I’m amazed at the anger and the resulting violence over what appear to be trivial things. We’ve even invented terminology for some of this violence: road rage. In some of these cases, someone ends up dead, and the perpetrator is facing prison time. If we looked objectively at the issue that caused the conflict, we would say without question that it wasn’t worth it.
Proverbs warns us about the angry person: “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Proverbs 22:24–25 ESV). What is interesting in this warning is that the anger is something learned. We don’t have to be hot tempered. We don’t have to fly off the handle. Further, the warning states that this kind of anger is a snare to the person who has it. It will get them in trouble. It will cause them grief. Anger of this type is a trap.
Anger is not necessarily sinful. Jesus looked around the synagogue with anger when they were waiting to see if he would heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5). Paul instructs: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26–27, ESV). So how do we keep anger from leading us into sinful and sometimes even destructive behavior?
Be angry but don’t sin. We can constructively express our anger. There may indeed be a wrong that needs to be corrected. But for anger to do this, it must lead to words.
Be quick to hear and slow to speak. When we are angry, we often want to tell our side and sometimes with a loud tone of voice. This passage in James reminds us to slow down our talking and speed up our willingness to listen. Sometimes disputes are resolved simply by understanding the other side. James 1:19-20
Be slow to anger. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.” It’s actually good advice because it slows us down, and the counting distracts us for a few moments. We may be in better control as we address the real issues.
- Use a gentle answer. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV). Sometimes lowering the tone of your voice and slowing down what you say has a way of de-escalating a conflict. <b>
- Don’t dwell on angry thoughts. Anger should lead us to seek reconciliation. But if reconciliation is not possible, then we are to leave it in the hands of God. He is the ultimate judge. We need to let it go and not allow anger to simmer on the back burner. It will damage us far more than the person with whom we are angry. Our thoughts need to be good thoughts. (See Philippians 4:8.)
Let’s all turn down the thermostat on anger.
— Russ Holden