This is a true story about the bone-breaking power of words. At least if what my sister told me about her friend Jan is true. I’ve met Jan and I think it is.
Jan was a 40-something blonde on her way home from an event in the city. She was lost in thought when roused by a blaring horn.
Suddenly she noticed the traffic piled up behind her—in the left lane on the interstate. She looked back, switched lanes, and drove on.
Seconds later, she was side-by-side with two angry young men in a loud, low car. She read their lips and winced. The passenger guy caught her eye and gestured. You know the one.
The car raced off. Jan drove on.
But within minutes, the loud, low car reappeared—somehow behind her this time. In the rearview mirror, she saw the same rage, and the car tailed her for a while.
Jan prayed. But Jan did not drive on.
That’s when Jan did an incredible thing. I am not endorsing it, but this is what Jan did.
She exited at the rest area. The loud, low car did too. Jan parked, and the car did too. Then Jan got out and strolled toward it.
I’ve heard kindness is the best defense, and smiles are disarming.
Then Jan did the next amazing thing. She smiled. “I’m sorry I held you up back there,” she shrugged. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
Now for the last surprise. The raging driver man smiled back and said, “No problem, ma’am.” And he was back on the road again.
Our soft tongues, our gentle words, can break hard things, bones or otherwise.
More Powerful Words
Gideon, of wet fleece, rolling loaf, and trumpet and jar fame (see Judges 6:36-7:25), also knew the power of soft, bone-breaking words. He was a judge of Israel. After his fantastic defeat of Midian, he faced harsh words from countrymen who had not been part of the victory force.
When the jealous men of Ephraim “accused Gideon fiercely,” his words were soft:
What have I done in comparison with you? […] God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?’ Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.”Judges 8:2a-3, ESV
God used Gideon’s gracious words to soften angry men’s hearts. He can use our words the same soothing way.
Soft Words Break Hard Hearts
I saw the power of soft words up close and personal this week. One night, our son was very late. My husband was hot. Hard walls were up. But we learned more and my husband wrote soft words in a note. The son received the words, with a “Thanks, dad,” and a lately-elusive smile and
That might not sound like much. But in this house, these days, it was huge. It was God’s mighty, bone-breaking power on display.
It was an example this naturally harsh, exacting truth-teller needed to see.
More proof that soft moves hard.
So don’t you want to try softer? Don’t you want to give grace? And for God’s sake, let’s not be afraid to say sorry.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)