“Let Anger Alone”
IT IS not easy to keep anger in check when injustices are committed or lawless people prosper. Yet under these very circumstances the Bible urges: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.”—Ps. 37:8.
There is wisdom in ‘letting anger alone.’ Anger can be a very damaging emotion. When a person gives vent to anger, his blood pressure rises and the pulse and respiratory rates increase. When anger passes, generally everything returns to normal. But repeated outbursts of anger are obviously hard on the body. On the other hand, a person may be given to anger but keep things ‘bottled up’ inside himself. Outwardly he may seem very calm, but inwardly he may be in a state of turmoil. When that is the case, he may begin to experience bodily ailments and still deny that emotional disturbances are the cause of his affliction. Anger can thus contribute toward or aggravate a host of ills, including cardiovascular disorders, respiratory ailments, skin diseases, dental and digestive troubles, and headaches.
Besides physical problems, anger can lead to great spiritual harm by causing a person to violate God’s law. Calling attention to this danger, the Bible says: “He that is quick to anger will commit foolishness.” (Prov. 14:17) “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” (Prov. 25:28) In ancient times a city with a breached wall was defenseless, open to the invasion of enemy forces. Similarly, the person given to anger makes himself vulnerable to the invasion of improper thoughts, leading to foolish acts.
Just how dangerous anger can be is illustrated in the case of Cain. When he saw God’s favor manifested upon his brother Abel, but not upon himself, Cain became enraged. Though given divine warning, Cain yielded to wrong thinking and murdered his brother.—Gen. 4:4-8.
HOW ANGER CAN BE CONTROLLED
Certainly none of us would want to become like Cain, either in attitude or action. So we should strive to keep anger in check. This does not mean mere outward control of emotions. Control of anger starts with one’s being able to respond reasonably—without undue external or internal disturbance—when confronted with unfavorable situations.
Take the case of a person who is corrected because of being guilty of some neglect or wrong. If he lets pride get in the way, he may become very angry about this. That is what happened to Judean King Asa. When corrected by the prophet Hanani for having shown a lack of faith, Asa became very angry. He put Hanani in “the house of the stocks” and also began oppressing others of his subjects. (2 Chron. 16:7-10) Instead of giving vent to anger, Asa should have taken the reasonable view of the situation. He should have kept in mind that Hanani was speaking, not of his own originality, but as Jehovah’s messenger. It was a time for Asa to acknowledge his wrong and to express sincere repentance. Humility could have helped Asa to keep anger in check. So if we are going to heed the Bible’s counsel to “let anger alone,” we, too, need to cultivate humility.
At times people do and say things to us that are entirely uncalled for. This may upset us very much. What can we do? We do well to consider the motivations of those disturbing us.
Are they deliberately trying to get us angry? If so, we would only be playing into their hands if we were to give way to a fit of anger. Far better it would be to ignore cutting remarks or actions intended to provoke us. The counsel of Jesus Christ would then apply: “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” (Matt. 5:39) A slap on the cheek would not be intended to injure physically but to insult or provoke a fight. Hence, by reacting in kind, a person would only worsen the situation.
But what if the things disturbing us were not said or done with any intent to incite us to anger? In that case, we might reason with ourselves. Are we perhaps making an issue over trifles? Might it not be more loving just to cover over the minor offense?
On the other hand, we may have real basis for being incensed. But should not love move us to want to help the individual involved to avoid giving offense in the future? Christians are counseled: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:26, 27) If our main objective is to help the person who wronged us to overcome his weakness, we will not harbor anger against him and go beyond the bounds of proper indignation. We will not leave an opening for the Devil to take advantage of our provoked state and incite us to retaliate.
Of course, there are things about which we can do very little. In this imperfect system, many injustices occur. To get all upset about these, perhaps to the point of ruining our health, would certainly benefit no one. Rather, we can take comfort in the Bible-based assurance that Jehovah God, by means of his kingdom, will end all injustices and oppression. (Dan. 2:44) Meanwhile we can depend upon him to sustain us so as to endure any trial we might face.—Jas. 1:2-5.
Besides having a balanced view of things that can give rise to anger, our avoiding the company of those given to anger will aid us to maintain self-control. The Bible admonishes: “Do not have companionship with anyone given to anger; and with a man having fits of rage you must not enter in, that you may not get familiar with his paths and certainly take a snare for your soul.”—Prov. 22:24, 25.
On the other hand, associating with persons of calm and even temper will surely have a wholesome effect on us. Such persons do not incite others to anger by cutting remarks. Their mildness has tremendous power in putting an end to bitter disputing and overcoming stiff opposition. In their case the words of the Bible prove true: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Prov. 15:1) “One that is slow to anger quiets down quarreling.” (Prov. 15:18) “A mild tongue itself can break a bone.”—Prov. 25:15.
Truly there are sound reasons for ‘letting anger alone.’ We are benefited both physically and spiritually. May we, therefore, strive not to give occasion for others to get angry, and may we ourselves watch our associations, cultivate humility and continue to take a reasonable, balanced view toward what fellow humans may do or say.