March 2019 – A Gentle Tongue
Read Together: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
When Gideon headed into battle, he took with him only one hundred men-a meager group compared with the vast army of the Midianites they were up against. But God was in control, and he caused the Midianites to turn against one another. Gideon’s army simply sat back and watched as their enemy defeated themselves. Not one of the one hundred men had to draw their sword. As the remainder of the Midianite army fled, Gideon called warriors from the Israelite tribe of Ephraim for help in finishing the job. They cut off the Midianites’ escape route, and Israel defeated its enemy.
But after the fighting stopped, the Ephraimites came to Gideon and angrily demanded to know why they had not been called in the first place to help in the battle. “Why have you treated us like this?” they whined. “And they criticized him sharply” (Judges 8:1).
It would have been easy for Gideon to respond harshly to their criticism. When we feel attacked or criticized, its human nature to feel defensive and lash back at those who make us feel that way.
But responding harshly to strong words is a sure way to escalate a conflict. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, Gideon chose to douse the flame with soothing, soft words: “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?’ At this, their resentment against him subsided” (Judges 8:2-3). Maybe people skills came naturally to Gideon. Perhaps he know the only way to calm the Ephraimites’ anger was to give them credit for the positive things their participation had accomplished. Gideon wasn’t buttering them up or even weaseling his way out of a tight spot; he was merely being a good leader by acknowledging their frustration and their contribution to his success and dealing with their complaints. He took the focus off of what he had accomplished without their help and showed them that he valued and appreciated them.
A kind response is much more effective than a harsh one. Next time you’re tempted to let loose verbally and really give someone a piece of your mind, hold your tongue. Speak gently and with kindness instead. Make it your goal to soothe the conflict instead of inflaming it by defending yourself or retaliating. You just might gain (or keep) a friend!
Discussion Starters: How do you deal with people who speak to you harshly? Based on today’s proverb, how can you improve your reaction? What steps will you take to make those improvements?
Lifeline: Watch for ways you can deal kindly with others. Bless those around you with kind words of encouragement