“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Explanation and Commentary of Proverbs 15:1
If someone is angry with you, if they are wrathful towards you, the difficult thing is to refuse to return malice for malice, wrath for wrath, but doing so is crucial if you want to “turn away wrath.” A gentle answer will remove all the fuel from the fire of anger. But the natural inclination of the average person is to return a harsh word. Even if someone is not already angry, a harsh word can cause them to become so.
The question remains, how does one become the sort of person who can give a gentle answer in the face of wrath, or abstain from hurling out the harsh word that feels so natural? The key is to be supernatural, or spiritual, rather than natural. The natural man cannot help but return evil for evil, but the spiritual man doesn’t trade that way. For the spiritual man, or the one who is in Christ, there is no need. Wrathful words pose no threat to the man or woman who has been saved by grace, forgiven by God, redeemed and justified, and walks by the Holy Spirit. This is the one who obeys Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:38-40). This is the man or woman who lives in freedom because of who God is, what he has done sending Christ to die, and who it means that we are. Walk in Christ and give a gentle answer in the face of anger and wrath.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 15:1
#1 “A gentle answer…”
These are gentle and understanding words, given in a gentle and understanding tone. This is best done not by self-control, but by true freedom from anger obtained by deep integration of the truth of the gospel.
#2 “…turns away wrath,”
It is a rare person who will stay in their rage in the face of humble gentleness.
#3 “but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
A person who is not angry can quickly become so when given a harsh word. A harsh word can be a powerful trigger to defensiveness and rash impulses. When the person is already angry, a harsh word will be like gasoline thrown on an already blazing fire.
Expert Overview of Proverbs
Biblical Translations of Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.