Responding With Honeycomb and HealthSep 27, 2015 10:04AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I read it right before finishing preparations for a talk I was going to give at a local church. I was also in the middle of praying for my father and seeing how his cancer treatment went that day.
It was an unnecessary and petty distraction, a message sent with absolutely no other purpose than to make trouble where, as far as I knew, there wasn’t any to date. In my own personal book of boundaries, it crossed several lines, but more than that, there was no recognizable good intention within it. I’m limited in my perspective, obviously. I don’t have God’s eyes. From where I was sitting, however, it was right up there in the Book of the Absurd or Ridiculous, and it could have flamed old fires of aggravation.
Know that familiar scenario?
The one where other people want to stir our pot?
Where they can’t leave well enough alone?
Where they insert themselves somewhere they don’t belong?
This same scenario, with a few changed details and characters, has played itself out several times over my life. I’m sure from time to time we all encounter:
- That difficult person at work, in the neighborhood, or even in our families
- That toxic theme song of “how can we keep ourselves busy with getting in other people’s business”
- That boundary crosser who doesn’t take “no” for an answer or respect our personal space or privacy
The details almost don’t matter. We all run into these dynamics in our lives.
So, what do we do with those people who poke at us?
Well, my flesh response—the one where I don’t consult God at all and let anger rule me—would be to straighten that person out immediately! To make it a teachable moment. To let them know how they come across.
After all, I was put on this planet to set the wrong right, right?
But when we invite God into our lives, His Holy Spirit grabs that flesh response, questions it, and doesn’t let it slide, reminding us there’s a better way.
And, man, do I often want to ignore that prompting!
But there it is. The Spirit speaks. And when the Spirit of God speaks to our hearts, it always matches God’s Word.
Here’s what the Word of God tells me:
Proverbs 16:21-24, ESV, King Solomon
The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Um, what now?
I’m to have a discerning heart?
Sweetness of speech?
Who on earth wants to do that when people trample on our pride?
I can’t say that’s my first inclination. But the thing is, God’s Word is alive and active! When we obey a command, the results are as promised—at least when it comes to our own hearts.
The Bible says if I am cautious and sweet in my replies to difficult situations or people, I will be increasingly persuasive. That sounds pretty good!
I will draw from a fountain of life.
My words have the power to be sweet to someone’s soul—get this, including my own!—and healthy to their bodies!
I have a choice to offer them not only grace but health in the way I react.
And really, on one of my days when I overreact, speak something catty, or aim a verbal dart at someone, don’t I want the same in return? Don’t I want their words to soothe my soul, bring down my angst, offer “health to my body”?
Sweetness of speech is “persuasive.” It turns heads and hearts because it’s not the expected response. Usually people stirring up dissensions are either unaware that has become a pattern in their lives, or they are doing it to get a rise out of us. When we turn toward them with kindness, it defuses many a situation.
The fire that perhaps was within them from angst, disappointment, frustration, or anger no longer has oxygen feeding its source.
It either has to go elsewhere to keep it aflame, or it decides to stick around and enjoy the sweeter atmosphere of honeycomb and health.
Sometimes people will embrace our healthier patterns of response, and at other times, they will reject them, oblivious to the grace offered them, and move on to find another ring to box in.
That’s okay. Our command in the Scripture is to exercise self-control and to use words that bless and not condemn.
I struggle with this. Anger is an all-too-familiar first response for me.
Even so, I genuinely find that whenever I follow the wisdom of this Proverb, I walk in a “fountain of life,” and my heart, soul, and body all feel better. I’m not spun-up into a tight ball. I’m not crushed or defeated.
I am heartwise and peaceful, knowing I didn’t give negativity a chance to grow another head.
I didn’t soil the soul of another.
How can you take a challenging area of conflict or confrontation and respond with honeycomb and health?
It’s a powerful prescription for being able to walk away from an interaction peacefully, offer grace, and let go of the results.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.