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Extinguishing Fires with Words

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Did you know that the purpose of the fire retardant inside a fire extinguisher is to reduce the flammability of fluids by eliminating oxygen? Without oxygen, most fires die. Friends Salomon tells us that our words can act as anger extinguishers, for gentle answers can turn away wrath.

I have a very volatile personality, and I am ashamed that my words have caused a few fires. God, in His mercy, has taught me how to keep my fiery temperament in check most of the time, but I still miss the mark now and then. That is why King Solomon's words in the first verse of Proverbs 15 resonate with me. I have never had to use a fire extinguisher, but I have experienced what a gentle answer can do in a volatile situation. Gentle words, indeed, have the power to extinguish wrath.

I recently asked someone for a simple favor. This person asked me to do something complicated and time-consuming in exchange for the favor. When I asked why he needed that, he exploded on me. In the past, I would have said something sharp and thrown fuel to his fire, but by the grace of God, I did not. Since it was evident this person was going through something, I apologized for the request, thanked him for his time, and left the room.

A day later, his boss approached me to apologize for that person's outburst. He explained that the person had shared our conversation with him and requested time off to deal with his extreme loss and grief. According to his boss, my reaction to his outburst showed him he needed to deal with his pain.

Friends, we never know what people are facing or going through. Most people live in pain. If we see our words as either fire extinguishers or fuel for fire, it will be easy to use them correctly in volatile situations. Let us pray that God gives us the wisdom to use our words to extinguish anger the next time someone raises their voice at us or says something hurtful.

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