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Soft Versus Harsh
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“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)

I’ve heard and read that verse hundreds of times since first learning it as a Sabbath School memory text. No doubt it is familiar to you as well. We all know it, but do we truly live it?

As a stay-at-home parent who also home schools, I have plenty of opportunities to practice this proverb. I wish I could report that my children and I always breeze through our daily routines in perfect cooperation with nothing but loving and respectful words escaping our lips. But that would be inaccurate. The reality is that complaints are uttered, eyes roll, procrastination occurs, and boundaries are tested. In short, they push my buttons, tempting me to speak “harsh words” from time to time. 

Two Choices

Thankfully, God’s great patience with me supersedes my thin patience with others. He’s daily reminding me of this verse and teaching me how incredibly applicable it is to parenting. In that moment of disobedience or disrespect, I must remember that I have not one but two choices in my response—a soft answer or a harsh word. 

Experience proves that when I allow my frustration to surface in harsh words, it never ends well. It does not capture my children’s attention and inspire them to better behavior. As King Solomon so wisely warns, this method of parenting only stirs up anger in both of us and further escalates the situation. (It also usually requires me to have to apologize to them at the end of the day!) 

Though I don’t always manage it, a “soft answer” truly works. When I respond calmly, I actually gain and maintain their attention while I explain the inappropriateness of their behavior. Tempers remain cool, and teaching moments abound. Be there no doubt: soft answers don’t come naturally to me. It is only when I fix my eyes on Jesus, trusting Him to guide my words and actions, that I am able to take a deep breath in the moment of conflict, utter a silent prayer for wisdom, and then answer softly. The difference is profound; wrath is turned away.

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By Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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