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Devotional: September 16, 2020

Don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder,     always spoiling for a fight.

         Proverbs 3: 30    The Message

Angry people stir up a lot of discord;     the intemperate stir up trouble.

         Proverbs 29: 22  The Message

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. 

         James 1: 19-20

These days, anger seems to be a very dominant emotion. One only needs to turn on the news, glance at a newspaper, or to view the latest on their smartphones in order to see countless examples of anger.

There is a time and a place for anger. Jesus became angry with the moneychangers in the temple because they were obscuring the true purpose of that Holy place. Yet most of Jesus’ life was not characterized by anger. Even when other people were mad at Jesus, sometimes seething with rage, Jesus remained calm.

The scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments urge us to use extreme caution when it comes to anger. From these varied scriptures, we learn three truths about anger.

First, we should never lead with anger. Don’t approach the world with a chip on your shoulder. You should not be spoiling for a fight. Don’t assume a defensive posture before a conversation even begins. People tend to respond to us in the same way that we respond to them. 

Smile at a person, and they will probably smile back. Even if you're wearing a mask, you can still smile with your eyes. Growl at a person, and they may very well growl back. Leading with anger doesn’t get you where you want to go. In fact, it may lead you in the opposite direction.

Second, angry people tend to stir up trouble and discord. Some people leave a dust storm of dissension in their wake. Most people desire peace, and will avoid conflict if at all possible. If one is angry all the time, many people end up trying to avoid interacting with that person. Their rage makes them a social pariah. Most of us desire human connection, not isolation. Our anger may end up isolating us, since most individuals will avoid us.

Third, it is better to listen to understand, than to speak hastily out of anger. Many ugly, angry, arguments result from simple misunderstandings. Listening is a skill we continually need to hone. If you truly listen to what another is saying, and communicate what you have heard from them, often you will understand better. An argument may be avoided. 

When you feel anger rising within you, try to stop and listen first. It may be that you don’t have the whole picture. You may be making unfounded assumptions. You could even be jumping to conclusions. Better to listen and understand, than to assume and to attack. 

This is one reason why electronic communication and even face masks can often cause problems. When we see people’s faces and expressions, we may be more clued in to what they are saying. So much of communication is non-verbal! These days, we need to listen even harder than usual, in order to prevent unnecessary arguments.

God certainly can and does use righteous anger, but more often, peace is the better path. There is a reason why our Lord and Savior is called the Prince of Peace, rather than the Prince of Anger…

Prayer

Precious Lord, 

Thank you for modeling peace and calm, even in the face of angry attacks. You set a pattern for us to follow with our emotions. Help us to lead with kindness, understanding, patience and wisdom, rather than with angry emotions. Help us to listen first, before speaking. Then, give us the right words to communicate with others. Help us to speak your truth. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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