“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.” (James 1:19-20, ESV)
Temper tantrums are not cute, but toddlers and young children use them when they can’t get their own way. They may kick, scream, throw themselves on the floor, or even bang their heads. I once babysat a toddler who was a master of temper tantrums. The parents called from the restaurant to check on Miss Tantrum and seemed utterly surprised at the complete silence in the background. I ignored her fit and she got tired of her performance not working—as it apparently did with mom and dad.
While adults may not bang their heads or throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming, we’ve all seen eruptions of anger that showed a definite lack of self-control. It’s uncomfortable, even embarrassing, to watch. Extreme cases may demonstrate hostility, recklessness, or even violence. Hopefully, none of us have reached that level of anger and lack of control, but we probably do have stresses and irritations—let’s call them “triggers”—that cause us to respond with impatience and anger at times.
Whether we admit it or not, our words and actions affect others. That’s why Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us there are certain things we need to banish from our lives and other things we need to embrace.
“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” (ESV).
If we do a word search, we will find the Bible has a lot to say about anger. The word is found 234 times in the King James Version. But the good news is, God’s Word provides steps we can use every day to live in a more peaceable manner. James 1:19-20, our key verse above, simplifies it to just three steps.
Quick to Hear
It’s easy to let the other person know just what we think. It’s not always so easy to take time to listen to their point of view. Proverbs 18:2 tells us, “A fool takes not pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (ESV). If we are wise, we will take time to listen and try to understand what is going on with the other person.
Slow to Speak
Think first, then speak. Our words are powerful and can either heal or hurt, so do not be hasty in responding to a situation. Proverbs 15:4 reminds us, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (ESV).
Slow to Anger
Stay calm. To keep the situation from escalating, you may need to walk away for a while. Give yourself a “time out.” It may also be helpful to identify anything that triggers your anger and what you can do to control these triggers. “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV).
We really make a mess of things if we get these three steps backwards. Problems escalate when we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. We need to step back and check how we respond in tense situations. When we follow the biblical steps, we can bring peace into a difficult time.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can remember as a child of God is the fruit of the Spirit is not anger, but peace (Galatians 5:22-23). The two emotions are opposites and cannot coexist. A Spirit led life is a peaceful life.
Prayer: Lord, I want my life to reflect Your righteousness. Show me any areas that I need to submit to You. Let my words and actions bring peace and healing into the lives of others, not anger and hostility. Also help me respond in a peaceful manner to those who have allowed anger and hatred to fill their lives. I want to reflect Your love in all my actions.
(Note: Take a few moments to discover more that Scripture teaches us about controlling our anger. Read Psalm 37:8-9; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 15:1; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Ephesians 4:26-31; James 3:17-18; James 4:1-2.)