Many years ago when we lived and worked in Holland, there was a principle that Floyd would remind our staff about. We lived in one of the roughest parts of the city and were regularly faced with crime. Almost every time we stepped outside the building where we lived, we encountered drug deals taking place. It was not uncommon for a "junkie" (a person on drugs) to rob one of our workers.
Floyd taught on Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." He encouraged us to be kind regardless of how upsetting a situation might be. It's easy to think that's a good idea - a little more challenging when you find yourself in a difficult situation.
I remember when one of our young men was held up at knife point by a junkie who wanted his money. The YWAM worker didn't have any money! He didn't get upset or angry at the robber, he just "gently" explained that he lived in the city because he wanted to help the street people, the junkies, the prostitutes - and that he lived on very little and had no money with him. He showed the junkie his empty pockets. Amazingly, instead of the junkie getting angry that his victim had no money, he ended up consoling him that he was poor and broke!! Our worker was able to explain his love for Jesus and why he was there doing what he did. His experience was a good lesson for all of us.
I've never forgotten it. Through the years when I've been in a difficult or frustrating or upsetting situation, I've tried to remember that principle. I need to respond with a soft answer in the midst of a hard situation. I've probably not always succeeded, but the testimony of our worker certainly marked my life.
Recently I was in a very frustrating situation here. I didn't stop to think of the principle, but I did respond kindly and graciously - several times. Amazingly, an answer opened up and the frustrating situation was resolved. It was only later that I thought of the principle learned years ago.
We live in a world that seems to be filled with ugly words, unkindness, and meanness. It seems like every time I read or see a news report, there is at least one news item of someone speaking in harsh, unkind words to another person. I find it grievous. I wish I could pour a soothing balm over the situation.
Since my recent situation, I have become more aware of my words. I try when interacting with a clerk, a business person, or a service person to say something warm and kind. I love watching their faces light up with a smile. It makes my heart smile too. It lightens whatever heaviness I am carrying that day. A little bit of love and kindness goes a long ways.
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24
"Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees." Job 4:4
"She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26
"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad." Proverbs 12:25
"To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!" Proverbs 15:23
"A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:4
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21
I'm thankful for the recent reminder of this powerful lesson about our speech. And I'm so grateful that God is loving, patient, and kind to me when I frustrate Him! He always responds with grace towards me. He always encourages me, forgives me, and gives me a new beginning.