The Gentle Initiative

Posted on · Posted in Anger, Discipline, Wisdom

It is late in the day and you’re exhausted. Your head is pounding. It’s time to prepare dinner. At this precise moment, a dispute breaks out about who has the gaming screen next. So you do the only thing that seems logical,  you say:

That’s enough! I’ve had it. You want dinner? Then sit down, give me the iPad and don’t say another word until I call you for dinner. Do you understand?

As if on cue, one child starts whimpering, and the other one defiantly looks at you and says, “that’s not fair!” You find yourself somewhere between despair and overload. With iPad in hand, you turn back to the kitchen. Somewhere in your deep consciousness, you find yourself thinking, please God, please help me.

What is the way out? The Holy Spirit answers you in Proverbs 15:1-2:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable,
But the mouth of fools spouts folly.

These two verses are designed to fit together. The first two lines of each verse connect with each other as do the last two lines. The two first lines teach that a gentle answer stops an out of control situation from becoming worse. The gentle words make your instruction acceptable. Likewise, the two last lines fit together to show a stark contrast. A harsh word spoken into a dispute stirs up even more trouble because foolish destructive words are erupting as if they were spoken by fools.

Solomon is saying gentle language spoken in love has the power to defeat upset and wrath. Let’s revisit the scenario above. You are still exhausted. Dinner still needs to be made. The dispute still happens. But this time you follow Solomon’s encouragement. It might sound like this:

You walk into the room where the dispute is happening and in a warm voice, you say,

Children, come here and sit down with me. I know you both want to play with the iPad. But right now, we need to get ready for dinner. I want you both to come back to the kitchen with me so that we can make dinner happen more quickly. I love you both so much! After dinner, I’ll make some time for you to play. I know that there are some games you can play together. I’ll help you find one. Right now let’s pray and ask God to help you obey quickly and respectfully.

By using this gentle initiative, you have given good direction, shifted everyone’s focus, including your own, away from self-interest and towards working together to serve each other and God. It may take a while to get comfortable with the power of gentleness. But trust the Holy Spirit. It is what God wants you to do. A soft, gentle answer does turn back wrath.

Related resources:

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Shepherding a Child’s Heart

 

Instructing a Child's Heart

Instructing a Child’s Heart

 

Everyday Talk

Everyday Talk

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.