Have you ever been in a situation where a conversation goes wrong? I have, more times than I would like to confess. You say something that you never expected someone to respond to in a negative way and things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye. Most of us like to think that we live in the moment, yet from experience, it is obvious that each moment carries with it memories of a near or distant past that can affect our present responses. There are triggers in tones or words and then a big blow up can happen. Most times people who are hurting are responding to the trigger and not to us. We can be people who see past unexpected responses and in the face of a storm help to be a shelter or sunshine. How do we help?
Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” In moments when we are yelled at or accused of saying something with an intention that wasn’t our intention, we can take a step back and pray under our breath for wisdom. We do not want to be people who inflict anymore unnecessary pain but want God to use us to help bring healing.
We know that getting along all the time with everyone is not possible however I am responsible for what I do to keep the peace. There is a lot that depends on me.
James 1:19-20, reminds us, “This you know, my beloved bethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” In moments of disagreement, we can experience great discomfort. In those moments we really want to be heard, however the most important thing in these moments is to listen. We need to listen just as much to what is not being said as we do to what is being said. I have learned to take a pause and pay attention to body language and voice tone. I have learned to listen to what words are being chosen and to understand the heart. I have learned to acknowledge what someone has said without taking it personally. Starting off my response statements with things like, “I hear that you are hurting right now” or “I don’t know where this is coming from but obviously something has hurt you and I am not trying to be part of the hurt” or “those were not my words…I didn’t say…”. I don’t always get it right but I will certainly get it wrong if I get angry. I will get it wrong in my relationship with God and with others.
In the middle of an unexpected argument or disagreement we can quickly just want to respond on impulse. Impulse most times gets me into trouble! These moments are the times that we need to be intentional to slow things down. Ephesians 4:29 states, “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.” We don’t want to regret what we have said. We can’t take words back. What needs to be said, needs to be a perfect word for the moment, that will bring about a building- not a tearing down. It takes patience to build. Deliberation helps us to extend grace. A positive word is a gift that keeps on giving.
When someone receives what I have said in a way that I never meant it, to add fuel to the fire, engaging in an argument I was never meant to be in, is not helpful. I can’t control someone else’s response. I can only be responsible for my own. Proverbs 15:1, states that, “A Gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Someone may come at me with anger but if they get even more angry, I have to ask myself if my response helped to move them further in this trajectory. If my goal is to diffuse, then gentleness is the only tool that will work-every time. It may take some time but it will work every time!
The scripture tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Whatever I can do, I must. We know that getting along all the time with everyone is not possible however I am responsible for what I do to keep the peace. There is a lot that depends on me. My reaction can bring a positive or even more negative resolution.
Our experiences shape us and influence us. Sometimes people need a true experience with someone who offers peace, to help them move from a war that they themselves have been trying to escape. They may be trying to release hurt and anger and not meaning to release it on you. They just need someone to show them that it can be done in a way that is beneficial for them and others. Matthew 5:9 promises us blessings are we share God’s love. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We bear the name Christian. We are sons and daughters of God. We want others to see and call us that, so that they can see God and know how much they are valued and love.
I am sure that I am going to be in many more situations where communication goes in a different direction than planned. I am sure that you will be too. When that happens, I hope that you and I are ready and armed with better listening skills, gentleness and peace so that we can build and bless.