Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7, verse 9
I’ve said before that I struggle with a hot temper. Middle age crept up on me – as it does on all of us – and I see now that, for me, learning to control my temper is a function of maturity. God bless the young people who from early ages are self-controlled and wise enough to know when to step back. I wasn’t one of them, and I’ve been blessed to learn that anger is a reaction, an emotion but also a tool for us to use in our lives.
Today’s verse is talking about more than that. Temporal anger flashes at us to react when things happen. It’s a way of venting, of releasing things that probably should be released, just maybe in better ways. The second half of the verse mentions this, that anger is a thing of the moment that is up close and personal with us. It says that fools let anger control them, or let anger motivate them. It’s foolishness, a chasing after the wind.
But that isn’t really the full meaning of the verse. Key on that word “quickly” and then look at “spirit.” Noodle that for a second and let’s take a walk.
Our actions affect others; you and I both know this. My hot-button temper has been passed on to my son; this truly is one of the great regrets of my life, but I thank and praise God that He is working with my son early on, reshaping him and helping him to see about that anger. It used to be that he would throw tantrums; that lasted until adolescence. After that came the sullen stare of a disgruntled teenager; we still get this from time to time, though it’s gradually started to abate even though he’s only sixteen. After high school started, more adult reactions came about to his frustration, anger and angst. Not all of those have been constructive or positive.
I believe, however, that there are forces warring for his spirit. He’s learning to confront his anger, to accept it when it happens, and to deal with it. I’m proud of him for that. It’s a sign of maturity, and I look at it as positive fruit of his spirit. Such a development is an improvement on the way things used to be. Hopefully, with prayer and time, he will see how this can reshape his world for the better.
My wife and I read a daily Bible study, during the week from one book and from another on Sundays. Sunday’s dealt with anger, and how to deal with it. The writer advised four steps…please note that, whenever a self-help or even devotional writer records how many steps it takes to do something, they usually lose my attention. In order, the steps were to confront your anger, separate the wrongdoer from the wrong, let go of the past, and then keep forgiving. I stink at all four of those, but I’m worst at number two. It’s hard for me to separate the wrong from the wrongdoer when someone has done something that hurt me. I wrap up the two in a neat package and completely ignore the all-true maxim of ‘hate the sin but love the sinner.’ Without acknowledging the need to do step two, however, the other three steps are misplaced and hollow; without acknowledging step 2, going on to step 3 and letting go of that quick anger only fuels the anger and helps me to hold on to it.
These last 2 weeks have been full of political talk in America. I watched much of last week’s convention in Tampa and part of this week’s party in Charlotte. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, there’s a lot of talk flying around that can get you angry if you let it. Some of it is just politics; some is invective; some is just a bunch of lies. I follow politics closely and find myself starting to boil every time I turn on certain channels or pan to some stations on the radio dial. Thus, for me this is a good verse to remember. Foolishness is the outcome for people who let their quick temper take over. It’s stupid to get angry over small things; it’s stupid to not get angry over things that should cause genuine outrage. More than either of these two things, it’s ungodly to let one’s temper reign where God should.