A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Woodruff Road in Greenville, last week. Oozing Friday afternoon traffic. Three lanes of bumper to bumper automobiles. A traffic light in our favor but nothing moves because incoming traffic has blocked all lanes. Suddenly, from the automobile two cars ahead of us, the driver jumps out and runs to the car just ahead of us. He pounds on the closed window of the frightened driver, yelling obscenities.
It was my first sight of road rage up close, and I was truly frightened. I saw no way to get away. We were surrounded by automobiles, at the mercy of an infuriated man. I don’t know what caused his rage. Had the driver behind him honked at him to move when he had no place to move? Had he accidentally blown his horn? Maybe so. Maybe not.
I remembered a Scripture my mother often quoted to my sisters and me:
A soft answer turns away wrath:
but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1
How we respond to a sudden irritation can defuse an argument or create a firestorm. If we can find a “soft” answer—the New Living Bible translates it a “gentle answer”— so much good can be done, so much harm (and ulcers!) can be avoided. Yes, you probably know a “drama queen” who delights in creating conflict. You may know someone who keeps trying to prove how smart he is and naturally provokes resentment.
But backlash shouldn’t be the response of a good Christian, regardless of the arrogance of the perpetrator. Finding the right response to sudden frustration is not easy. It requires a mind filled with wisdom and patience from God. Here’s how James 3:9-13 puts it:
With our tongues we bless our God and Father,
and with it we curse men, who have been made in the image of God.
Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.
My brethren, these things ought not to be so. . . .
Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let him show by good conduct
that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
The answer to road rage, and every other kind of irritation, then, is to respond without anger, but with “softness.” We don’t have to justify ourselves. We don’t have to claim our “rights.” We can respond with quietness and wisdom, salvaging every challenge to accomplish good.
Easier said than done, I realize. That’s why we have to have God’s special help. But the need to respond kindly to arrogance is necessary in every part of life, not just behind the steering wheel. Thank God, He is able to give us wisdom and grace to respond well at the foolishness and anger of others, no matter what the circumstance.