When a person is irritated by a challenging remark, he feels a great compulsion to answer back and demonstrate that his point of view is right. Giving the other party the last word implies that he admits being wrong and it takes great humility to accept that, especially when he is convinced that he is right.
The trouble is that disputes are often caused when both adversaries are convinced that they are right. It takes a wise man to realize that peace and harmony are more important than being acknowledged as right. Such a man exercises forbearance and thereby avoids conflict.
יח = אִישׁ חֵמָה יְגָרֶה מָדוֹן וְאֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם יַשְׁקִיט רִיב
(18) An irascible man stirs up strife,
but a forbearing man calms conflict.
The irascible man is easily provoked by minor irritations. The result of showing anger is the incitement of strife. In seeking an outlet for his rage the irascible man arouses general contention. In contrast, a patient man is difficult to annoy because he hates strife. He pacifies a potential conflict before it gets out of hand.
This is the fourth segment to drive home the importance of forbearance in the face of provocation. The four segments may be summarized as follows:
(14-16). Learn to be afraid of giving in to unrestrained anger. Don’t assume you can safely enjoy the release that you get from experiencing anger.
(14-19). You can benefit from showing forbearance by the understanding you will gain from the situation. In contrast you will learn that failing to show forbearance is ultimately self-destructive.
(15-01). Calm down an angry person by responding with a gentle answer. Avoid making provocative remarks that promote strife.
(15-18). Failure to show forbearance leads to strife. In contrast, showing forbearance promotes peace and harmony.
(18) An irascible man — אִישׁ חֵמָה
stirs up fresh strife — יְגָרֶה מָדוֹן,
but a forbearing man — וְאֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם
calms even an old conflict — יַשְׁקִיט רִיב
(1) The man of forbearance shows restraint in the face of provocation. He is not quick to respond to a challenge, but instead allows the intensity of the conflict to dissipate. (רש”י)
(2) If you are looking to settle a dispute, don’t use a quick-tempered person. He is likely to object to the reasoning of one of the parties and will by harsh with him. This will exacerbate the situation instead of calming it. (רבינו יונה)
(3) Situations where a new conflict (מָדוֹן) is beginning warrant special attention because they are easier to control. A situation involving a long-standing conflict (רִיב) is more difficult to resolve. (הגר”א, שבט מיהודה)
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