Choose Gentleness, Not Defensiveness

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When other people raise their voice, you need to learn to automatically lower yours. That’s called strength under control.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). 

Have you noticed that human beings have a tendency to mimic other people’s emotions—especially if we’re sitting right across the table from them? The reason we do this is because of mirror neurons in our brains that allow us to sympathize and to mirror what other people feel. 

For instance, if somebody gets angry with you, you get angry back. If somebody is really miserable and you hang around that person long enough, you get miserable, too.

In the same way, when people raise their voice against you, you usually raise your voice back. Then they raise their voice higher. Then you raise your voice higher. Then pretty soon things have escalated, and your emotions are out of control. 

The Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). 

Let me give you a little tip that will save you a lot of heartache and conflict: When other people raise their voice, lower yours—in your marriage, in your parenting, in your friendships, and at work. That’s called strength under control. 

Gentleness defuses conflict. It de-escalates anger. 

Here’s a good verse you’re going to need someday—maybe even this week. Ecclesiastes 10:4 says, “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes” (NLT). 

When your boss rips into you or your spouse speaks loudly in anger, you need to realize it may not have anything to do with you. Instead of getting defensive, practice gentleness. Let your gentle answer disarm the other person and defuse the situation.

Talk It Over

What is your normal reaction to raised voices, such as when your kids are misbehaving or you’re having a disagreement with your spouse or close friend? 

Why do you think responding in gentleness rather than anger is so disarming? Why does it get people’s attention? 

Look for ways to practice gentleness this week. How do people react when you respond to them with gentleness? You may even want to record your efforts and their effect and share it with your small group.

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This devotional © 2019 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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