Be Wise—Be Slow to Anger
IT HAPPENED on a warm spring evening back in April. Four young boys, just about teen-age, shouted and carried on noisily in and out of a three-story apartment building in the Bronx, New York city. A postal worker who was trying to sleep because of working nights leaned out of his second-story window and called to the boys: “Stop the noise!” The boys, however, ignored him, and so he came downstairs with a pistol. As the boys started to run, he fired a shot, striking one of them in the back. “The boy fell face down to the street fatally wounded. He was pronounced dead by a doctor from Lincoln Hospital.”—New York Times, April 16, 1968.
Being quick to anger can indeed bring tragic results. But anger in itself is not necessarily wrong. It may have a just cause. There is nothing wrong with being angry or indignant at injustices or disregard of another’s rights. Because of the great amount of wickedness in the earth, Jehovah God, who is a righteous Judge, “has indignation every day.” (Ps. 7:11, RS) Likewise time and again Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when upon earth became angry or indignant, as when he called the religious leaders of his day “Hypocrites!” “Serpents, offspring of vipers”! And at times his anger even overflowed into actions, as when he overturned the tables of the money changers and with a whip of ropes chased the cattle dealers and their livestock out of the temple.—Matt. 23:13-33; John 2:15-17.
But at no time have Jehovah and Jesus Christ ever let their anger get the best of them. They never lose their tempers. They do not let their anger master them, but they always have full control of it. Their anger might be said to serve them as a slave. At no time does it dominate them so as to result in unwise or unjust actions. They are at all times slow to anger.
Being slow to anger is also referred to in the Scriptures under the term “long-suffering.” In the original language in which the Christian Greek Scriptures were written, the word is ma·kro·thu·miʹa, and means to be long of spirit, the opposite of quick-tempered. Long-suffering does not of itself mean to suffer long, for one could be compelled to suffer long and yet not be long-suffering, if he chafed, rebelled and was impatient about it. To be long-suffering means to be patient, slow to anger, tolerating, putting up with that which annoys, offends or causes vexation. According to one Greek authority, “long-suffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish.” It is one of the fruits of God’s spirit.—Gal. 5:22.
What will help one to overcome the tendency to be quick to speak and act in anger? For one thing, considering what God’s Word has to say about the example set by none other than Jehovah God himself in the matter of long-suffering. Although being almighty and having all authority and being perfect in wisdom, he is not hasty to act when angry. As he told his prophet Moses: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” Yes, time and again he has “tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.” Among the many examples of his long-suffering that might be cited are his waiting for so many, many years before sending the flood in Noah’s day and before letting his disobedient nation of Israel go into exile to Babylon.—Ex. 34:6; Rom. 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Chron. 36:15, 16.
Also helpful in becoming slow to anger is for one to consider the direct counsel given in God’s Word on the subject. Thus we read that “he what is quick to anger will commit foolishness.” “One that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” “An enraged man stirs up contention, but one that is slow to anger quiets down quarreling.” “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man” who is not slow to anger. “Have you beheld a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.”—Prov. 14:17, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 29:20.
Yes, one should keep telling himself how unwise, how foolish, how stupid it is to be quick-tempered, lacking in self-control. Angry words can break up friendships, can make it necessary for one to apologize. Being quick to anger can even result in lifelong regret, as in the case of the postal worker who shot that teen-age boy. Once the prophet Moses spoke and acted hastily in anger, and it resulted in his not being permitted to enter the Promised Land.—Ps. 106:32, 33.
Especially should one work at self-control. Learning to exercise self-control in all of life’s activities, such as in eating, drinking, in recreation and pleasure will help one to exercise self-control when under pressure. When you feel yourself becoming disturbed, resolve not to speak or act until you are calm. As the psalmist David counseled: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, . . . and keep silent.”—Ps. 4:4.
And what an aid love of neighbor is to being slow to anger! The Bible tells us that “love . . . does not become provoked. . . . It bears all things, . . . endures all things.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” That is, love forgives, it holds back from retaliating, quickly punishing another.—1 Cor. 13:4, 5, 7; 1 Pet. 4:8.
Another help is empathy. God’s Word says that “the insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.” (Prov. 19:11) If we are able to put ourselves in the place of others, it will help us to understand why they say and do certain things and this will help us to be slow to anger. Then when we are reviled, instead of reviling in return, we will bless.—1 Cor. 4:12.
When we consider all the trouble that could be avoided if people were only slow to anger—it even being good for their health—we can see how true is the inspired proverb: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment.”—Prov. 14:29.