As principal of an alternative school, I frequently dealt with individuals who lacked self-control: prone to outbursts of anger, often guided by selfishness and immaturity, inclined to blame others for their own choices and actions, frequently using profanity and insulting language to punish others, etc. And, as I used to joke, the students had problems, too. Wink, wink…
Whether dealing with frustrated adolescents, stressed out staff members, aggravated colleagues, or parents who simply had no idea what to try next, I garnered a few insights.
I listened to dozens of students, parents, staff members, colleagues, board members, and other concerned citizens. I had seen again and again, both in education and other settings, how quickly anger fed off of anger, and how wrath rapidly escalated in the face of hostility.
In contrast, I remembered my mom quoting an old scripture (Proverbs 15.1) that said, “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I prayed for wisdom each day and tried to keep that verse in mind during the toughest conversations.
As I repeatedly saw juveniles and adults become calmer as we continued talking, I knew I was witnessing the truths that the Writers of Scripture had recorded. It was actually pretty rare that students or adults ended up with what they claimed to want when we first started talking. But at the conclusion of our conversations, even if we didn’t agree completely or even partially, they knew they had been heard. Someone in authority had actually listened to them.
Which is what they really wanted in the first place.