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The Speech of the Wise

(Proverbs 15:1-4,7,8; 17:4-10)

Lesson 12 -- third quarter 2002
August 18, 2002

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2002, Christian Light Publications

"I just can't help myself!"

People use that as an excuse for their unkind words and explosive bursts of temper. They feel that once the feelings start percolating and the wrongs words begin boiling, they can no longer do anything to stop themselves from doing and saying the wrong things. In most cases, the excuse is an effort to cover up an unwillingness to exercise some self-control. "I just can't help myself" really means (at least in most cases) "I just don't want to help myself!" If I'm stepping on your toes right now, you will likely want to challenge my assertion. Should that be the case, perhaps a simple example will convince you.

Zebnath's brother just pushed him over the emotional brink. Zeb's pent-up ill-will and sourness break forth with the abruptness of a collapsing log jam on a large river. Just as his anger, unkindness, and mockery build to uncontrolled pitch and fervor, the doorbell dongs. Stopping in mid-stream, Zebnath hurries to the door and peers through the security peep-hole. It's Tarla, his girlfriend! Now what? Well, if "I just can't help myself" were true, Zeb will open the door then turn around and continue his tirade against his brother. Since that excuse isn't true, Zeb turns off the angry words and sweetens his attitude...immediately.

Yes, we can help ourselves. More than we care to admit. More than we wish to try. And in those cases where we have not matured sufficiently to respond with self-control, we need only sufficient maturity to ask Jesus for help.

Is controlling my tongue enough?

No, but it certainly marks important progress. Of course it is possible to control the tongue but still have evil thoughts and attitudes. However, reining in the tongue though the heart is contaminated with anger begins to address that inner problem. You see, choosing calm, gentle words has a wonderful effect on hearts.

Notice the first part of Proverbs 15:1 -- "A soft answer turneth away wrath." Notice that it doesn't say whose wrath! Most often we understand this to speak of the effect of our soft answer on someone who is angry with us. And without question, that understanding is correct. However, let's not overlook the calming, cleansing effect our soft answer has on our own anger. In the illustration above, had Zebnath chosen a soft answer, he would have discovered the wrath in him turning away and dissipating. The choice of a soft answer begins the process of inner calming, healing, and restoration.

Sometime when you're angry or disturbed, try a soft answer. I have tried this approach, and it works!

Speaking with discernment

Have you ever noticed how certain people (no names, of course, but definitely not you and me) seem to lack the sense that guides them in knowing what to leave unsaid? It seems as though what they know they feel compelled to tell. Whether it's something good that should be kept confidential or something bad that shouldn't be revealed, if they know it, they tell it.

But that's they. One struggle I have is with using fire to fight fire. For example, if someone comes to me with an accusation (or legitimate concern), I generally know enough about him to respond in kind.

Oh, to have tongues trained to use knowledge aright (Proverbs 15:2)!

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