Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:14
"A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath"
This is the Hebrew word ap which means nose, nostril, anger. The original idea seems to be that the nose flares when the person is angry. So the Hebrew language gave the idea of anger to that facial expression.
When a person is angry, it means that their expectations have not been met. They may have had unrealistic expectations but they held them, and the fact that they are not being met is why they are upset. We do not get upset unless we have an expectation that is being denied or delayed. Solomon is giving us insight into how to work with people who we have blocked, crossed, or wounded their expectation. There must be some positive reason to give up their expectation that is stronger than what they gave up. It is kind of like, "Oh, I would give that up for that gift." Restaurants do this when the service is bad and they give you a free meal. Airlines do this when they give you a round-trip ticket to compensate for some problem with the flight. When you say, “I got the better deal,” your anger is gone. The expectation has been trumped.
What Solomon also seems to be saying is that there is almost always a gift or reward that is more valuable than the expectation. So if you have hurt, wounded, or blocked someone from their expectation, then find an appropriate gift or reward so that the person can get over having to let go of that expectation.
This is a standard Hebrew word mattan for gift. It also means reward.
This is the Hebrew word seter which means hidden place or hiding place, hide, or conceal. Solomon suggests that a person is much more willing to let go of their anger if there is a reward for doing so and if that reason is not broadcast. If people constantly make an open deal about what they will receive for releasing their anger, then they will often feel that they are being bought off or that they are being manipulated. But if the reward is concealed or behind the scenes, then it is easier to let go of one's anger.
Think about the people who are mad at you. What expectations have you blocked or denied in their lives? Is there any way that you could make it up to them for the sacrifice that they have made? Usually there is. This type of behavior is a way or thanking them for the sacrifice that they made or were forced to endure.
We see a negative expression of this type of behavior when celebrities or politicians give large sums of money to a person who has been victimized by them. They do not press charges because they have received a million dollars or more.
This is the Hebrew word sohad which means bribe, gift, or present. Because of the strong negative connotations to the word bribe and even prescriptions against this practice in the moral code of the Old and New Testaments, it might have been better to have used a different word like present. But Solomon is clearly saying that these presents or rewards work to reduce the pain and anger of broken, blocked, or delayed expectations.
This is two words – strong and wrath. The word wrath is heat, hot displeasure, anger, wrath. It represents a level of anger that is beyond the first kind of anger.
One would not expect to find this information in the Bible, but one would find this tool in a book about effective leadership and the necessities of statecraft. Solomon is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and included this information because it is true and can be useful at times in subduing people's anger. It is not always wrong to do this. In fact it is often right to do this. Think about your field of endeavor: business, food, service. What is it that you can give away to appease people's anger when you blow it? Be ready because you will have this happen. And it is important to be prepared. This also happens when a company needs to let someone go, and it will create lots of anger and pain. A generous severance is a way to allow the separation to go smoothly.