The book of Proverbs is filled with relational wisdom. From start to finish there are nuggets of truth that, if put into practice, will strengthen any relationship. Not only is relational wisdom needed in the church, workplace, and community but also, and most importantly, in our homes. If we can’t honor each other within our family systems, how can we honor those outside our families?
In Proverbs 15, Solomon lays out for us 3 key pieces of relational wisdom:
Answer with Gentleness. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
Gentleness is greatly valued by God and is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Yet, so often because of stress or tension, gentleness is the first fruit to go out the window, especially in family life. We somehow feel justified to be short or sharp with one another because, after all, we’re family and family forgives… right? Hopefully grace abounds in our homes, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to be sharp with one another. I believe God calls us to treasure one another. When the Holy Spirit fills our lives, gentleness is the overflow (Galatians 5:22-23). I suppose a good test of whether or not you’re speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit is how gently words exit your mouth. Scary thought, right? It’s easy in the chaos and confusion of life to become impatient and let harsh or sarcastic words become the norm. However, the Holy Spirit invites us to give our mouths to Him. So, ask Him to soften our words so that we answer with gentleness.
Let Your Words Soothe Others. “The soothing tongue is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4).
Our words are soothing when they bring life to others. I’ve been struck recently by how much people are longing for encouragement. So much so that Steve and I have started a new practice recently. Our goal is to send two encouraging messages to people every day. We hold each other accountable at dinner and ask each other who we encouraged that day. It is such a simple goal but it reminds us that the world is dying for encouragement. Most people know what’s wrong with them. What they are craving is for someone to tell them something they’re doing right! Why not adopt our goal as your own? Seek to encourage two people daily for the rest of your life. Wow! Can you imagine the outcome? If an army of people sought to encourage others, we might have far less mental illness. Now, let me say, the ultimate world changer is Jesus. His message. His gospel. His redemption. However, this I know: no one will listen to that message if they sense attacking words from you. So make it your practice to encourage others. They’re far more likely to listen to the message of Christ’s love if they see it in you!
Pursue a Discerning Heart. “The discerning heart seeks knowledge”(Proverbs15:14).
In your church, at your workplace, and in your family life, there’s a time to speak and a time to remain silent. Make it your practice to ask the Holy Spirit to develop in you a discerning heart. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to be able to discern between what is good and what is better. Ask Him to help you discern when to gently confront and when to remain silent. If you’re raising kids, ask Him first thing every morning to fill you with discernment to know what your kids need from you that day. As you tuck them in bed at night, ask the Lord for discernment for how to best pray for them. If you are in the workforce, ask God to increase your discernment as you begin each workday.
Friend, in all your relationships, whether family, friends, or co-workers, practice answering with gentleness, using your words to soothe and encourage others, and pursuing a discerning heart. I believe that God wants us to do a better job at loving others as Jesus did.