Do you remember learning Newton’s third law of motion in science class? Every force exerts an equal and opposite reaction. If you and I weigh the same, and we’re both standing on roller skates, if I push you—we both will move apart. Newton’s law is a good description of the way the universe works, but a pretty lousy one of the way that people work.
When we are working with people, it is rare that we get an “equal” reaction to our pushes. Consider the current state of political discussion. When two sides disagree, usually the discussion intensifies until it degenerates into yelling, insulting, or frustration.
God has a better way: “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:17)
Just a few verses later he suggests that instead of reacting and intensifying a situation, we de-escalate: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22)
Think carefully about how you respond to those with whom you disagree. God also said, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4-5) There is a time and place for each kind of response. Wisdom is knowing which one to choose!
By hearing the wisdom of Proverbs, we can actually do something to change the shape of our conversations. Will you give it a try?