When Tempers Flare
IN NEW YORK city, “A Kew Gardens man, furious at neighbors for playing loud music, shot four people and then killed himself.” On the other side of the world, in Osaka, Japan, “a driver was shot to death with a pistol when he blew his horn at a car that stopped suddenly in front of him.”
Likely, you have never lost control of yourself to this extent. And obviously you want to avoid such a tragedy. But can you say that you always control your spirit? Should you make an effort to do so? Actually, is there anything that can be done about it?
MORE THAN CONTROLLING OUR TEMPER
The Bible clearly encourages control of our spirit. It 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) The Bible also condemns loss of control, saying: “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” (Prov. 25:28) But what is involved in a person’s controlling his spirit?
The controlling of our spirit evidently conveys a deeper meaning than simply holding our temper. The Bible often uses the word “spirit” to denote our dominant traits, our motives and disposition. This is true in the Biblical terms “mildness of spirit,” “quiet and mild spirit,” “faithful in spirit” and “haughty spirit.”—1 Cor. 4:21; 1 Pet. 3:4; Prov. 11:13; 16:18.
For example, if a person has hatred in his heart but because of the lack of opportunity restrains himself from committing murder, has he really controlled his spirit? Is hatred all right so long as we do not give vent to it? Jesus answers, No! While condemning murder, his words also imply condemnation of the hateful spirit that can lead to it.—See Matthew 5:21, 22.
At times we may be able to hold our tongue and our temper and walk away from an unpleasant situation without a word. Yet if several days or even weeks later we still brood over the incident and get upset over it, does this not indicate that we have not really controlled our spirit? If a person says, “I can forgive but never forget,” is he truly controlling his spirit? And what about someone who, although not getting angry, becomes morose and sulky, refusing to talk with those whom he considers have hurt him?
We cannot disregard feelings of frustration or envy that come up in our heart, or simply dismiss them as “normal.” These feelings are our true “spirit” or dominant personality. It is these inner emotions that we need to control if we are to please God.
To show the damaging effects of uncontrolled inner emotions, Jesus Christ said: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.” He then continues: “These are the things defiling a man. (Matt. 15:19, 20) Yes, to control our spirit means to control our “heart,” that is, our very attitudes and motives.
So, then, it is not sufficient simply to restrain ourselves when under provocation. To please God, we really must control our spirit. But how?