“A fool gives full vent to anger,
but the wise quietly holds it back.”
Proverbs 29:11 NRSV
“Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention.”
Proverbs 15: 18 NRSV
How should we respond when we are angry? This question seems especially appropriate to consider in light of an incident some of you may have seen, or heard about. It happened at the Academy Awards Ceremony (“the Oscars”), on Sunday night. I don’t want to get into the particulars of it, except to say that it is yet another example of the outbursts of anger which are rampant within our society.
Is it better to get angry first? To lash out, and then to ask questions later? Not according to God’s word! The Book of Proverbs often contrasts a fool’s folly, with the wise path.
The problem with anger is that it is like a fire. Under certain very controlled circumstances, like in a combustion engine, a gas stove top, or a barbecue, fire is very useful. It cooks our food, or propels a vehicle. Yet when a fire burns out of control, it torches and incinerates everything in its path. Depending on the intensity, there might be nothing left afterwards.
The book of Job speaks of the devastation wrought by anger, saying, “Surely anger can kill the foolish; fury can kill the simple.” — Job 5:2
So what is the cure? As much as possible, pause before taking action. Perhaps taking a breath (or several), and thinking before acting in anger might help in determining the wisest way in which to express it. Note that Proverbs 15:18 implies that everyone, at some point, feels anger, even the wisest among us. However, Proverbs counsels that the wise may feel anger quickly, but they are slow to act upon that anger.
We observed an angry reaction at the Oscars. Yet most of us do not get in trouble with our actions, but rather our words. Speaking in anger can often be our greatest act of anger- using our tongues and not our hands. Jesus is the supreme model for us. When He faced those who mocked Him throughout His life, He was silent. When He was crucified, He was silent. What did He do instead? He prayed. Let us all remember, when we take that breath to calm us, to also lift up a prayer about how we are called to respond.
“But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.”
Colossians 3:8 NRSV
God of every emotion,
Help me to control my feelings, rather than being controlled by them. Forgive me when I react with a hurting and unkind word. While the world encourages me to vent my anger, regardless of the consequences, remind me of the better path. Enable me to follow the example of Your Son, who never raised a finger against anyone, even when He was angry. I pray this prayer in His Holy name. Amen.