My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19 NIV
Friend to Friend
It was raining like crazy when I went to pick up my son from school. I had told him earlier to look for my car so I wouldn’t have to get out in the rain. I slipped into my ugliest, oldest flip flops. I was just planning to stay in the nice, dry car.
There was my son in plain sight. He walked towards me and then walked right…past…my…car! He made a U-turn but still missed me. I was so upset and exasperated. I got out of my car, embarrassed to be wearing my for-home-use-only flip flops, and yelled “ETHAN!!!” at the top of my lungs.
He finally saw me. I darted back to the car, totally unprepared for the downpour. In those few seconds, I talked to myself. I was very aware of how mad I was! “Calm down, don’t be mad. It’s not really a big deal.”
The first thing I said to Ethan was, “You made me get out in my flipper floppers!” which made us both laugh because I looked so ridiculous. I asked as calmly as possible, “Why didn’t you see my car?”
“I was expecting you to come in the van, but you came in the other car.”
Oh. That made sense. My anger which had risen so quickly like a thundercloud dissipated.
James wrote to us about the powerful emotion of anger, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19 NIV)
Notice one quick and two slows.
Quick to listen. Slow to speak and slow to become angry.
We can get that turned around. We can be slow to listen and quick to speak and quick to become angry. Before you get mad at your child, husband, friend, mom, or co-worker, take a deep breath. Think about one quick and two slows. Ask God to calm you down and to help you to listen.
“Slow to be angry” in the original Greek means “slow to boil.” We live in a microwave generation where many things move fast, almost instantly from blazing Internet connections to fast food. When it comes to getting angry, we are instructed to be more like a slow-cooking crock pot than a microwave.
This can be very difficult! As James writes, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8, NIV). Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit residing within us as our Teacher and Guide.
Please understand there is a place for right anger. You see Jesus’ righteous anger toward the injustice and corruption happening in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). God’s anger burns against the wicked. Not all anger is bad. But sometimes the anger that comes out in our cutting tone, yelling, or terse words isn’t rooted in righteousness. It’s rooted in selfishness.
Let’s be slow to boil, slow to speak, slow to get angry. Let’s instead be quick to listen. We may find out the other side of the story is a worthwhile tale.
Dear Jesus, I need Your help today. May I be quick to listen to others. Give me wisdom and an understanding and patient heart. Help me to be slow to anger and slow to speak. Bring peace to my closest relationships. Let there be forgiveness in places where angry words have been spoken. I commit my words and my thoughts to You.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Are there certain people or situations that seem to activate your anger? What can you do to prepare yourself to respond calmly next time instead of in anger?
The next time you feel anger welling up inside of you, take a deep breath and pray to God before you speak.
More from the Girlfriends
Anger can be a troubling emotion for children. Arlene’s book Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman) addresses good and bad anger, and how to tell the difference between the two. It will help you navigate anger in a healthier way in your home.