Speech and community go hand in hand. Community depends on communication—upon information and attitudes shared in common. Communication is perhaps the most important of all human activities. Nearly everything that we do communicates. People evaluate us based on our communication. They make decisions about future interactions with us based on our communication. As much as we communicate, it is amazing how often we don’t communicate well. Our message falls short. Our words are misinterpreted. Their meaning is often misunderstood. As a result communication gives way to conflict. It is inevitable. The word of God prepares us for the conflicts.
Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How we respond to conflict determines what happens next. Many conflicts arise, not because the issues separating the parties are so great, but because of the temperaments people bring to a confrontation.
The verse assumes a response to the angry person. It is the presence of a response, not the lack of a response that transforms the atmosphere in conflict.
The words for wrath and anger are two different words in the Hebrew text that speak to two different levels of intensity. The first word is an intense rage of emotions. They are already at a 10 on a 10 point anger scale. But a gentle response stops an erupting volcano. It is both the words and how those words are communicated that brings calm to the chaos of wrath. The second word is that of a less intense anger. Here, the person is at a five. A harsh word stirs up anger. Harsh words refers to words that hurt. Words can cause pain. And when people hurt us with their words, we often respond with anger, because we see anger as more powerful of an emotion than hurt.
When we match word for word and tone for tone, what starts off as a lit match turns into a forest fire. When we jab back with cutting words and sharp tone, nothing good is going to come out of it. We often end up having to apologize for what was said. And even after the apology, there is still a strain on the relationship. You cannot unsay words.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.