Controlling your anger
Last updated 3/17/2022 at 2:34pm
Tempers are no laughing matter. We’ve all seen the long-term damage that can be done when harsh and hurtful words are spoken in a fit of anger. Your spouse, friend, or child may never fully get over what was said. As Maya Angelou put it, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Let me share a couple of verses from the Bible that give timeless guidelines for us to gain victory over anger and temper. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Quick to listen: In many ways, attentive listening is more challenging and yet more rewarding than speaking. People are drawn to good listeners who show a genuine interest in them. You’ll be surprised by what will happen when you encourage people to talk about themselves. One of the most profound things Dale Carnegie said is “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
A young man came to Socrates and was willing to pay him to teach him how to be an orator and speak profound words of wisdom. Before Socrates could respond, the arrogant young man just kept talking. When Socrates was finally able to get a word in, he told him he would have to charge double his normal fee because he would first have to teach him to “hold” his tongue before he could teach him how to “use” his tongue.
Slow to speak: This is especially true if you are angry. Slow down and contemplate the impact of the words that are about to burst out of your mouth. Remember that “swallowing angry words before you say them is better than having to eat them afterwards.” And, never underestimate the importance of kind words. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime (Dale Carnegie).
Slow to become angry: The philosopher Seneca said, “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” It was said that when Julius Caesar was provoked, he used to repeat the whole Roman alphabet before he allowed himself to speak. As the old German proverb says, “The best answer to anger is silence.”
Gentle in your response: One of my favorite Proverbs is: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). It is amazing how one person with a soft answer can calm a room full of people eager to start arguing. I’ve served on many nonprofit boards in my life and have witnessed the power of this truth when one individual responds with a soft answer and rescues the board from a verbal fiasco.
Quick to reconcile: The Bible cautions us that, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). When angry words have been exchanged, it is imperative that reconciliation is sought as rapidly as possible lest the relationship suffer permanent damage. This is especially true for a married couple lying in the same bed stewing after an argument. Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry. Talk it out with kind words and a gentle spirit, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.