Proverbs 17:27 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (NKJV). This proverb emphasizes the wisdom of avoiding reckless speech by exercising self-control so as not to provoke hostility. Having a calm spirit describes someone with an even-tempered disposition. A contemporary paraphrase might be “a wise person keeps his cool.”
Bible translators render the phrase for “calm spirit” in various ways: “cool spirit” (ESV, NASB), “cool head” (CSB), “even-tempered” (NLT, NIV), and “excellent spirit” (KJV). The word spirit here refers to a person’s disposition or temperament.
The proverbs of Solomon often stress the importance of self-control, especially in the things we say. According to Proverbs 17:27, a prudent person uses few words and maintains a calm attitude by staying composed under pressure. By exercising self-control when speaking and not allowing oneself to be dominated by heightened emotions, a calm spirit diffuses anger and ill feelings: “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).
In contrast to a hot-tempered person, someone with a calm spirit or an even-tempered nature is slow to anger: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18, ESV; see also Proverbs 14:29).
Abigail is an excellent example of a wise person whose calm spirit deflected a volatile situation. First Samuel 25:3 tells us that Abigail was “discerning and beautiful,” but her husband, Nabal, was “harsh and badly behaved.” Nabal treated David and his men with surliness and disrespect, and David was bent on bloodshed. Without her husband’s knowledge, Abigail arranged a meeting with David. Humbly and calmly, she persuaded him not to harm Nabal. Afterward, David blessed Abigail for her excellent discernment and for keeping him from carrying out vengeance with his own hand (1 Samuel 25:32–34).
Ecclesiastes 10:4 gives a nugget of wisdom for maintaining a calm spirit at work: “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest.” The New Living Translation renders the verse like so: “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.”
Wise people are cautious with their words and think before they speak. They “bring calm in the end”; on the other hand, “Fools give full vent to their rage” (Proverbs 29:11). According to Matthew Henry, “A cool head with a warm heart is an admirable composition” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1994, p. 994).
If a cool, calm, and gentle demeanor dissolves anger and neutralizes a heated situation, then the opposite—acting like a hot head—charges it up. James teaches us that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). “Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” says James 3:17. In other words, God’s wisdom endorses humility, gentleness, and self-restraint (2 Peter 1:5–8).
We discover in many proverbs that our words are like fruits that reveal the quality or disposition of our hearts. In Proverbs 17:27, a person’s restraint with words shows the heart of a peacemaker, as well as a wise and understanding nature. Having a calm spirit is also a sign that the Holy Spirit lives in us: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22–23, NLT).