My devotional reading in the Bible this morning included these verses:
Proverbs 15:1-2 (NKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
The word that came into my mind as I read this was “provoked.”
How do I respond when someone provokes me by inconsiderate, unkind, or disrespectful words or attitudes? Sometimes that happens in a personal relationship. Much of the time these days, I find myself feeling provoked by what I hear from politicians or media pundits, or even anonymous individuals making comments on the internet.
When that provocation comes, the natural reaction is to want to lash out at whoever is causing the irritation. But, as these verses say, that just leads to more harsh words and greater anger and turmoil. I’ve got to be wise in the way I use my tongue – or keyboard!
Popping off at people who provoke me (even if they are on TV or online rather than in my presence) may temporarily relieve my feelings, but it actually makes reaching solutions to the things that bother me harder. Angry exchanges or even just angry attitudes hinder more than they help. When I stoke my anger by speaking or even thinking wrathful words toward others, I close my mind to them. Anger has no interest in seeing things from the other person’s point of view!
When I allow my anger to come forth as harsh words or thoughts toward somebody else, it’s very likely that I’m fitting myself into the last part of verse 2: “the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”