A tender answer turns away rage, but a prickly reply spikes anger. (Proverbs 15:1 VOICE)
Ever get a little too "prickly" in your replies? I know I do! Growing up in Arizona, I have had my share of "prickly" things spiking into my flesh and causing me more than a few moments of discomfort. From the tiniest little prickly pear cactus thorn to the baddest and biggest thorn on the Queen Palm - I've been stuck more than I'd care to remember. The big sticks from the palm tree did more than just "dig into" my flesh - they festered. The tiny stick from the prickly pear didn't seem like much to the eye, but let me just tell you - they annoy nonetheless!
It really doesn't matter how our words are spoken - they can be like the big, hard to ignore, festering sticks from the palm, or they can be like the annoyance of the prickly pear. Some of the time it is that there was an unsuspecting "host" who just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time and our words manage to "prickle" them just a little (or maybe a lot). We can be sure of our answer, but get under someone's skin nonetheless!
The two "thorns" are quite different in size. One is quite noticeable and you definitely know you have been stuck. The other gets under the skin, is hard to see with the naked eye, and can be quite hard to actually rid oneself of once it has attached. If we liken these two "sticks" to our words, I'd have to say those which leave a noticeable impression on our lives are probably the ones we saw coming, but we didn't avoid the argument! Those which get under our skin are like those words which are spoken, not really intending harm, but they get under our skin and begin to bother us more and more as we ruminate over them.
One festers, the other annoys. Both have a damaging effect if "left" and not dealt with in a timely manner. The larger thorn carries a greater risk of bacterial or fungal infection because the puncture wound is deeper. Common soil bacteria and fungi actually lives on these thorns and what seems like nothing we can see with the naked eye actually gets under our skin, deep enough to really do some serious "infecting" of the tissue surrounding the puncture wound. Dad taught me "immediate" first aid was necessary to actually deal with this type of wound - like soaking it in warm water with Epsom salts to "draw out" the bad stuff left behind.
The smaller thorn of the prickly pear can take days to actually see, but it annoys nonetheless. It makes life a little miserable and it takes a while to "ferret out" where it actually attached. Dad used good old duct tape when he got one of these stuck in him - allowing the tape to draw away the offensive little thing. We sometimes think that which is annoying us has to be tolerated because we cannot actually put our finger on it and rid ourselves of it. What dad showed me was that annoying stuff is dealt with quickly and with a "countering" effect. What went in unnoticed might have the potential to annoy us until we take a counter-measure to rid ourselves of it!
We may not realize the "prickliness" of our words (or that of others), but we can feel their impact. We need to deal with the stuff which gets in a little too deeply with immediate action, and we need to stop toying with the stuff that annoys, take swift action to rid ourselves of the annoyances, and move on! Just sayin!