I come from a family of pyros. From a very young age, I’ve always had a fascination with fire. I have always loved the Fourth of July too, and though I enjoy it for its patriotic themes, what I really like the most is the firecrackers. I can still remember being very young and visiting my cousins in Arkansas, setting off fire crackers in their driveway. My cousin Phillip set off a bottle rocket that did some crazy stuff and ended up in the barn. It scared his 4-H market lamb to death, but we all thought it was hilarious.
But I think one of my earliest memories about fire came from a camping trip we took. I don’t remember how old I was, but we were camping in Colorado. We’d found a camp site and we had all worked together to set the tent up. Andy and I went to gather wood for the fire, and when we brought it back, Dad got the fire going. And then, he’d sit there with the charcoal lighter fluid and occasionally would squirt some into the already burning fire. The results was always exciting. The fire would leap up and make a wooshing sound. It was incredible to watch.
Well, I thought about this when I read the verse for today.
A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.
I’ve learned over time how true this is. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, what we’re talking about, or where I am holding a conversation; if you deal harsh words to someone, they will respond in kind. It’s amazing to me too that if someone is already angry, speaking angrily to them won’t resolve the situation either. It just makes it worse.
And I speak from personal experience about being angry and having angry words make me angrier than before. Sometimes I can just be irritated or frustrated, and all it takes is someone being harsh or negative around me, and my irritation turns to outright anger.
But it’s fascinating to watch the result of kind words. I’ve seen it before. I’ve done it before. I’ve had it done to me. I can be raging mad, and all someone has to do is speak to me softly, logically, kindly and all that anger melts away. And pretty soon, I have a hard time remembering what I was even angry about.
It’s just like squirting charcoal starter on a campfire. If you’ve got a fire already going, squirting something flammable on it isn’t going to make it burn less. If someone is already angry, speaking angrily to them isn’t going to make them happy again. Anger + Anger = a big stinkin’ fight.
But if someone is angry, and you speak gently to them, it’s more likely that they’ll calm down. Maybe it doesn’t work in every case, but it’s certainly better to answer anger with serenity. It keeps you calm, and most of the time it helps the other person to be calm too.
It’s a good reminder for our world and our lives today, where people seem to be angrier than ever about everything. Anger can be useful but not in this context. Sometimes anger is just anger, and no rational person wants to be angry all the time.