A Soft Answer

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The fruit of the Spirit … is gentleness. –Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV

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

Let your gentleness be evident to all. –Philippians 4:5 NIV

“I hate you!” screamed my friend’s little boy as she held him, squirming and kicking, in her lap and struggled to put sneakers on his busy feet. It was time to go, and the toddler didn’t want the visit to end.

“Well,” she answered gently, tying his shoelaces and planting a soft kiss on his cheek, “I love you.”

I was amazed. If that were me, I would have turned him over my knee and spanked his little wriggling behind but good.

As a grandmother, I’m much gentler than I was as a mother, and in everyday life, I find I’m holding my tongue better than I used to—except when I’m behind the wheel of my vehicle or when I attended my son’s baseball games.

Every driver who doesn’t use turn signals, passes in a no passing zone, tailgates me, slows me down by driving below the speed limit, or neglects to turn on the headlights when it’s hard to see because of rain, snow, fog, or dusk, is, in my opinion, an idiot. While I don’t succumb to road rage, my mouth goes a mile a minute and the words are none too gentle. Which is why I don’t have one of those “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers on my vehicle.

And at baseball games, it was hard to respond in a gentle manner when the umpire made an obviously bad call that went against the team I rooted for, especially in a close game where one call could change the momentum of the whole game. Before the last series, I promised God I’d behave and keep my mouth shut. But when the home plate umpire called one of our runners out at second after the base umpire had called him safe—and from my vantage point in the stands behind the plate, he was safe—I yelled that he was making it hard for me to keep my promise.

At that point my husband turned to me. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or amused.

“Behave yourself,” he said, nodding to the seat in front of us, where our grandson Brent, who had just started Little League, booed. “You’re not setting a good example.”

So I kept my mouth shut and only groaned when the umpire called a homerun a foul ball. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed with my husband that the foul pole needed to be higher.

“I hope this guy doesn’t umpire any games for the playoffs,” I couldn’t resist adding.

That was years ago, but I learned how important it was to stop and consider what the other parents thought when someone who claimed to be a Christian yelled at the umpire like I did. Bad calls are part of baseball, from Little League to the professional leagues. While it’s okay to disagree, it’s not okay to be disagreeable and unkind.

Being gentle means to treat others with kindness, consideration, and respect because, no matter who they are, they have value in God’s eyes. Jesus set the example when He embraced the children the disciples tried to shoo away and when He had dinner with despised tax collectors who, to the Jews, were little more than scumbags, but to Him were hungry souls needing love, mercy, and grace.

Can I do any less?

Dear God, grow Your gentleness in me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Ephesians 4:1–3.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Character and Choices

 

(c) 2015 Mark Warner from flickr.com

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. –Proverbs 22:1 NIV

“Identity theft sucks,” I read on the Facebook post. The writer had received a notice from the IRS that apparently someone had used her Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and, as a result, possibly claimed any refund she may have gotten from the state. Which she’d planned to use to pay the federal taxes.

Unfortunately, it was just one more thing in a string of unfortunate incidents that brought her to the brink of questioning her principles. After sending a check to the IRS for what she and her husband owed, she commented: “We will just continue to work our butts off to continue to pay my mountain of student loans, debt, and other bills. Who said hard work and honesty will get you somewhere?”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’re slammed with one thing after another, even though we strive to do what’s right. And then we question whether doing the right thing even matters, when others make a living cheating and stealing – and getting away with it.

Back in college, I took a three-hour-a-day summer literature class. During the break the day before the weekly essay test, several students stole the test questions while the professor was out of the room. Of course, those students would receive the highest grades because the prof graded on a curve.

That day I called home, crying. “Why bother?” I lamented to my father. “I won’t get a good grade no matter how much I study.”

I studied anyway. But it was without heart.

After we got our tests back, I approached the professor and told him I didn’t think the grade was fair.

He peered at me over his bifocals. “Well, other students in the class . . .”

“Of course they did, you stupid jerk,” I thought. “You left the test in your briefcase, easily accessible to anyone, and left the classroom.”

I’m not a confrontational person, so I shut up and put up. If I’d told the prof the truth, I would have made him look like a fool and would have had to endure the wrath of the wrongdoers. Like my Facebook friend, I questioned whether doing the right thing was worth it.

But, like any other character trait, honesty is a choice. That’s truly what forms our character – the choices we make.

It’s not that I have a temper and “I couldn’t help myself.” It’s that I chose to vent my anger.

We choose to tell the truth, report all income on our tax return, not fudge expenses, return incorrect change to the store. We choose to honor our wedding vows, keep a promise, say no to an addiction. We choose to use the turn signal at an intersection even when there’s no other traffic around.

“Character is what you are in the dark,” said D. L. Moody.

John Wooden said something similar: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Jesus blasted hypocrites because they only did the right thing when there was someone around to see (Matthew 6:1–6). They chose to do right for the wrong reason.

What is the right reason?

Because it’s what God wants us to do.

“Tell me,” the prophet Samuel said to the disobedient King Saul. “Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.” (See 1 Samuel 15:1–23)

I responded to my Facebook friend’s lament.

“Keep doing the right thing,” I wrote. “Integrity, respect, character, and a good reputation can never be stolen from you, and they are worth far more than anything the world calls ‘treasure’.”

What choices are you facing today?

Help me, O Lord, to know the right thing to do and give me the courage and strength to do it. Amen.

The Bible has a lot to say about character. Here are some verses to read and meditate on:

Habakkuk 3:17–19, Matthew 6:19–34, Proverbs 11:5–11, Proverbs 31, 2 Peter 1:5–7, John 13:17

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.