“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
It started just like every other Wednesday morning during the school year. I got up and got school-drop-off ready (mamas, you know what I mean), moved the 11-year-old through her morning and popped my head into the 16 year old’s room to make sure he was up. My girl & I headed out the door to drop her at school. Then I headed back home.
As I do every morning, after I pulled back into the garage, I launched my First5 devotional app. The car in the garage in the morning is the quietest place with the fewest distractions, so I sit there every morning and have my quiet time.
“If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don’t live with ‘reaction regret’ in the long-term”. Those were the first words I read.
It struck a chord. While I’ve worked hard, especially since becoming a parent, to control my reactions so that I don’t have ‘reaction regret’ later, sometimes I still react big. And over the top. And dramatic. So this devo spoke straight to that place that needs to calm down sometimes.
I had just closed the app and was about to open my car door when it happened. The text that every parent dreads once their kids start driving came in. “Yo I just rear ended a car. It’s not bad, I’m with the other driver right now…I went to stop and I didn’t hit the brakes soon enough…The police are coming to do a report.” (yes, he really started it with “yo” because 16)
I quickly told him I was on my way and backed out of the driveway. Y’all, I didn’t even ask him where he was. I just started driving. The 5 minutes it took for me to get to him felt like 30. He text a few more times before I got there apologizing. I pulled into the gas station where the two boys & police officer were parked and went straight to my boy. He told me it wasn’t bad and that no one was hurt, but I had to see it with my own eyes. He was right. No one hurt. The mama in me had to check over the other boy, too, once I found out he was also a high schooler. Very minor cosmetic damage. A quick and easy few minutes with the officer and other driver. Then it was just me & him.
He apologized again and I just told him it’s ok. I hugged him, prayed over him and off to school he went.
It wasn’t until I got home that the timing of the morning really hit me. See, I’ve tended to be a big reactor to little faults in his driving. Partly because riding with a 16-year-old is like taking your life in your own hands every time you get in the car and would cause even the staunchest advocate of prohibition to find a ridge runner for some moonshine. And partly because I REALLY want him to grasp how important safety is. (My first wreck was taking a guard rail off of I-10, bless my mom) But that Wednesday morning I didn’t. I controlled my reaction. I didn’t go on a rant about safe driving. I didn’t remind him that insurance is already almost a mortgage payment because he’s driving. I didn’t give him a lecture about not waiting until the last minute to leave the house in a rush. I just told him that it was ok. I just told him that no one was hurt and that’s all that mattered. I just told him that cars can be replaced, but he never could be. I gave soft answers.
I knew after getting home and replaying the morning that God placed that devotion in front of me that morning because my heart needed the soft words before my son needed them from me. The sweetness of the Father softening my heart because I need it every day, but my boy really needed it that day.
What if soft answers were our practice? Soft doesn’t mean not speaking truth. It doesn’t mean not correcting. It does mean pressing pause before we react. It does mean measuring our words and framing them in grace. It means controlling the reactions so that later we don’t regret the reactions and the words. Soft answers. Abundant grace. No regret.