Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A gentle answer, and the tongue of the wise

Proverbs 15
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

For some reason these words are just coming to my mind today. A gentle answer, and the tongue of the wise. How can I get to possess those 2 things? I feel like these words are wise, I feel like I've seen them play themselves out in my own life, and I feel like the life in these words will keep coming true time and time again.

I can think of numerous examples in my own past of how harsh words and folly have gushed from me before, and the truth is that all too often I think that's what's really in me, but one particular instance sticks out as a painful lesson. One foolish staff meeting early in my probation career, I let all of the senior officers know that if they wanted me to help them speak Spanish to a client, they ought to let me know in advance, ought to set an appointment with me. And when a nervous laughter broke out across the group, I got defensive, and the gushing began. I felt like I couldn't turn it off! Out of my own mouth flowed a river of destruction that I couldn't control! And I knew it was happening; I knew it was foolishness. In fact, things were never the same for me at that job, I was called to the carpet for my arrogance, and as a matter of fact, I got physically ill driving home and had to pull over into a parking lot to vomit in a trash bag. It was bad, but I couldn't stop the folly once it started, and suddenly the ramifications were also out of my control. It ended up that I was sort of black-balled after that meeting, and before long I was looking for a new job.

I've also seen where a gentle (or humble!) answer has been able to turn a potentially hot situation considerably cooler. There are always cliques in high school, and I remember in 10th grade gym class you could tell the cliques by who was changing out with whom. And Rhonda, was definitely not in my clique. She was a rough girl in the redneck clique, with straight black hair parted in the middle that hung down to her waist. And I'll be honest, she was a little scary! Well, high school cliques being what they are, we basically kept to ourselves, until one fateful day when we were playing volleyball. The ball came to me, and like a miracle, I was able to deliver a perfect hit, and the ball went lopping back over the net... straight into Rhonda's head! At first I was so excited I'd hit the ball and won a point, I didn't see the steam that was coming out of Rhonda's ears, or the crimson flush that was creeping over her face. But later. Back in the locker room. All became clear. I began to hear murmerings of her beating me up, because I'd hit her with the ball! Purposefully she approached, crossing the invisible line between groups, and before she got a chance to utter a word or lift a hand, my apology was on my lips. It wasn't for delivering a flawless hit (and let's be honest, I've never once performed a flawless move in volleyball, or any sport, for that matter!), but because I'd offended her with my exuberance. And I was sorry for that. I was sorry that I'd embarassed her, and I was even more sorry that my butt was on the line, but in front of my clique and hers, I humbled myself and apologized, and remarkably, she accepted and turned on her heel to return to her girls. I have to tell you, I was VERY glad to see this truth in action that day!

But even more than that, now, at 28, I see the truth of this principle. There's a particular woman in another office that my office regularly interacts with, who I've had occasion to go head-to-head with in the professional capacity--and to be fair, our two different offices often have two different perspectives and interests, so there's really nothing wrong with opposing viewpoints. But as relationships and roles have changed, I've somewhat recently found myself in a different dynamic with her. And actually, I'm still feeling out how that dynamic might end up. So, just today, I sent her an email, thanking her for a kind action on her part, and just expressing how I'm looking forward to continuing to work with her, and to get to know her. It's not flattery--it's true. So I'm anxious to see how this relationship develops, and how the principle of the gentle answer plays out in this circumstance.

There really are so many examples, and I have such a desire to be gentle and wise. But when at work, faced with co-workers, clients, employees. It has to be a conscientious decision. And even among friends, and loved ones!

Clearly this is a lesson I've been learning for some number of years, and I just hope more and more that the truth will keep sinking in deeper and deeper. But I also wonder how things will change and how I'll be stretched when Baby King arrives. Will I be wise? Will I be gentle? I know I'll make mistakes. And I know Jason will. And to be honest, I imagine that for the first little while, that little babe will do a lot more teaching me than I do teaching him or her! But somehow this principle just seems so important, perhaps the most important when it comes to this--parenting. Lord, change my stubborn hard heart, and make me more like you!

Haha... I somehow have the feeling that the next lesson along this line will be that love covers over a multitude of sin... Thank God for that!

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