A Soft Answer

May 3, 2022 | Russ Moe

That dreadful sound of metal bumping into metal sent a bolt of adrenaline through my stomach as I recognized the tell-tale noise of cars colliding with each other. The jarring motion confirmed my fear that it was my car that had indeed been impacted by another vehicle while I was backing out of my parking space. My heart raced even faster as my rearview mirror filled with an approaching image that was even more alarming. The other driver was coming up to my drivers' side window in the “quickstep,” and she was breathing fire and lightning.

I slowly lowered my window and began to take my verbal beating. Her volume was several decibels above rock concert, and her words came faster than speeding bullets with similar lethal intentions. Salvo after salvo of phrases I recognized from the fourth-grade playground and the football locker room hammered insults upon me, my youth, my junky car, and my heinous crime of daring to make contact with her beautiful new vehicle.

As I absorbed the bludgeoning, I was tempted to react and go “Jerry Springer” on her. After all, it was her car that had bumped into mine. I could take offense and justify responding in kind. Furthermore, she had no right to insult me or my poor old car. As a good American, shouldn’t I fight for my rights? I was sure I could out-yell her, and if she wanted to escalate the insults, I could always pull out the nasty stuff.

Instead, I felt a strange calm deep inside. It surely must have risen from my newfound faith in Christ. I was young in the Lord, and I had recently come across the passage that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Interestingly, it occurred to me at that moment that this could be what that passage applies to. Even if it didn't, I might as well give it a try, I thought. 

I found myself saying something that was completely contrary to my natural inclination.

“You’re right,” I said quietly, “I could always be more careful. I am so sorry. I'll do everything I can to help make it right. I hope you can forgive me.” 

I had surprising peace while saying this, with no sense of defeat or cowardice that would normally have been associated with such a weak reaction.

Then, an amazing thing happened that forever tempered my view on natural inclinations. She stopped yelling. Her countenance fell, and her voice softened, and she began to apologize for her outburst. She even said, "I'm so embarrassed." I was stunned. And relieved.

We calmly walked to the back of my car together and looked at the very minor damage. It was so insignificant that she suggested that we just forget it ever happened and be on our way.

Who knows where this might have ended but for the grace of God? Road rage has produced much worse over much less.

I know I could never have responded with a soft answer like this without the influence of Christ. It humbled me to thankfulness and made me hungry for more of His secrets of life. 1 Peter 2:23, “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate, when He suffered, He made no threats.”

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Our words can kill or heal. What we say can antagonize or disarm. “His ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:9) and only by His enablement is it possible to live by them. But that means we can live by them.

Obviously, we should. If that means lower ratings for Jerry Springer, so be it!