When I was a child, Macgyver was one of my favourite TV programmes. An action-adventure series, it revolved around Angus MacGyver whose main asset was his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. He often had to improvise complex devices in a matter of minutes in order to save lives. The series never seemed to me particularly plausible or realistic (doubtless why I enjoyed it so much!), although apparently it was praised for generating interest in the applied sciences!

One episode I remember vividly was when MacGyver had to defuse a bomb (or several bombs). Apparently this episode was called ‘The Prometheus Syndrome’. It was highly dramatic and probably pretty implausible to have to defuse so many bombs in the space of an hour, but the tension and the excitement generated in this episode have stayed with me over the years. And today, when I was reading Proverbs 15, I was reminded of this episode, for Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper fire.”

It takes two to argue. I know that from experience, for my husband is one of the most mild-mannered men you could ever hope to know. Sometimes I feel really frustrated with him, because he just doesn’t argue. He is the embodiment of this verse. So often his gentle responses ‘turn away’ my wrath and defuse my anger. He talks about being a sponge, soaking in the hurt and anger of other people, and responding with the graciousness of Christ. You can’t argue with that. Instead of inflaming the situation with sharp words, cutting sarcasm, quick retorts and the fast ‘comeback’, the situation is soothed, calmed, healed.

This chapter has a lot to say about our words.
“Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.” (Prov 15:4).
“The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” (Prov 15:7) “Congenial conversation – what a pleasure! The right word at the right time – beautiful!” (Prov 15:23)

It also has a lot to say about wisdom involving listening and being willing to take advice and heed correction (Prov 15:12, 22, 32). All of this is rooted in a fear of the Lord: “Fear-of-God is a school in skilled living – first you learn humility, then you experience glory.” (Prov 15:33)