In his efforts to teach his son how to have the good life now, Solomon sees fit to speak to his son about the need to control anger. We often fail to recognize how anger adversely affects our lives in so many different ways. Solomon sits his son down to explain to him the effects of uncontrolled anger, the reasons he needs to control his anger, and then practical advice as to how to restrain anger. Solomon offers a number of proverbs to show his son that many problems in life are due to our uncontrolled anger.
The Effects of Uncontrolled Anger:
He acts foolishly (14:17; 14:29). “A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated” (Proverbs 14:16-17). Uncontrolled anger reveals our foolishness. We know the truth of this proverb by looking at ourselves and looking at the world. It is a foolish thing to chase after people who cut you off or who drive badly. We look like fools when we decide we are justified in yelling at a sales clerk. We look like fools because we show that we cannot control ourselves.
He causes strife (29:22; 15:18; 19:11). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man commits many sins” (Proverbs 29:22). Our anger creates relationship problems. Our anger does not resolve problems with other people. When is the last time that our outburst of wrath made the sales clerk do what we wanted? When is the last time our outburst of wrath brought about the apology we were looking for? Never. Our anger simply escalates the situation into a contentious quarrel. We create problems through our anger. “For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife” (Proverbs 30:33). This is a great illustration. Solomon uses a simple illustration of cause and effect. Churning milk produces butter, twisting the nose produces blood, and stirring up anger causes problems.
He cannot be taught (19:19). “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20). This proverb is very telling. There is no hope for a fool. The proverbs repeatedly tell us what a terrible situation it is to be the fool in life. But the person who is quick to speak has even less hope. Anger fits this qualification because uncontrolled anger is reactionary that does not calmly deal with the situation. If we decide that we are justified with our uncontrolled anger, there is no hope for us. “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19). This proverb makes a similar point. There is no hope because we will not learn from our mistakes. There is no point in giving help to the hot-tempered because they are not in control of themselves, and it will happen again.
He is defenseless (25:28; 16:32). “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). Broken walls are of no value to a city. The city is defenseless and is open for attack. In the same way, by lacking self-control we show that we are defenseless and are open to the charge that we are not true disciples. We are found vulnerable in our walk with God. When something does not go the way we want it to go, we get upset and lose control of our emotions. Satan has found our weakness and we are going to be under his attack.
Anger Is Contagious. “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” (Proverbs 22:24-25). This proverb is really important to dwell upon for a few minutes. Anger is a learned trait. That is why Solomon says to not spend time with the hot-tempered and easily angered person. You will learn to have the same traits. As parents we need to really think about this because we very easily teach these characteristics to our children. I know that this is the last thing each of us want to do, but we still. We teach our children that outbursts of wrath are the way to deal with negative situations.
The NKJV reads, “…and set a snare for your soul.” We are putting our souls in jeopardy when we associate with people who react with a hot temper. Further, we are setting a snare for our children when we teach them this kind of behavior.
Reasons To Control Anger
1. Shows strength. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Strength of character is greater than strength in muscle. We gain great respect and appreciation by others when they see our strength to control our emotions.
2. Shows wisdom. “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). Wisdom is the ability to say the right thing in a difficult situation. Rather than reacting, we need to calmly and rationally speak, which brings joy to our own lives as well as the lives of others. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).
3. Brings honor. “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3). We have just read a number of proverbs that tell us how anger brings about strife. Now connect the above proverbs to that fact. It is honorable to avoid strife, which means we must avoid uncontrolled anger. “A person with good sense is slow to anger, and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
How To Restrain Anger
1. Know the outcome of a “hot” answer. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Uncontrolled anger does not achieve the results that we think it will achieve. We think that our anger will cause another person to capitulate and do what we want them to do. Yet that does not happen. Uncontrolled anger does not bring an apology. Uncontrolled anger does not bring resolution to the problem. Anger escalates the situation. Anger simply stirs up strife and our harsh answer brings about more anger. While we have been talking about being nicer to the unhelpful clerk and the bad driver, let’s talk about the effect of the hot answer on the family. Anger does not bring the desired result in the home.
Two results take place when we use harsh words in the home, neither are desirable outcomes. We use anger to get our way. But all of these proverbs are showing that we do not get our way, but find strife. We are not going to cause our spouse or children to do what we want through uncontrolled anger. You will have an argument with your spouse and build resentment in your children. The atmosphere of the home is conflict and strife where outbursts of wrath and uncontrolled anger exist. “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17:14). We are simply making matters worse through anger.
Unfortunately, we have probably gotten our way through using our anger. So we have learned that this is a powerful tool to get what we want. So you may be thinking in your mind, “You’re wrong, Brent. I don’t get an argument; I get my way.” This may be the case. But do you want to get your way through intimidation and fear? Do you want your spouse to do things only because they know they will get their head taken off if they do not? Deep down inside we know that is not what we are looking for from others. We want them to do something because we asked them to do it or because they know that is what we like. But we get upset when what we want does not happen, so we try to make it happen. We simply destroy the love in the relationship when anger is used in the home. This is also true for our children. We have to walk a fine line of being firm and setting rules and boundaries that cannot be crossed. But we cannot use anger as a means of fear toward our children. There is a difference between bringing punishment for violating the rules and blowing up with anger because our children frustrate us. So we need to watch ourselves and realize that anger does not bring about the desired result in the end.
2. Become slow to anger. The previous proverb said that a soft answer turns away wrath. Similarly, Solomon said, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18). We need to become people that are slow to anger. How do we do this?
- Realize the need to be slow to anger. If we do not see the purpose of being slow to anger, then we will not ever change. We will continue to act with uncontrolled anger and will not change. But we need to see the effect anger has on ourselves, because we act like fools. We need to see how anger affects the home because we provoke our children to wrath and stir up strife. God has commanded us to be slow to anger so we must change. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
- Listen more, react less. Listen to what the other person has to say rather than formulating in our minds the next argument to make. Really try to hear what the other person is saying rather than be angry because you are not winning the argument.
- Stop talking. Stop trying to win the argument. Discussion becomes completely unproductive when we feel like we need to be right. State what you believe and let it be. We cannot make people do anything. They will do things on their own will not because you verbally beat them to death.
- Anger does not bring about the righteousness of God that we are supposed to have in our lives. To state this another way, we are losing our souls if we do not learn to be slow to anger.