“I’ll start with myself…”
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
You didn’t have to live very long before witnessing outbursts of anger, did you? In fact, you may have had a few yourself—early on, I mean. The older you get the more you realize that these things don’t just go away, and that anger, in all its forms, is something best dealt with before it deals with you. I have seen more than one person lose jobs over their inability to control their tempers. One in particular was clearly provoked, but his longstanding grumpy disposition didn’t exactly help his cause on the day. Justification by virtue of provocation has a use-by date stamped on it. ‘Righteous Indignation’ is rarer than we think. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and Moses’ breaking of the 10 commandments are oft sighted examples, and rightly so. However, remember that Moses’ plans to enter the Promised Land were thwarted because he couldn’t control himself when provoked. God took exception to Moses’ disobedience. Moses’ striking of the rock, instead of speaking to it, as ordered by God, was an act that God was not going to excuse, despite the sinful carping of the people. Water poured forth, but God’s patience ran out. Thus, Moses died and was buried on the wrong side of the Jordan River. God’s sovereign will was done—blessed be the name of the Lord!
Some of those little kids above, those left with unchecked emotions when unable to get their own way, grew up to be adult ‘kids,’ still with unchecked emotions when unable to get their own way. They are easy to spot. Those prone to ‘outbursts of anger,’ sulking, manipulation, destructive behaviour, cynicism, bullying, contradictory speech, violence, etc, etc. Its one thing to ‘lose it’ once in a while, but clearly another when everyone be expected to walk on eggshells around you. When men like this make it into church leadership, I assure you, the work is going nowhere. A recent incident ‘beyond our gates,’ caused me to look back over decades of church work and wish that we could have avoided the damage done by words spoken and actions done in fits of anger. If I were to point a finger at one of our systemic weaknesses as Christians, it would be at our lack of willingness to call each other out (lovingly and privately) when we have been guilty of enabling emotional bullies. This is messy, so don’t expect too much change in a hurry. But surely, we can start by checking our own memory banks for cases. Times when we have either enabled others to justify their anger, or times when others have enabled us to justify ours. I’ll start with myself…Blessed are the peacemakers!
“Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself” (Proverbs 22:24-25).