A LOOK AT ANGER
by Dennis Davidson
We need to get control of our anger & channel it into productive instead of destructive ways. It is important to understand our anger, realize what causes it, & how to control it.
A LOOK AT ANGER
Anger is a universal human experience. It is an intense emotional reaction that may express itself through frustration, irritability, annoyance, impatience, blowing of steam, shouting, intimidating, insensitivity, fretting, quitting, back-bitting, depression. Thus there are many passages in Proverbs that focus on anger. We need to get control of our anger and channel it into productive instead of destructive ways. It is important to understand our anger, realize what causes it, & how to control it.
In his autobiography, Number 1, Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend.
Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him. When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt.
“I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!” Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, “We can’t do that!” But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted.
When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too.
“What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled.
Martin yelled back, face red with anger, “We’ll show him! I just killed two of his cows!
Anger… can be dangerously contagious. As Proverbs puts it, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs
In Proverb 14:17 the emphasis is on a result of a lost temper. “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.”
The quick-tempered or impatient man readily loses control of his temper. When a man allows his anger to run unchecked he will not act in a wise thought out manner. Flying off the handle causes a person to do & say things, which he may later regret & be unable to undo. The Hebrew word temper comes from the noun nostrils implying the flaring of the nostrils in anger. It has been correctly said that when your temper boils over, you usually end up in hot water. We have seen it over & over again in our lives. We must learn to control our anger before it grows from a weakness into a habit of deceitful scheming.
Proverb 14:29 contrasts the slow to anger (patient) with the quick tempered (impatient). “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”
[ “Quick-tempered” is literally “short of spirit.”] What does anger do to objectivity? Anger obscures the facts & makes us subjective & emotional. To see calmly is to see clearly or with understanding. Let me illustrate.
A man from Michigan had an idea for removing a TREE STUMP from the yard of a friend. He decided to use some dynamite he had stored away in his house. It did the trick. The explosion turned the stump into an airborne missile that traveled 163 feet down range before crashing through a neighbor’s roof. The stump opened a 3-foot hole in the roof, split the rafters, and pushed through the ceiling of the dining room.
If we are honest, we can see ourselves in the actions of the dynamite user. We have used explosive words and actions to try to solve problems, which only made things worse. We get action, but we leave much damage in our wake.
We are not the first to let anger make trouble for us. It happened to people in the Bible too. Moses, for instance, became extremely frustrated with his murmuring followers (Num. 20:10). So, instead of speaking to the rock to get water, as the Lord had instructed him, he angrily struck it twice (v. 11). He did get water from the rock, but there was a problem-Moses had disobeyed God. Because of this angry response, God told Moses he could not enter the Promised Land (v. l2).
Anger, like dynamite, is explosive. Unless it is handled with wisdom and self-control, it can do great damage. [MRD II. Our Daily Bread] When a person’s temper gets the best of him, it reveals the worst of him.
People learn better than to come to the rescue of an angry person. Proverb 19:19 teaches us that anger stirs us to do foolish and destructive things. “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”
Anger is one of the most common and destructive emotions. In our hard-driving American society, anger is sometimes viewed as a virtue. We will be nice and friendly until someone crosses us, or we’re calm and controlled until something doesn’t go our way- and then we have the right to be angry.
We are taught by some psychologists that spontaneous explosions of anger can be therapeutic–can help us to get things off our chest and to feel better. While it certainly is true that not all anger is wrong (Jesus got angry), the Bible also makes it clear that we are not to be under the control of anger. “A fool vents all his feeling, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11).
Again Proverb 22:24 warns us of associating with hot tempered people. “Do not associate with a man given to anger or go with a hot-tempered man,” Verse 25 tells us what happens to us if we do associate with hot tempered people. “Or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (NASV).
The warning here is against being a friend or even associating with a hot-tempered man (lit. “an owner or possessor of anger”(19:19), or one easily angered. The reason for not associating because such an association leads a person to take on wrathful ways [which are foolish (14:17, 29), divisive (15:18), and sinful (29:22)]. Anger and bitterness are contagious. Don’t be friends with angry people because you’ll start to agree with them. When you do you become ensnared (29:6) in events and caught up in a way of life that is hard to get out of.
