How Gentleness Calms Conflict

“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 or standing right across 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 someone raises 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.

But the Bible offers a different way to respond: “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 in your marriage, in your parenting, in your friendships, and at work: When another person raises their voice, lower yours. When you do that, you’re demonstrating strength under control.

Another word for strength under control is gentleness. Gentleness defuses conflict. It de-escalates anger. A gentle person does not overreact and is not driven by their emotions. A gentle person demonstrates strength under control.

The Greek word in the Bible for “gentleness” is the word prautes. Some older English translations of the Bible translate prautes as “meek.” The word “meek” isn’t used much anymore because meek has become a synonym for weak. But gentleness—or prautes—is anything but weak.  

In fact, the word prautes was used to refer to a wild stallion that had been tamed. Think about that image. If you go out in the hills and find a wild stallion, it’s unbridled and even dangerous, with a strength that could kill you pretty quickly. But if you tame that stallion, it’s still just as strong, but the strength is brought under control. The strength is bottled up for the master’s use.

When you learn true gentleness as a man or woman of God, you don’t become weak. You just bring your strength under God’s control and use it for his purposes. 

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.

Give hope, prayer, and encouragement below. Post a comment & talk about it.