Gentle Words, Clean Heart

((from Abbie))

I was going to write about Proverbs 3:5, where Solomon instructs listeners to lean not on their own understanding but to trust in the Lord. This was the perfect verse for me to reflect on, I thought until the Lord gave me words of His own. You see, I would argue that I need to write this post even more than you may need to read it.

It started with an evening spat. A misunderstanding, which led to a testy tone, which drove me straight into the arms of anger. I had hoped for a task to get done that did not get done. Instead of gently extending grace, I snapped. And the way I decided to communicate in that moment set up the battlefield.

I’d like to report that one instance and chalk it up to a busy week and a late night. I wish it were that simple. But then, not 12 hours later, it happened again. A broken commitment and I snapped. My anger and frustration swallowed and consumed me for seemingly no good reason. And yet again, I instigated a fight that did not need to be.

And then came the dreaded words.

“I think sometimes you have a problem controlling your temper.”

OUCH. In the deep recesses of my heart, I knew it was true. My temper flares because I can be overly sensitive.  And when I lash out, unnecessary fights happen.

After my temper erupted this morning, a whisper began to stir.

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

How wonderfully simple and splendidly straightforward. The problem doesn’t lie in not knowing. The problem is rooted in the heart, and in the very essence of grace. My inability to give a gentle answer shows that I don’t truly understand grace. At least not in the moment. Because grace is the foundation to all gentleness, and it’s impossible to understand grace without a clean, repentant heart. On the opposite side, the tendency towards a harsh word often means that some heart work needs to be done.

I heard once that road rage is a sign that you are unhappy with some aspect of your life. I think any sort of snap judgment means that there needs to be a shift. We are called to be people of radical grace. Responding with a harsh word is the opposite of grace.

The second verse hammers Solomon’s point home.

“The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:2

What if, in this case, wisdom and knowledge boiled down to a held tongue? And what if folly equates to a harsh word? Reading it like that, it is interchangeable, and I am convinced the Solomon has a lot more to say on the subject.

It’s simple, yet profound. Isn’t that how it always is? The gospel, the life of Jesus, the meaning of it all… utterly simple and yet wholly profound. Perhaps the simplest way to show grace is a gracious word.

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