11 December 2010

Flaming Noses, Watchful Eyes

from Proverbs Fifteen

"A soft answer turneth away wrath; but a grievous word stirreth up anger."  Who has never lost this battle?  You know that dealing with conflict calmly will move things along more quickly but you want to win, get in the last word, even be louder in order to best your opponent.  Your sense of needing to win becomes the 'grievous word' and voila--things are worse than when they started.  Soft answers take practice, patience and the humility not to "win" the battle.  You have to stay focused on "winning" the larger war, as it were.  (Plowing into the Hebrew for a moment, I want to suggest a more literal reading, like, "A gentle answer causes the heat to subside; while a painful word makes the nostrils flare."  Now who wants to see that?  Hot, flaring nostrils.  As comical as it is outlandish.)

But whenever I've had political arguments or disputes with a friend or challenges upward from the younger generation under our roof, I never win when I raise my voice; and as much as it feels good to get exercised, it never works.  We Bachmans are yellers.  Gotta face facts.  My dad was a bit volatile; I've relatives get cranked up as well.  My instincts are to do battle.  And so I take this proverb to heart as one of the lessons to shed light on one of those character traits that requires constant vigilance. 

The Sages argued that anger was an idol.  That it controls us more than we control it, and therefore a force of evil to be reckoned with.  I buy that.  When the dust clears after a flare-up, I'm always conscious of how I might have acted differently.  And I'm shamed into realizing that God was watching, chagrined, as it were, by my poor choices.  "In every place are the eyes of the Eternal, keeping watch of the evil and the good."

That pesky "free-choice" of what it means to be made in God's image.  The power to decide in our hands, under the watchful eye of the One Who is Sovereign Over All.

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