The principle is simple. The verse easy to remember. Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The Contemporary English Version puts it, “A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.”
The passage speaks directly to the two ways most people handle anger.
When asked, “What’s wrong?” Some people snap, “Nothing!” These folks need to learn “A soft answer turns away wrath.” They need to give an answer, an explanation. “Nothing” is simply not true.
Other folks yell, “What’s wrong? You want to know what’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong!” These folks need to learn “harsh words stir them up.” Slow your roll. The problem is not with my hearing.
In November 1960 Mary Willis Shelburne shared with C. S. Lewis a conversation she had with her daughter that evidently did not go well. Realizing the issue would be revisited Lewis passes along some guidelines for discussing contentious issues:
“Slowing down the speed of the conversation (so far as this depends on oneself) is sometimes helpful. Also sitting down. I think we all talk more excitedly when standing (Notice how often the actors in a comedy sit whereas those in a tragedy usually stand).”1
The old adage from speech class is “Stand up. Speak up. Shut up.” In conversations where anger is an issue it’s also good to “Slow Down. Sit Down.”
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” – Proverbs 15:18.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1213.