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.