Excerpt from Proverbs 25:11-22
“A soft tongue can break bones.”
Reflection by William C. Green
When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in the rampage that left five dead, staffer Gabe Zimmerman was killed coming to help. Speaking at Zimmerman’s funeral, Mark Kelly, the congresswoman’s husband, said that moments before the gunman opened fire, Zimmerman intervened in a heated argument between two constituents at the ill-fated “Congress on Your Corner.” Kelly called Zimmerman the peacemaker who could calm down the angriest visitors and callers. Another staffer said he was known as “the constituent whisperer.” His father said, “Gabe kept his voice soft and never returned anger, so how can we?”
When loud voices of anger poison disagreement, making it dangerous, we can reflect what we despise. Responding in kind to anger makes it a vicious circle. The idiotic behavior of some of our politicians can make me, if not idiotic, so furious that the intensity of my own reaction mirrors the problem.
It’s not a matter of being more pleasant and agreeable in the face of damaging nonsense. It’s not a matter of never raising our voices in anger and protest. As Gabe Zimmerman reminds us, it’s a matter of knowing that hardened positions won’t soften with more hardness. Difficult and impossible as it seems politically, we can learn from what’s true personally: often what we all want is not so much agreement as listening and recognition. Without that, the bones of division and disrespect can’t be broken.
O God, keep me from becoming complicit in what I deplore by reacting in kind. Amen.
About the Author
William C. Green, a United Church of Christ minister, is the Director of Long Looking, a consultancy service specializing in fundraising and education for congregations. His new book, 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving, has just been published.
Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; [the Lord] upholds the orphan and the widow.”
– Psalm 146:7-9
“I trace the rainbow through the rain and see the promise is not in vain.”
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