Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end (Proverbs 29:11 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Noelle walks into the room to discover her younger sister Lucy is wearing Noelle’s favorite dress and jewelry, prancing around like she is Cinderella.
Noelle freaks out, yelling like a crazy girl, “You can’t wear my things! Take that OFF this instant! You’re gonna be sorry!”
You can imagine that was kind of fun to act out. Next, I had them reenact the same scenario except this time, Noelle calmly says, “That is my dress. You didn’t ask to borrow it. Take it off now, and I’m going to tell mom.”
You may be chuckling because you know there’s not a kid alive who would respond in that stoic manner! But because we are role playing, we gave it a try. The Bible says in today’s verse that “fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” We know that a gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), but isn’t it easier to let out that harsh word instead? Harshness comes naturally but gentleness is a discipline.
When we feel angry (not if, but when because we all get angry), we can ask ourselves the following questions:
What am I angry about?
Is this anger justified?
Were any laws or moral codes broken?
Do I have all the facts?
Is my anger proportionate to the offense?
When we take the time to think about the why behind our anger, it slows us down. Pausing can prevent us from saying something we will regret.
Please keep in mind that anger itself is not bad. There are many good reasons to become angry, such as the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Anger is fuel and it can be harnessed to fight for good. But many times in personal relationships, anger is distorted and can lead to hurting one another without cause.
There are many stories in the Bible that focus on anger. Cain and Abel, Joseph and his eleven brothers, Jonah and his anger toward God, and Jesus and His anger toward the money changers in the temple all provide insights into understanding anger. It can be righteous to be angry as in Jesus casting out the money changers, but it can also be sinful as in the story of Cain murdering Able.
Consider what happened to Cain and Abel. Cain brought an inferior offering to God but his brother Abel brought an excellent one. Cain became very angry that his offering was not favored by God. Was his anger justified or was he just mad because he wanted his inferior offering to be applauded?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 NIV).
Maybe if we pictured sin as a lion crouching at the door of our hearts, ready to pounce, we would think twice before empowering that lion with our uncontrolled anger.
Like the role play I set up with my daughters, you can role play future scenarios in your mind. Maybe you find yourself yelling at your kids at night about finishing their chores or coming to dinner on time. Role play the different ways you might respond to their unwanted behavior. Instead of yelling, you could be quiet. Instead of lecturing, you could give a swift consequence. Remember this advice in Proverbs 14:29 (NIV), “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”
When do you find yourself getting angry? Is there a specific person usually involved? Instead of acting out next time, you can take a moment right now to imagine a better, gentler response. You might even role play with your loved ones to practice.
Dear God, help me to be angry but not to sin. Reveal the difference between good anger and bad anger. Help me to be more patient with my loved ones and gentler in my responses. I surrender my anger to You and ask You to transform it into something positive and constructive.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
When do you have trouble managing your bad anger? When was the last time you lashed out in anger? If appropriate, talk to the person you lashed out to and apologize.
When was the last time you experienced good righteous anger? What behavior did it lead you to?
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