Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Harsh Words

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
Proverbs 25:15

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

This one's for me. This devotion wasn't written about some verses I pulled from my quiet time. No, this time I'm preaching to myself about something I have noticed springing up out of my own heart in my behavior that I do not like. Lately, I have been more frustrated than usual. I have had a shorter fuse. And I have been harsher with my family than I care to admit. 

Every time I tell my kids to do something, I get three questions, two arguments, and at least one complaint. To be clear, my kids are amazing! This is normal behavior for five and two year olds. And it is normal for me as a parent to be frustrated by it. But the problem is how I have responded to that frustration. As I push back on their disobedience I have gotten louder, I have used harsher tones, and I have gotten nowhere.

I can't be the only one. I know I am not. Even for those of you who don't have young children anymore. You know what it is like to deal with subordinates or even equals in the workplace. You know how frustrating it can be deal with other people too, even sometimes your spouse. But over this short span of time I have realized that this isn't the kind of father I want to be. Don't succumb to the temptation to railroad people. Don't raise your voice just because you are frustrated or angry at them. Learn to control yourself. Say what needs to be said but be gentle. Be soft.  

If you will give this a try you will find that more of what you are saying actually gets through when you are gentle. When I am gentle but firm with my kids, they listen. But when I allow my frustration to boil over in harsh tones, it triggers their defenses. Their walls go up. And no matter how right I am, they will never admit it. No matter how loud I get, they will only feign listening to me. 

Being loud is a great way to make sure you are heard, but it is a lousy way to get people to listen. If you feel ignored, try a different approach. Be gentle. Be patient. Be clear and be firm but be loving. Don't bully people by sheer force of will. Win their hearts. Make them want to follow you because they trust you.

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