remember, anger is just one letter short of danger. Next time you face an angry situation, remember Proverbs 15:1: valve the stress and zip it! Soft words turn away wrath.