Our theme for this month: “Changing the tone of the conversation”
Our Bible verse for today: “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Words and tone matter.”
I read an interesting article in the newspaper recently. The title was “Bring ‘better angels’ back to politics.” The phrase ‘better angels’ was borrowed from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. As Lincoln was preparing to assume the office of the Presidency the nation was on the brink of war. He had been elected with less than 40% of the popular vote, his own party was split into angry factions, the American people were divided over the issue of slavery as well as many other issues, and all sides all across the country were screaming at each other.
Lincoln knew that words and tone matter. He knew that the things that are said, and the tone in which they are said, matter very much. As Proverbs 15:1 says, a gentle answer has great power to turn away anger but a harsh word stirs things up. So Lincoln understood that the first thing he needed to do in order to try to avert a disaster for the country was to get everyone to turn down the volume and to temper their words. Here’s part of what he said:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
By “better angels” Lincoln was appealing to the better, more virtuous instincts of the American people in general. He was saying, “We’re better than this. We are better people than the tone of our current angry rhetoric suggests.” Sadly, the people didn’t listen to Lincoln. The angry and overheated rhetoric continued to escalate, words translated into actions, and the nation was torn apart by four years of devastating Civil War.
The article I was reading was about a national bi-partisan network that has been created in our country recently called “Better Angels”. It’s a network of influential thinkers, political and social leaders, and regular Americans from all walks of life who recognize, as Lincoln did, the inherent danger associated with the tone of our national dialogue, and who are committed to trying to change it. Nobody has to change their position on anything. But we do need to change the way we discuss our differences. The tone has got to change because words lead to actions, and angry words lead to angry actions. There’s no way that can have a good outcome.We all need to temper the tone with which we discuss our differences. Words, and tone, matter.