“Mommy, Kyra says that she doesn’t love me, so I’m not going to play with her anymore.” stormed my four year old daughter with her arms crossed emphatically in front of her chest. “But Mommy, Chantaya wasn’t being nice to me!” complained my guilty two-year-old, in defense of the accusation…
I was trying to hurry to get our motor home loaded and organized yesterday in preparation for leaving on another tour. I really didn’t feel like I had the time or the energy to resolve yet another squabble. I breathed a quick prayer as I remembered what God had recently been laying on my heart, and He reminded me that this was my opportunity for growth. I helped my little girls work through all of their emotions, and a few minutes later, they were again the best of friends. (It’s amazing how the words, “I love you again, Chantaya,” from Kyra’s lips could make such a drastic change in their dispositions!)
I wonder how many of you struggle like I do to respond with a soft, gentle word to the many challenges and demands of life. It is definitely not easy for me to respond graciously or with a “soft answer”. This is a hard lesson that God is still trying to teach me! I can easily share yesterday’s illustration with you, but there are various other times that I would be ashamed to admit how I have responded to my family. I wish I would never get impatient or upset with any of them. After all, they mean the world to me, and I thank God every day for blessing me with them. I know that I am incredibly blessed! Since I value our relationships more each year, why do I sometimes still struggle to respond in a Christlike way to them?
There are times when my children have had a bad attitude, and I have found myself justifying getting upset at them. In other words, I could truly be a soft spoken and gentle mom if it wouldn’t be for my imperfect children! What an excuse this is to not be all that God has called me to be!
In Proverbs 15:1, it says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous (harsh) words stir up anger.” As I have pondered and attempted to apply this verse the last few days, I have found a nugget of truth that has helped me. I had always thought about this verse in the context of responding graciously to turn away someone else’s wrath. However, I have discovered that it includes so much more than that.
This verse isn’t only meant to turn someone else’s anger away, but it is also talking about our own anger. When I choose to respond with a soft answer rather than becoming short, I find that it is like sprinkling water onto a fire. It helps me not to become angry or upset. On the contrary, when I don’t respond with a soft answer, I become more frustrated, and this anger is passed on to my children. This, in return, only makes our family relationships more of a challenge. If we have angry and defiant children, I believe that we parents need to examine our own lives to see where we have not claimed God’s grace like we should have.
Last week, I shared with my older daughters that I would like for them to make me aware of times when I don’t respond with a soft answer. I want them to remind me when they sense that I am becoming frustrated or upset. Contrary to some teachings, this does not brood disrespect towards me. They will gently remind me, and when I acknowledge that I am wrong and thank them for reminding me, it deepens their respect for me.
Our children can easily tell when we are upset; it doesn’t depend on whether we admit it or not. I would rather have my children see that I am human but am attempting to grow in my walk with the Lord, rather than them seeing me as a proud hypocrite. When we openly acknowledge our mistakes and wrong responses, it makes them feel like they can share their struggles with us as well. They need to know that each of us are a work in progress. How will they learn to respond in a godly and humble way if we don’t admit our failures even when they are clearly seen to others?
For a few days last week, I had a bad cough and couldn’t talk very well. My daughter, Alisha, commented, “God answered your prayer, Mom, to always have a soft answer.” I guess I may have seemed like a tough case, so God had to give me a bit more help along this line!
My husband sometimes reminds me of this quote: “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to be reminded that my negative attitude carries this much weight in our family. Whether I like it or not, the truth remains! My responses, positive or negative, affect so many more people than just me. It is my responsibility, as a wife and mother in our home, to create an environment where Jesus’ love is demonstrated and kind words are expressed.
The next time you find yourself wondering why your children seem to be “out of sorts” and frustrated, it may prove to be very beneficial to see how you are scoring with responding with a soft answer. Ouch! I’m still trampling over my own toes….
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)