“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
מַֽעֲנֶה־רַּ֭ךְ יָשִׁ֣יב חֵמָ֑ה וּדְבַר־עֶ֝֗צֶב יַעֲלֶה־אָֽף׃
For individuals reared in a home of discord, an environment of bickering and contention has become a family tradition.
A young rabbi faced a serious problem in his congregation. During erev Shabbat service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and the other half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting theirs was the true tradition.
Nothing the rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue’s 99-year-old founder. He met the old rabbi and poured out his heart. “So,” he pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?”
“No,” answered the old rabbi. “Then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers,” responded the younger man. “No,” answered the old rabbi. “Well,” the young rabbi answered, “what we have now is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream.”
“Ah,” said the old rabbi, “that was the tradition.”
In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon, king of the nation of Israel, demonstrates his awareness of angry conflicts that boil over into our homes. The solution offered by the wise king is not for us to ignore angry words. Rather, he tells us returning harsh words with harsher words is non-productive and can heat up our relationships like a hot air balloon.
As we look at Proverbs 15:1 we are given an “out of the box” way of reacting to potentially heated exchanges and defusing a situation to open a door for God to bring His peace. (more…)