A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. (Proverbs 15:1, the Message)
Working together in stressful and competitive environments can bring out the worst in people, often leading to conflict. How should Christians respond to verbal abuse, insults and other challenges in the workplace? Some say that taking a step back will do the trick. Others insist on trading blows, looking to deliver a knock-out punch.
Proverbs has a clear message on this. A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. It’s easier said than done. We could suppress our urge to retaliate – this at least brings calm on the surface. But if we want to live out the essence of the proverb, it will call for more than self-control. We need to open our hearts to Jesus’ words. We need to believe that the Holy Spirit can change us, and also the people and the spiritual atmosphere around us. In other words, no matter how angry the other person becomes, we conduct ourselves as children of the Kingdom. We aim at breaking the impasse.
Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). This points to people have been touched by the presence of God and who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. These people can rise above their circumstances, responding with grace in the face of evil. It’s not that God’s children are more eloquent or adept at interpersonal skills, making them peacemakers. True peace is a gift of the Spirit realized through those who willingly obey.
When at work, are you used to verbal sparring and going tit for tat? Or do you silently absorb punishment without response? Neither extreme is appropriate. Instead, bring our case before Father: “Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. Don’t let me so much as dream of evil or thoughtlessly fall into bad company.” (Ps 141:3-4, the Message)
Review the atmosphere in your workplace. When there’s anger or rage directed at you, what is your response?
Instead of saying, “I cannot change,” ask yourself, “Do I want change?” Do you want to ask our Father to help you? Make the following scriptures your prayer:
“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.” (Romans 12: 14)
Continue to journal and record your prayer experiences.
“Father, whenever the climate heats up in my workplace, when people start exchanging verbal blows, set a guard over my mouth. Let peace enter my heart so that I may bless people, and not curse them. Amen.”