You Can Control Your Temper
A man was calmly going about his business for the day. Suddenly, his pulse rate shot up. The pupils of his eyes dilated. His blood pressure rose. His facial expression changed and he started to breathe rapidly. Chemical changes occurred within his body. What happened? Did he have a seizure? No, the man merely lost his temper.
When people lose their temper, a personality change occurs, and unpleasant things are almost sure to result. One young lady will never forget the time she lost her temper. It was her wedding day. As she was leaving the reception with her new husband, she had an argument with him. Then she ran him over with the car, killing him—a tragic result from a lack of control.
The Bible, too, reports that many sins have resulted from the loss of temper. Remember, Cain “grew hot with great anger” and killed his younger brother, Abel. Then there was evil King Herod who “fell into a great rage” and had the baby boys in Bethlehem and vicinity murdered.—Gen. 4:5-8; Matt. 2:16-18.
Hence, “fits of anger” are listed in the Bible as a ‘work of the flesh,’ something Christians have to fight to overcome. (Gal. 5:19, 20) The degree to which we can control our temper partly measures our progress as Christians. That is why men who have a serious problem in this regard are not used as elders in the Christian congregation.—Titus 1:7.
Should a Christian, then, never feel angry? Well, the Bible tells us that Jehovah God is sometimes angry. (Ps. 110:5) Jesus was angry or indignant at the insensibility and lack of compassion shown by the Pharisees. (Mark 3:4-6) Hence, a Christian may have a feeling of anger if, for example, he sees Jehovah’s name being defamed or a fellow human being ill-treated. But he is advised: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26) It is when anger gets out of control, and a person loses his temper, that sin is likely to result.
Remember the case of Simeon and Levi, sons of the patriarch Jacob. Their sister Dinah was raped by a young man named Shechem from a nearby city. Was that a reasonable cause for anger? Certainly. But the reaction of the brothers was extreme. They killed all the men in the city, including Shechem.—Gen. chap. 34.
This illustrates an important point. Often there is real provocation for anger. But losing self-control can lead to words and deeds that are later regretted. Then we have not one but two problems: the original irritation and the angry reaction. Often, the outburst of temper will be remembered longer than the provocation that led to it. In the case of Simeon and Levi, which do you think had greater effect on the minds of the inhabitants of those regions—the rape of Dinah, or the murder of all the men of the city?
On the other hand, controlling one’s anger, even under provocation, can yield good results. A certain Christian woman, for example, was married to an unbeliever who was a gambler. Because of his gambling, he wasted much of the family finances. One day he told his wife that he was going out to sell fish. When he did not return for some time, she went to look for him, and found him, not selling fish, but in the middle of a noisy game of Mah-Jongg. What a provocation! She did not scold him in front of his friends, however. And when he eventually got home, she merely explained to him gently the problems his vice was causing for the family. The husband was impressed with this example of a “quiet and mild spirit.” He abandoned his gambling and eventually became a Christian.—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
CONTROLLING THE TEMPER
Christians are advised: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Eph. 4:31) True, people are different. Some are quite placid, while others are naturally hot-tempered. Nevertheless, many seemingly placid people could testify that at one time they, too, had a problem with self-control. However, they solved it by following fine Scriptural counsel, such as that at Psalm 4:4; Proverbs 15:1 and Pr 22:24; and Romans 12:18.
In this regard, it is good to remember how the quality of love can help us. No one likes to be the object of “anger and wrath and screaming.” (Eph. 4:31) Hence, if we truly ‘love our neighbor as ourself,’ we will not want to subject other people to such unpleasant experiences. (Matt. 22:39) A parent losing his temper can terrify a small child. An appointed Christian elder doing the same can nullify the effects of his good work in the congregation. Someone may say: ‘Well, that is the way I am. I cannot help myself.’ But the Bible says: “Love . . . endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) A deep love for our fellows will move us to fight any tendency to be hot-tempered.
Finally, and very importantly, Christians can call for God’s help by means of his holy spirit. Qualities such as love, peace, long-suffering and mildness—which will help us to overcome our lack of self-control—are fruits of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22-24) So if a bad temper is a problem personally, why not plead with Jehovah God for help? Ask for his spirit to strengthen you to control your emotions. With Jehovah’s help, you can succeed!
Yes, we must be “slow about wrath,” since “man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.” (Jas. 1:19, 20) A bad temper can make us look ridiculous. can damage our relationship with others and can betray a lack of love. Moses, because of losing self-control on one occasion, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. (Num. 20:9-13) Do not allow a lack of self-control to affect your blessings. Rather, always bear in mind King David’s words: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”—Ps. 37:8, 9.