Control Your Spirit!
“ANGRY, cynical people are five times as likely to die under 50 as people who are calm and trusting, a psychiatrist has found.” So reported The New York Times of January 17, 1989. Dr. Redford B. Williams, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, “based his findings on numerous studies.” “Trusting hearts last longer, he said, because they are protected from the ravages of the sympathetic nervous system,” reported the Times.
Anger can raise blood pressure, cause respiratory problems, and have other bad effects. Rage can upset thinking processes, and the aftermath is often a period of extreme mental depression. Adverse, too, are the effects of anger on a person’s spiritual health. No wonder the Bible says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Proverbs 14:30) Yes, it is healthful to control your spirit. But note some other reasons for doing so.
Pursue a Course of Wisdom
Anyone in his right mind wants to act wisely. One way to do this is to display self-control. In this regard, Proverbs 29:11 states: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”
In the Bible the word “spirit” often refers to the dominant attitude that motivates a person to pursue a certain course. “A stupid one” lets out all his spirit, for he has no mastery over it. He lets his anger explode without regard for the consequences. The spirit within a stupid person may first cause him to take on an angry countenance. Then his spirit may vent itself in violent speech and in actions that are foolish.
However, the wise person keeps his spirit “calm to the last.” He controls it and carefully weighs what might occur if he gives way to anger. Even if he has good reason to become angry, he realizes that acting instantly while in that indignant frame of mind might cause great harm. Hence, he exercises self-control and holds himself back from a careless, unrestrained expression of his anger. He looks to Jehovah for help, perhaps saying an urgent, silent prayer. At length, for the best interests of all concerned, the wise person is able to still his anger and to reason clearly in line with the Scriptures and God’s will. Moreover, the wise individual realizes that he should not harbor anger because that might harden him into an unwise mode of action and the committing of sin.
A wise person also applies the apostle Paul’s counsel: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27) If you should justifiably become angry, do not maintain a provoked state, letting the sun set with you in that condition. Why? Because you would thereby allow place for Satan the Devil to take advantage of you, possibly inducing you to do something evil and to experience God’s disapproval. (Psalm 37:8, 9) Rather, control your spirit and act quickly to settle difficulties that may have aroused your anger.—Matthew 18:15-17.
Be Cool of Spirit
Another proverb says: “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge, and a man of discernment is cool of spirit.” (Proverbs 17:27) A person possessing knowledge of God’s Word ‘holds back his sayings’ and does not let his words fly freely, in a torrent, especially when he is perturbed. Aware of his relationship with Jehovah and his proper place in God’s organization, he will not let the heat of anger overpower him. Instead, “a man of discernment” endeavors to keep cool and balanced in thought. With such a spirit, you too can master circumstances that would drive a foolish person into sin.
Along these lines, we read: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” (Proverbs 14:29) Being impatient when emotionally stirred up can lead to foolish actions. How much better it is to consider what could result from unbridled speech or conduct! Otherwise, a person may act impatiently and do what is unwise, thus “exalting foolishness.” Therefore, be “slow to anger,” as God is, and you will avoid impatient and unwise actions.—Exodus 34:6.
Because of pride, a person may be inconsiderate of others and even hot-tempered. So we read: “A man given to anger stirs up contention, and anyone disposed to rage has many a transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22) If an individual does not control his spirit but is “given to anger,” he may ‘stir up contention,’ even among friends. And a person “disposed to rage has many a transgression.” Yes, he is sure to commit sin—something a wise and godly person would want to avoid.
Never forget that Jehovah disapproves of pride and of haughty outbursts of anger. (Proverbs 16:18) It is far better to seek God’s help to endure a trial and act humbly than to yield to prideful anger or rage.—Proverbs 29:23.
Act With Mildness
Humility is needed if you happen to be reprimanded by someone in authority. At such a time, what might be your first impulse? Perhaps to respond with hasty, ill-advised speech. But the Bible counsels: “If the spirit of a ruler should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.” (Ecclesiastes 10:4) How much wiser it is to reply with mildness! Indeed, “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Proverbs 15:1) It takes self-control to respond with mildness, but this wise course smooths out problems and promotes peaceful relations.
If you are the object of an undeserved reprimand, it is hoped that the person in authority will allow you to explain matters. Of course, any explanation should be made in a mild spirit with the hope that a mistaken view would thus be corrected. The individual in authority would need to control his spirit to permit such an explanation, and this would show that he has wisdom and strength.
Whether a Christian is in a position of authority or not, he should remember that “as a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” (Proverbs 25:28) A person who is not mild-tempered and does not control his spirit is vulnerable to the invasion of improper thoughts that could move him to act in wrong ways. Jesus Christ, who set the perfect example, was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) Moreover, mildness is a fruit of God’s holy spirit, for which Christians should pray.—Luke 11:13; Galatians 5:22, 23.
Why Control Your Spirit?
We appreciate mild words, but often we do not know what has motivated an angry outburst. Why, an unprincipled individual may even succeed in concealing his anger and his determination to get even with another person for a real or an imagined offense! Hypocritically, he may be waiting for an opportune time to say something damaging about the person for whom he has developed hatred. Surely, a Christian must not allow that spirit to develop in him, for the apostle John wrote: “He that hates his brother is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” John also said: “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer, and you know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.”—1 John 2:11; 3:15.
If pride, hypocrisy, or any other ungodly trait is concealed, such camouflage does not fool God. Not even loud claims or a show of self-righteousness can hide from God what is in the heart. Says Proverbs 16:2: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of spirits.” God is never deceived.
For your own welfare and for the Scriptural reasons we have discussed, then, be like Jesus and other wise individuals who have avoided pride and acted with mildness. By all means, control your spirit!