Hugh Cameron, Scottish Painter
“A gentle answer turns away wrath. But harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1
Standing in the hallway of the hotel where we were hosting our mom’s conference, I noticed a sweet mama who looked as though she was at the end of her rope. Holding a several months old baby, who was arching his little back and crying as though his heart would break, she looked beside herself.
Offering to hold her little one so she could get some rest. Sure enough he would begin to quiet and then something, probably a little girgly tummy, would cause him to begin to wail once again. I held him up, check to cheek, his to mine, with my mouth aimed toward his little ear.
Softly I began to talk to him and then I would sing the song so often sung to my children, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” very softly, very gently. He would quiet down. Then another cry would begin, and I would talk to him very softly, “You are not alone, you are so very precious, you are a darling boy,” lyrically in a sing-songy voice, holding his soft cheek so he could feel mine. Each time my voice started, his little eyes got big and he would quiet.
Suddenly, he fell fast asleep. I know how the precious mama felt as all of us have had over-wrought babes who would not fall asleep.
At times, our own tears and dark moods, or the mis-behavior of our children, does not require correction, but requires understanding, sympathy or even just sleep. How many times has a long night of uninterrupted sleep made me a better, more patient mama?
Same for our husband and children. Sometimes the need is gentle, generous, love and compassion--For me, when someone actually pays attention to my felt need, my anger is dispelled. Same with all people.
Whether my children were young and tiny or old, and if they were in a snit, if I wrapped my demeanor, by my will, in softness and gentleness and answered their anger in a gentle voice, non-accusing eyes, they were more likely than not to listen to me and to respond.
"I have some fresh chocolate cookies. How about if you and I have a snack on the porch. I want to know what you are really thinking." (To a teen boy who was frustrated and taking it out on the others.)
“Let's sneak into my room for a cup of tea and have some alone-friendship time!" To a preteen child who was getting lost in our loud crowd.
Gently picking up an exhausted, over-stimulated toddler, I would snuggle and begin to make up a song with their name in it and walk to their room for a snuggle or rocking time with songs. "Joel is the cutest boy in the world, he sings and builds cars and lego cities, too. I love my Joely boy and think he is the best." (I would make up songs and sing them with their stories and names and they would quiet to hear what was coming about them."
Angry words answered with loud voice and accusation, frustration or pouring on guilt, just adds fuel to the flame of anger or frustration our children are already feeling. Gentleness and sympathy puts water on the fire of one’s angry heart, and soothes the frustrated feelings.. Once I had this scripture in my head and learned to use it in many relationship situations, I saw how effective this piece of wisdom was—all of us desire, in our frustration, to be honored.
There is no absolute solution or formula to calming an angry quarrel. Yet, wisdom from proverbs has often saved the moment for my family.
A hormonal teen, an exhausted toddler, a school-aged child, or a husband who is angry—all of these, long to be treated with focused attention, an understanding heart and a loving response.
A gentle response, an "I understand," or "I empathize and sympathize with your situation, and want to help soothe your feelings," is sometimes the most effective way to reaching a heart. If a child or an adult is already angry, they cannot listen until they think they are understood or loved. Gentleness opens hearts, gives grace, soothes tempers.
To be gentle, you must be more concerned with bringing peace than being right and self-righteous. Gentleness requires humility--the humility that says, "I am more concerned about your well-being and long term emotional or spiritual health than I am about getting rid of the problem or drain that you are."
Jesus said about Himself, "I am humble and meek, learn from me."
Merriam Webster defines meek as,"having or showing a quiet and gentle nature : not wanting to fight or argue with other people"
Though Jesus was the all-powerful God who controls the universe, the only perfectly righteous God, He said, "I am humble and meek. (gentle) Learn from me."
As we all know, it is natural to react in like—anger to anger. However, it is from the Spirit of Him who is love that leads us to react in love. And yet, as the Spirit lives through us, we will see His power and fruit drawing others to Him in us, when we choose to remember bits of truth he has left for us to follow. A gentle answer, turns away anger.
Gentleness grows stronger with practice. It comes with humility. It grows as wisdom and takes root in the heart that values the ones she loves. May God grant us to become gentle in our love, that others may see Him through us.