Do You Get Angry over Small Things?
A MAGAZINE editor hurrying along a busy French street with a suitcase in his hand passed close to a shiny sports car. Suddenly, to his surprise, a man leaped out of the car accusing him of having scratched it with the suitcase. Seething with anger, the man struck the editor such a severe blow that he never regained consciousness. Is a scratch on a car worth a man’s life? The answer is obvious; yet in a state of uncontrolled anger that might be the price you could cause someone to pay for something just as small as a scratch.
We live in a high-speed age that is filled with tensions and pressures that make people edgy. Small things can be so annoying that they cause tense persons to explode with anger, saying things they later regret or doing things for which they later have remorse. A thoughtless remark, an unintentional bump or an irritating discourtesy is a small thing, but over such small things a person can become violently angry if he fails to exercise self-control.
There are many small annoyances that have to be expected in a city, such as jostling on busy sidewalks and in crowded stores, someone talking a long time on a public phone when you want to use it, a car driver cutting in front of you in traffic, someone bumping your car from behind or impatiently honking his car horn, and so forth. If you permit such things to irritate you, your temper can soar quickly to the explosion point, and you will try to injure the other person by words or deeds. It is better to learn how to live with other people in a community than to let the things they may do cause your anger to boil up. In a state of anger you can lose control of yourself and do something that you would regret the rest of your life.
Whether on city streets or at home or among friends and business associates, you show wisdom if you learn to ignore small things that could be annoying if you would let them. Why lose friends, sour your relations with fellow workers or businessmen and ruin your marriage by getting angry over unimportant things they do? If your wife puts a wrinkle in the fender of the family car, burns the toast, squeezes the toothpaste tube in the center instead of at the bottom or does some other thing that irritates you, you would be wise to exercise self-control and not say the first thing that comes to your lips. A blistering remark can easily start a heated argument that might chill your marital relationship. A wife also would do well to exercise self-control and not permit anger to rise up over small things her husband does that annoy her. There have been people who have filed for divorce because of angry disputes over such small things as burnt toast and choice of television programs. Are these things more important than a marriage?
Injury can be done to a child when a father or a mother fails to control anger over small things the child might do that are irritating. A stepfather in New York city who worked at night was kept awake by a mischievous boy of two and a half years. In a blinding rage he vented his anger on the child, beating him to death. In another American city, a 22-month-old boy had to be taken to a hospital on four separate occasions because of having been beaten by his short-tempered mother. A long list could be given of shocking cases of mistreatment of small children by parents. It is so common in this age of high tensions that doctors have become gravely concerned.
Small annoyances are not so important that a person should injure his children, ruin his marriage, lose his friends or even endanger the lives of other people. They are not worthy of a second thought. By one’s thinking about them, they become magnified, causing anger to build up until it explodes into injurious action. There are more important things in life to think about.
There is wisdom in the proverb that says: “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city.” (Prov. 16:32) This statement in God’s Word lays out a very important fact of life. In order to live harmoniously with other people in a community you must overlook their thoughtless actions and habits. No one is perfect. People are certain to do things that can be annoying, especially when you are in an unpleasant mood. Nothing is gained by reacting angrily. You are the loser. On the other hand, if you exercise self-control, being slow to anger, you gain much. You will have learned what is an important factor in maintaining good relations with others, holding on to friends, gaining the respect of your employer and earning the love of your wife and children. When coupled with other wholesome virtues, self-control can make you an asset to a business and a community.
Being slow to anger over small things as well as over big things is expected of Christians. When they follow the pattern set by Jesus Christ, they make personality changes that cause them to be markedly different from people of the world. Addressing them, the Bible says: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31, 32) Anger, wrath, screaming and abusive speech have no place in the temperament of a Christian. However, such things are common with people not living by Christian principles. That is why such people have so much difficulty getting along with others and are often guilty of violent acts.
Instead of flaring up in heated anger over small things that other people do, follow the Bible’s good instructions by being kind, “tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.” Is it not better to forgive a person who accidentally scratches a fender of your car or cuts in front of you in traffic than to punch him into unconsciousness and possibly take his life? Is it not better to forgive the person who thoughtlessly bumps you on a sidewalk or stands in your way than to spew out an ear-searing stream of invectives? Certainly it manifests wisdom on your part not to let small things irritate you.