“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV)
A quiet dinner out with a friend ended suddenly as a family of four was seated in an adjoining booth. No, it wasn’t the children who disturbed our peace. They were quiet and seemed well-behaved. It was the father. His voice was harsh, angry, and relentless. The target of his anger was the young son, possibly seven or eight years old. What horrible deed had the child done to merit such anger? He wanted a soft drink with his meal. I can only imagine their home life.
We live in an angry world. It has become common to read of another instance of anger breaking loose and spilling onto some innocent bystander. We even coined the phrase “road rage” to describe the aggressive, sometimes deadly, anger displayed by drivers.
Anger is a destructive emotion and is often directed at those nearest us— family, coworkers, or even our brothers and sisters in Christ. If someone says or does something we don’t like, they may receive a mean look, a rude comment, or a raised voice. Sometimes, the angry person goes silent, pouts, or shuts others out.
Is there an antidote for anger? The Bible gives us the answer.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As a Spirit-filled believer, we can control our actions and emotions. We can control that impulse to react in anger when we face a situation we don’t like. These nine attributes of a Spirit-led life work together to help us as we strive to become more like the Lord.
Just as the young boy in the restaurant was the target of his father’s anger, sometimes we become the recipient of another’s angry outburst. Although we cannot control their anger, we can control how we respond to it. It starts with the key verse above that speaks of “a soft (gentle) answer.”
Here are a few ways to handle an angry situation.
- Stay calm and do not raise your voice.
- Pause before responding and whisper a quick prayer.
- Never respond to anger with anger. Be kind.
- Guard your heart against grudges and bitterness.
- Cultivate a forgiving spirit.
Are these things easy? No. But they are Christ-like. Will we still get angry sometimes? Probably. We’re human and life can be frustrating at times. But we can practice ways to overcome any tendencies toward an angry spirit.
James 1:19-20 gives us a quick three-point lesson that we can use to deal with anger. It will help whether we are the one who feels anger rising or if we become the object of another’s anger. It’s a good verse to memorize and to utilize whenever we face an angry situation.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV)
Sometimes we get this backwards. We are slow to hear what others have to say but quick to jump in with our thoughts and quick to become angry. Remember, “quick—slow—slow” is the right way to respond.
We are all a work in progress, but with God’s help we can face difficult situations with love and kindness.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32, ESV)
Lord, help me to intentionally build up others with encouraging words rather than tearing them down with angry words. Remind me to always respond to difficult situations with kindness and forgiveness rather than anger and bitterness. Even when I feel wronged, help me to love like You love!