A college basketball coach is fired because of his uncontrolled anger.
A child throws a temper tantrum for not getting his way.
A mother gets into a shouting match with her son because of his messy room.
ALL of us have seen people get angry, and no doubt we ourselves have become irate at one time or another. While we may view anger as a negative emotion that should be suppressed, we often feel that we have a valid reason to be upset, especially when someone appears to overstep our sense of justice. An article by the American Psychological Association even suggests that “anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion.”
Such a view may seem plausible when we consider what the Christian apostle Paul wrote under divine inspiration. Acknowledging that there may be times when people become angry, he said: “Be wrathful, but do not sin; do not let the sun set while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26) In view of this, should we vent our anger, or should we do what we can to control it?
SHOULD YOU GET ANGRY?
When Paul gave that counsel about anger, he apparently had in mind the words of the psalmist who wrote: “Be agitated, but do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4) What, though, was the intent of Paul’s inspired admonition? He went on to explain: “Put away from yourselves every kind of malicious bitterness, anger, wrath, screaming, and abusive speech, as well as everything injurious.” (Ephesians 4:31) Paul was in fact encouraging Christians to avoid giving vent to anger. Interestingly, the American Psychological Association article goes on to say: “Research has found that ‘letting it rip’ with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you . . . resolve the situation.”
How, then, can we “put away” anger and all its bad effects? Wise King Solomon of ancient Israel wrote: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) How does “the insight of a man” help when rage wells up within him?
HOW INSIGHT SLOWS DOWN ANGER
Insight is the ability to see into a situation. To have insight means to see beyond the surface of a matter. How does that help when we are offended or provoked?
When we see an injustice, we may well become indignant. However, if we follow our emotions and react violently, we may end up hurting ourselves or someone else. Just as an uncontrolled fire can burn down a house, the flare of anger may destroy our reputation and our relationships with others, even with God. So when we feel anger welling up inside us, it is time to take a deeper look into the situation. Seeing a more complete picture of what is happening will surely help us to control our emotions.
Solomon’s father, King David, narrowly escaped incurring bloodguilt in connection with a man named Nabal, thanks to David’s being helped to see into the situation. David and his men protected Nabal’s sheep in the Judean wilderness. When the time came for shearing the flock, David asked Nabal for some provisions. At that, Nabal answered: “Do I have to take my bread and my water and the meat that I butchered for my shearers and give it to men who come from who knows where?” What an insult! When David heard those words, he, with some 400 men, set out to annihilate Nabal and his household.—1 Samuel 25:4-13.
Nabal’s wife, Abigail, learned about the incident and went out to see David. Upon meeting David and his men, she fell at his feet and said: “Let your servant girl speak to you, and listen to the words of your servant girl.” Then, she explained to David how senseless Nabal was and pointed out that David would regret taking revenge and shedding blood.—1 Samuel 25:24-31.
What insight did David gain from Abigail’s words that helped to defuse the tense situation? First, he saw that Nabal was a senseless man by nature, and second, David saw that he could incur bloodguilt if he avenged himself. Like David, you may be infuriated by something. What should you do? “Take a few moments to breathe deeply and count to 10,” suggests a Mayo Clinic article on anger management. Yes, stop and think what the cause of the problem is and what the consequences of your intended action might be. Let insight slow down your anger—even dispel it.—1 Samuel 25:32-35.
In a similar way, many today have been helped to control their anger. Sebastian explained how, as a 23-year-old inmate in a Polish prison, he learned to control his temper and strong emotions through a study of the Bible. “First, I think about the problem,” he said. “Then, I try to apply the Bible’s counsel. I found that the Bible is the best guidebook.”
Setsuo followed basically the same tactic. He said: “I used to shout at others when I was irritated by them at work. Now that I’ve studied the Bible, instead of shouting I ask myself: ‘Who is at fault anyway? Am I not the one causing the problem?’” Thinking about such questions slowed down his anger, and he was able to contain the strong feelings that welled up in his heart.
The emotion of anger may be very strong, but counsel from God’s Word is stronger still. By applying the Bible’s wise counsel and praying for God’s help, you too can let your insight slow down or control your anger.