Years ago when we lived in New Jersey I had a favorite car wash. It was the kind of car wash that allowed you to stand on one side of a long wall of windows while your car moved along on the other side, through the wash cycle. The kids loved it.
One day while watching the car move through the cycle, I noticed there were signs on the back wall—on the other side of the cars where the employees were. To my surprise, on the signs were printed different scriptural verses from the Bible. On one was written the verse from Proverbs 15:1:
A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.
This particular verse was undoubtedly posted there to help employees handle unhappy customers. “A soft answer turneth away wrath”—meaning, in other words, that no matter what the customer says or does, respond with a kind, understanding answer and they are more likely to calm down. Then you have a better chance of resolving the situation—and retaining them as a customer.
I had young children at the time and I immediately began making this nugget of wisdom a more permanent part of my parenting style, and in the way I dealt with people in general. But it was a few years later, when I had teenagers, that the true value of that scripture really hit home.
Teenagers are under a great deal of pressure and occasionally they lose control. In their anger and frustration they can arrive home from school with the slam of a door, head for the kitchen to find mom and begin to rant. They inevitably go too far in their criticisms, blaming everyone else for everything that is going wrong in their life and saying things they shouldn’t say.
As a parent, I learned early on that If I let my emotions rise and gave in to the urge to counter back, putting them on the defensive, then the conversation would quickly escalate. It was like pouring water on a grease fire. This would end with the child storming from the room to sit in their room and sulk for hours, justifying their own behavior because of what I might have said back to them in response to their attitude.
Remembering that “a soft answer turneth away wrath,” I determined that no matter what the child said or how they behaved, I would remain calm and just listen with minimal, gentle responses. Inevitably the child would leave the room, possibly still upset, but would always return within a short amount of time to apologize for saying what they said and acting the way they did. A more rational conversation could then occur, they could receive the hug of encouragement and understanding that they needed, and then move on with their day knowing that they were loved.
I study the scriptures for many reasons: to be obedient, to help me prepare lessons and talks, and because I feel the spirit in our home and in my life when I do. But the most important reason is because I have found essential truths that have grabbed my attention and had life changing effects on my family over the years. When we are seeking for help, it is amazing where we can find answers.
Clearly not all car washes are created equal. How grateful I am, however, to this particular business owner for offering not only the best washes in town, but the best advice as well.