To be gentle - 12 September 2023
By Ben Fourie
This proverb has something in common with the one from the previous day, but while the proverb yesterday was more general, today’s one is aimed at a more personal level. In many of the proverbs, the contrast between a wise man and a stupid one is often present, even though it is not mentioned as such. In this verse, it is clear that a wise person will give a gentle answer in an argument or confrontation, while a stupid one will use harsh words and, thereby, stirs up anger.
As you might have noticed, I like to compare different translations and can really recommend that you do it too. Of the four that I have compared, two use the words “gentle answer”, one says “soft answer” and another, “kind answer”. Three translations use the word “harsh” and one says “grievous” for the answer that stirs up anger.
When I look back over many years of my own life, I have to acknowledge the truth of this proverb. Too many times, in meetings and discussions, I had put forward my ideas too harshly and lost the argument. It was not necessarily a bad motion that I put forward, but I lost out because the other participants did not like my harsh way of saying it.
The root of the word “harsh” is Scandinavian and actually means to be rough. It can also mean to offend, humiliate or insult. People do not like to be humiliated or insulted by what we say. Let us remember this when we have a difference with our life partners, children, colleagues, employees or our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is a great pity that, too often, when we as children of God differ about religious matters, we are very harsh with each other. For example, there is nothing wrong when we differ about how to interpret a certain passage of Scripture, but how we handle it and how we talk to each other about our differences is what really matters. The gentle answer will always be better than the harsh one.
Prayer: We have to confess, o Lord, that we are sometimes very harsh towards our fellow men, children and loved ones. Please teach us to be gentle. Amen