A gentle answer turns away wrath,Proverbs 15:1 NIV
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
I am not much of a debater. But I do occasionally find myself drawn into a discussion over various points of doctrine. While my recent experience is mostly online, I have found this verse to be just as applicable when discussing in person as when online
I find that it is very easy to allow my emotions to get out of control when I am feeling threatened. I am not talking about physical security here. Rather, my doctrinal positions, my intelligence, or even my salvation are being questioned. My first response seems to be to attack back under the premise that the best defense is a good offense. But, inevitably, if I counter a perceived threat by attacking back, using harsh words, the conflict only escalates. And there is no resolution. Just anger, self-righteousness, and disunity.
But I have found that if I will resist my initial reaction to fire back when threatened. And instead, respond with a ‘soft answer’, that oftentimes the discussion can continue in a productive vein. My ‘soft answer’ does not always have a positive effect on my discussion partner. But the chances are much greater than if I respond with a ‘harsh word’.
If you are really trying to help someone understand or accept your position, learn to respond with a ‘soft answer’. Even if their response to you is harsh, respond with gentleness and respect. It can be very hard. But it is the most effective way to get your point across. And, even if it does not, you have not been the source of conflict and disunity within the body of Christ.