A Gentle Answer

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

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

I’ve been fighting the Snark Monster in my heart the past few days.

Every response that I begin to form in my mind to an on-line discussion goes snarky after the first few words. I remind myself, “A gentle answer turns away anger,” and try again — always with the same outcome.

Things that bother me — glibness and condescension. For those of you who want to get under my skin, try those two together.

Be glib; be shallow; don’t put any deeper thought into your comment; spit back answers that I’ve probably heard in 37 sermons. Yep — that will irk me.

Pair that with a little condescension by assuming that I don’t know anything and I’m sunk. A condescending tone and, if we’re talking in person, an accompanying smirk will bug the bejeebers out of me.

Things I don’t know anything about and therefore have zero-risk of condescension — automobile engines and living in the heart of a megalopolis. Feel free to explain as much as you want on those topics, but be forewarned — my eyes will glaze over when you talk about engines.

And now I’m bordering on snarky. Sorry. Maybe it doesn’t sound blatantly snarky, but if you could see my heart… ew.

One of the things I love about the way Jesus taught was that he used stories and images to make his point. It’s hard to be condescending in a story. A good story pulls the listener in and suddenly you’re walking on that road to from Jerusalem to Jericho, you’re attacked by robbers, you see people pass you by instead of stopping to help.

Laurel asked me last night why I say half-past or quarter-to when I’m telling the time. “I think it’s because I see that clock face divided into quarters and have a mental image,” I said, realizing that she mostly sees time in a digital format, so it didn’t have as much meaning. Mental images appeal to me.

When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about the Spirit, he used imagery of the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) When I think about that verse, I hear the wind, I feel the wind, I see things moving with the wind — but I don’t where the wind begins or where it ends — and I realize that I’ve learned something about the Spirit by realizing how little I know about it.

No glib condescension or snarkiness there — just an opening of my heart and mind.

I think my gentle answer needs to be a story. A good story will at least lull the Snark Monster to sleep.

“This’ll teach you to be snarky!”

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