Levelheadedness, control of temper, and patience are requisites for leadership. One way to cultivate these traits is to avoid “friendship” with those whose lives are stamped by temper and anger. “An angry man” (lit., an “owner of anger”) and “a furious man” (lit., a “man of heats”) are not persons who occasionally let off excess steam. They are steam engines with subnormal boiling points and extra loads of fuel. Anger is their path of life (“ways”). To walk that road with them is to put your whole stability and equilibrium in jeopardy, since their path is laced by traps which any misstep will trigger. [Hubbard, David. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol 15: Proverbs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989, S. 364]
2ND ANGER STIRS UP STRIFE.
Proverb 15:18 teaches that anger people are divisive. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
The hot-tempered man [lit., a man of heat] blows up like Mt. Vesuvius The contrast is not between opinion but between two kinds of people, one hot-tempered the other slow to anger.
In contrast to the angry man is the one who is slow to anger. The calm man has his anger under control. In His presence quarrels die. Contention cannot exist without someone feeding the flame.
[Proverb 20:2 “The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.” ]
[Proverb 26:21 “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.”]
Proverb 29:8 indicates that anger inflames situations and places. “Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.”
Mockers (1:22) laugh at the upright and stir up (“fan or blow on”) trouble. Mockers keep things in an uproar. These troublemakers get others angry and incite rebellion. (“anger” and “angry” in 29:11, 22.) The wise, however, help calm a city by averting anger and its rebellious results. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, p. 967.]
Proverb 29:22 warns that hot head people cause sin to abound. “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”
An angry hot-tempered person causes strife (26:21; 30:33) and commits many sins. These sins could include cursing, insulting others, misusing God’s name, being rude, lacking kindness, being cruel or proud.
Proverb 30:33 once again teaches that anger produces strife. “For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife.”
As sure as churning milk makes butter and the twisting of a nose brings blood, so the agitation and stirring up of anger produces strife.
3RD SOME SOLUTIONS FOR ANGER.
A solution for anger is proposed in Proverb 10:12. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
Hatred results in the stirring or raising up of dissension (6:14) because people who despise each other can rarely work or live together in peace. If you hate someone you look for excuses to bad mouth or start in on him. The gossip fiend is at work everywhere, in homes, offices, politics and churches. It is like a subterraneous fire that smolders out disgusts, dislikes, envyings, coldness and selfishness.
Love contributes toward peace because it covers or forgives the faults of others (17:9). It does not dwell on those faults (1 Cor. 13:5; James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8). [The Hebrew word translated “covereth” is kacah, which means “to overwhelm” (Proverbs 10:6, 11)]. When we see shortcomings in others, the solution is to overwhelm them with love. For we who have been forgive so much must forgive others (Col. 3:18).
A promoter of strife magnifies the faults of other (and we all have them). If you love someone, you give them the benefit of the doubt. If you hate someone, you don’t. Love covers a multitude of sins [Prov 17:9; 1 Cor 13:4–7; James 5:20; 1 Pet 4:8].
The message of Jesus is simple yet astounding: Love your enemies. Do good to those who mistreat you. Repay evil with kindness. When Christians live by these principles, he will keep his heart free of hatred no matter how others feel toward him.
Proverb 15:1 teaches that angry outbursts are divisive. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Notice the contrast. A gentle (soft) answer can dispel a potentially tense situation. Such a conciliatory response in a tense situation is not easy. It requires forethought, patience and self-control. A harsh (lit., “hurtful”) word though arouses rather than dissolves anger.
In Proverb 16:32 having patience and a controlled temper is honored above being a great warrior. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
In a land where safety depended on might and skill in warfare, this statement may seem surprising. Yet conquering oneself (14:17, 29; 25:28; 29:11) is of greater virtue than conquering a city.
If you’re slow to anger, or are self-controlled, you possess an ability so great in God’s eyes that it’s more valuable than the ability to defeat an entire city.
Proverb19:11 teaches us the value of discretion in controlling anger. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”
A prudent, patient man is not easily upset by people who offend him. The word discretion refers to insight. You must first have insight to impart insight. Discretion makes it possible for a man to control his anger & see what should be done & how it should be done. He overlooks offenses (12:16), knowing that to harbor resentment or attempt revenge only leads to more trouble. Overlooking them is honorable and brings him glory.
[Proverb 21:14 “A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.”]
When God’s Word shapes our thinking and guides our choices, we’ll discover that His way is always better than the way of the world. With gratitude, praise God that He has given up His anger against us because of Christ.
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