Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed…15 All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast…30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.
I love my job. When I first agreed to take escalated calls, I had a big knot in my stomach. I’ve been doing customer service for what feels like a century, but still…I was volunteering to take the yellers, the screechers, the cussers, the ones who demand that I yank my time machine out from under the desk and fix their problem yesterday. So I thought.
Months later, maybe two people have actually held onto their anger for longer than a minute. Not that I get many escalations—our front line service people are good. But the calls they pass to me are actually enjoyable. How is this possible?
I have 3 things going for me:
1. I pray for grace and favor before approaching a difficult conversation—I learned that in my first marriage, and it works every time.
2. I know a couple of things and some smart people, I can hold a “No” when needed, and I can nearly always find a way to help somehow.
3. I know the wisdom of Proverbs works. A soft answer on a gentle tongue, honesty without manipulation, and sympathy with encouragement.
There is another technique that can be elusive for some people, but is well worth developing. Look at that second set of verses again. The light of the eyes rejoices the heart…what does that mean?
Imagine that moment when the guy or girl you recently met walks into the party. You weren’t sure they’d be there, but now you’re bursting inside. Or imagine getting off the plane to see that friend who understands you like nobody else. Your eyes light up as soon as you see them, right? We live in a transactional culture, where all day long we go through checkout lines, we call service lines, we take calls and customers, pump gas and catch ourselves never actually looking people in the eye. If we look, customer and checker both look tired and rushed. We don’t know what the person in front of us is going through—there may be an undisclosed tragedy going on, or mundanity may just be slowly draining joy away. So “light up” for them. Careful not to stare too long, or it might get creepy, but for a second, notice the person with whom you’re doing business. Smile, speak a blessing over them, compliment something or talk about the music on the store radio. Just give them a second to be human. Life becomes a feast this way.
Lord, give us cheerful hearts that shine onto others.