Being Slow to Anger
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Reading: James 1
Key Verses: 1:19-20
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
I don’t know about you, but this one is sometimes hard for me–especially when I’m driving. These days it seems that drivers are reckless and tailgating is the norm. Because I have treated so many brain-injured individuals from motor vehicle accidents, when drivers don’t pay attention to changes in weather, but insist on exceeding the speed limit, tailgating, or constantly changing lanes without signaling, I get irritated. Sometimes words emerge from my mouth that I am not accustomed to saying on a regular basis and it shocks even me. I am not always quick to engage in road rage, but I can’t say it doesn’t happen more often than I would like.
But, this scripture and others like it remind me that anger is not God’s will. God does not approve of our anger and I am sure that He does not like the results of what happens when we engage in anger. Anger usually breeds a response that neither helps the situation nor neutralizes it—anger causes trouble when allowed to emerge.
Road rage has an immediate cause and effect, but anger that brews is even worse. When we allow ourselves to hold a grudge or to be so angry that we seethe underneath the surface, we hurt ourselves and we sin against God. Anger that is not dealt with can result in deadly action.
And when I have been angry and spoken boldly in anger with someone who is wise enough to listen and to respond calmly, I usually settle down. It is the wise person who diffuses a volatile situation by being quick to listen, alert to the signs of anger and to respond only after listening carefully and without emotionally engaging in defensive response. It’s a technique we would be advised to learn in dealing with others who are angry.
We are advised in the scriptures to forgive each other and to treat each other as we would want to be treated. If we follow God’s commandments to first love Him and then to love our neighbor as ourselves, it would be hard to stay angry and to keep a grudge. Because when we are wronged or have wronged another, we should do our best to make it right again. Holding a grudge can give us physical ailments and it surely can separate us from God, because it is sin against His will.
And if we can’t make it right with the other person, what then? Sometimes we can only ask God for forgiveness, let go of that anger and let Him handle the situation. He desires peace for us in our hearts and souls. Through prayer and spending time with God, He can help us deal with our anger, release us from the bondage of sin that anger brings, and can help us to forgive ourselves and others when anger becomes a problem. If we spend enough time with God, we learn to have compassion and understanding and often that helps diffuse anger, because when we can empathize with others, we treat them better. If we send out messages of love and not messages of anger, we receive in kind. Learning to communicate more effectively diffuses anger. We teach others how to treat us and how we treat others is often how we will be treated also.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, the words of the scripture tell us clearly how to behave with regard to anger: “to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Please help me memorize this and to hold it close to my heart, that I may do your will. May all that I do be done in love. Amen.