Seeing Red

I originally wrote this material for inclusion in a women’s devotional book on Proverbs. It describes a situation that occurred when I was completing a college internship as a summer park ranger in Southern Oregon.


“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1, NASB

thX2EURAI7“You’re a communist!” the agitated man shouted. The circle of people tightened around me. I flipped my army-green notepad shut, concealing the license plate numbers I had just recorded.

The leader of the group motioned angrily at my notepad. “Did you put my number in there?”

“Yes, I did,” I answered gently. “You and your friends are camping in an unauthorized site this evening.”

He swore in response. “Ah-h, the next thing you know, these park rangers are going to tell us when we can brush our teeth!”

I smiled sympathetically as the man continued his tirade. Listening carefully, I tried to affirm his feelings without condoning his wrongdoing. “It must have been frustrating for you to arrive here tonight and find all the regular camping spots filled,” I acknowledged.

“You bet it was! And that’s not all . . .,” the man said, continuing to vent.

As his complaints were consistently met with gentleness, his face gradually lost its redness. All of a sudden he looked at me strangely.

“You know, I’m not really mad at you. You didn’t make these rules. You’re just doing your job!”

I breathed a sigh of relief. The park guest and his friends were now ready to hear the ecological reasons why no camping was allowed where they were parked. What started out as an explosive confrontation ended up as an intelligent discussion on soil erosion.

Several years have passed since I stood in the middle of that angry circle, but I still marvel at what happened there. Somehow, in the course of a few minutes, I had transformed from a “communist” to a respected guardian of the park. Though it would have been easy to be defensive and retaliate with harsh words, I learned that the most effective way to stop someone from “seeing red” is to respond with gentleness and patience.

Father, the next time someone views me with angry eyes, may I avoid the temptation to lash back and instead help dissolve anger with gentleness.


4 thoughts on “Seeing Red

  1. Thanks for sharing that poignant experience in your life where God really worked through and in you in the heat of the moment. I do not do well with conflict of that nature at all–it makes me want to run, instead to give the gentle answer. This was a good reminder to me. Thanks!


  2. It’s a reminder for me, too! I also would rather avoid conflict and confrontation. In some situations I also find myself wanting to “prove” that my point of view is right.


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