‘Have Your Say in Your Heart’
AT TIMES the words and actions of others can make a person very angry. When faced with such provocation, what should you do? The Bible recommends: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, upon your bed, and keep silent.”—Ps. 4:4.
There is real wisdom in this counsel. A person may rightly be disturbed. But it is especially then that self-control is needed. The danger exists that one will lash out against the person causing the disturbance, retaliating in kind and thus sinning against him. This could lead to a violent quarrel. In a state of great agitation people often do things that they later deeply regret. It is not uncommon these days to hear about people seriously injuring or even killing relatives and friends in a fit of anger. Yes, wise is the counsel for a person to calm his agitation during the quiet hours of the night.
So that we do not act rashly we need to give thought to the consequences of what we say or do. When God’s servant David on one occasion failed to do this and got heated up against the man, Nabal, he almost incurred bloodguilt. This is what happened:
David and his men had been as a protective wall around Nabal’s flock and shepherds. Later, in view of the kindnesses rendered to Nabal, David sent messengers to him, wishing him well and asking for whatever material aid he might want to give. Disregarding the benefits that had come to him from David and his men, Nabal screamed rebukes at the messengers. Receiving report of this, David determined to kill Nabal along with all the males of his household. But Nabal’s wife Abigail quickly got a supply of food ready, approached David and pleaded with him not to take matters into his own hands.—1 Sam. 25:5-31.
Her words reached David’s heart, prompting him to say: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt and having my own hand come to my salvation.”—1 Sam. 25:32, 33.
As in the case of David, keeping one’s anger in check is not always easy. It does help greatly, however, to avoid taking oneself too seriously and not to have an exaggerated concern for one’s name. This is well illustrated in the case of King Saul. When first chosen to be king of Israel, he was a modest and humble man. Prior to his anointing as king he said to the prophet Samuel: “Am I not a Benjaminite of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the most insignificant of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Sam. 9:21) This modest attitude later helped him to avoid rash action when certain men talked disrespectfully about him. The Scriptures report: “Some worthless fellows said, ‘How can this man save us?’ And they despised him, and brought him no present. But he held his peace.”—1 Sam. 10:27, Common Bible.
Important, too, in calming one’s agitation is remembering one’s relationship with the Creator. Jehovah God does not look with favor upon those who rejoice over the disaster of an enemy, as such rejoicing reflects a vengeful spirit. At Proverbs 24:17, 18, we are cautioned: “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; and when he is caused to stumble, may your heart not be joyful, that Jehovah may not see and it be bad in his eyes.”
A person could jeopardize his standing with Jehovah God by permitting his agitation to grow to the point of harboring bitter animosity. Were he to do so, he would be claiming as his right something that God has reserved for himself. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.” (Rom. 12:19) That is why Proverbs 24:29 counsels: “Do not say: ‘Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him. I shall repay to each one according to his acting.’” The person who thus takes matters into his own hands could forfeit the opportunity of receiving mercy from Jehovah God when he comes into judgment.
Failure to exercise self-control may also lead to loss of personal dignity. A Bible proverb puts it this way: “It is a foolish person that makes known his vexation in the same day, but the shrewd one is covering over a dishonor.” (Prov. 12:16) One who gets overly excited about some personal affront and then acts rashly makes himself appear foolish in the eyes of others. But the wise person ignores provocative remarks and actions. By bridling his tongue and restraining his actions, he does not make a big issue about his being dishonored. The dishonor is allowed to die down as if it never occurred. The individual preserves his dignity as well as his peace of mind, and does not degrade himself by resorting to disgraceful words.
Furthermore, the one maintaining self-control gains a moral victory. This was certainly true of Jesus Christ. He could say to his disciples: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) Though faced with threats and reviling, Jesus never adopted the wicked ways of the world. Regarding him, the apostle Peter wrote: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:23) Since the world did not succeed in getting Jesus to react in kind, it went down in defeat before him. He came off as the victor. Our gaining a like victory is something truly worth while.
At times even persons responsible for our becoming disturbed can be benefited by our remaining calm. The good effect that kindness can have on them is highlighted at Proverbs 25:21, 22: “If the one hating you is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For coals are what you are raking together upon his head, and Jehovah himself will reward you.” Because of his being treated kindly, the person responsible for needless agitation may become ashamed and start to think seriously about his words and actions. This may cause him to change and may bring out his better qualities. Even if this is not the case, the person who maintains self-control and does not retaliate can look confidently to the Creator to reward him.
Truly, we are wise when we have ‘our say in our hearts’ and maintain self-control. To this end, we do well to cultivate modesty and humility. We also need to be on guard lest we become hasty in our speech and actions. Thereby we will avoid jeopardizing our standing before Jehovah God, and we will preserve our dignity, and gain a moral victory, and may even aid those responsible for provocation to change their ways for the better.