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Wisdom for the Angry Person

Life’s unpredictability makes it hard to be holy.

We were having a reasonably good day at work when we were surprised someone’s cutting words in a meeting. Or we’re caught off guard by someone’s bad behavior on the road. Or we’re annoyed by all the grumpiness at the dinner table—and quickly we feel ourselves losing our grip.

That’s dangerous, and that’s why Solomon cautions against this in Proverbs 14:17, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.” Without advance warning, there can be a sudden gust of rage inflicted on unsuspecting people: our children, friends, husband, wife, students, co-workers.

When we surrender to anger and we act impulsively there’s no telling what might happen, but one thing is almost certain: we’re going to do or say something sinful.

An insult or offence confronts us with one of each day’s countless choices. Do we respond at once with anger and severity, or do we pause to take a breath—even to say a prayer—and then answer with love?

Or if we choose to say nothing at the moment of offense, do we walk away fostering a desire for revenge? This is how Proverbs 20:22 warns us,

Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

The first part of the verse exposes our natural urge for payback, when we want someone to regret whatever they did against us. Even if we never act on that desire, it can burn fiercely inside us. In the solitude of our mind, we might murder someone a hundred times over.

But Solomon directs us to take a heavenly perspective on horizontal relationships: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you” (20:22). Waiting for the LORD is the wise response to any offense or insult, because it’s the response that bows to him. We know that vengeance is the LORD’s—he’s the ultimate judge of all people and whatever they do (see Prov 11:21).

Consequently, we should lay these problems before him. If someone has spoken to you unfairly or treated you badly, put it into God’s hand. And pray to him that your bitterness doesn’t grow. Don’t make revenge your project but wait for the LORD when you’ve been hurt.

The many dangers of anger are contrasted with the blessings that flow from patience. It says in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Good sense means that we step carefully when we’re navigating our relationships.

For example, if you’re aware of your own short temper, having discretion means that in you will guard yourself against bursts of anger.

Good sense means you’ll take time to carefully weigh the offense or the annoyance, and you’ll ask yourself, “How much of a reaction does this really need? In my sin, haven’t I done similar things in the past?” Solomon’s words are so wise: “Good sense makes one slow to anger.”

There is similar wisdom in Proverbs 17:27, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

In a conflict, silence can be a proof of wisdom, while calm patience is another sure proof of humility before God.

We should contemplate if this issue is really something worth arguing over. Sometimes it is—but knowing the human heart, we ought to be ready to admit that an issue is not worth breaking fellowship over, and that it is more important to pursue peace with all people.

In all our relationships, God calls us to cultivate the self-denying spirit of Christ our Savior (Phil 2:1-8). Christ’s life and ministry were marked by his kindness and compassion. He was always willing to receive sinners and restore the broken. The Lord showed himself to be a wise and gentle person.

By daily putting our anger to death, we strive to be wise and gentle like our Lord.


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