|Choosing a gentle reply doesn’t mean you’re weak;
it actually means you possess a rare and godly strength.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Whether we’re face-to-face with someone or sending a written response to someone, we do need to remember there is a big difference between a reaction and a reply.
Reactions are typically harsh words used to prove how wrong the other person is. No good ever comes from this. A gentle reply, on the other hand, “turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Choosing a gentle reply doesn’t mean you’re weak; it actually means you possess a rare and godly strength.
I think I’m going to repeat that last sentence, not so much for you but because, glory be, I need it! Choosing a gentle reply doesn’t mean you’re weak; it actually means you possess a rare and godly strength.
In a heated moment of frustration or anger, I need a preplanned template to keep me from spewing. So, here’s what I came up with when I need a written response. Of course this same thought pattern can be tweaked slightly and used for face-to-face interactions as well. Feel free to use this or come up with a version of your own to use the next time you need a written or verbal response.
1. Begin by honoring the one offended.
This isn’t easy. We probably won’t feel like the other person deserves honor in that moment. And maybe they don’t. Do you remember that “shame on you” email I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion?
It was sent to me as a result of my daughter only inviting the kids from her homeroom class to her birthday party, of which her daughter was not in. Plus, there had been some really difficult tension between my daughter and hers all year.
Neither child was at fault—they were both good girls. They just weren’t good together.
I’d made peace with that until this email.
To think of honoring her after getting such harsh words didn’t seem possible. I certainly didn’t feel like honoring my offender’s words. So, I didn’t honor her words. I honored her as a person—a person God loves. I have to remember giving honor reveals more about my character than the character of the other person.
Here’s how I did this …
I honored her by pointing out a good quality I know to be true about her. Even if you have to think really hard about what good qualities your offender has, most everyone does have redeeming qualities.
2. Keep your response short and full of grace.
The wordier we get, the greater the risk we will slip into defensiveness. If something needs to be clarified, keep it concise and wrapped in grace.
Here are the lines I wrote:
A line to acknowledge the expressed hurt: I understand how hard it can be when we feel our child has been left out. Like you, I hurt when my child hurts.
A line to clarify my intentions: Might I share from my heart what I intended when we invited only the girls from Hope’s homeroom class? Hope would have invited many more if she could. But this seemed the fairest way to keep the party manageable.
A line of gentle honesty about the issue at hand: This has been a hard year. You are probably aware of the conflicts Hope and your daughter have had. If you’d like to discuss some possible ways we can better guide both girls in their actions and reactions toward one another, I would welcome that.
And, if an apology is appropriate: Please accept my most sincere apology for causing you and your daughter hurt.
A line asking for grace: Thank you for extending me grace in this situation.
3. End by extending compassion.
Chances are this person is hurting for reasons that have nothing to do with this situation. Why not be the rare person who offers love to this hard-to-love person … With more love and compassion than these words can hold, Lysa
Of course, if it’s not possible to sincerely end your note that way, don’t fake it. I know some conflicts can make it impossible to wrap everything with love. So maybe your compassionate close might be a simple like: Blessings … Thank you … or With grace.
Please remember, not every harsh email needs a response. I knew mine did. But ask God to help you know when to deal with it and when to simply delete it.
Also, remember not every face-to-face confrontation needs a verbal response either. But when it does, you can easily translate what I’ve suggested here for an email into a face-to-face conversation.
Just mentally keep this in mind: Honor them. Keep it short and wrapped with grace. Extend compassion. Honor, grace, compassion … HGC.
Dear Lord, I accept the challenge to hold my tongue in order to honor, give grace, and have compassion for others. Please give me the strength to do this today. Thanks so much. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
This devotion was taken from Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, Unglued – Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. If you want to learn to be honest but kind when offended, get the book, Unglued, today. Click here to purchase.