Do you know someone who has a reputation for being quick to anger? When you think about your interactions with them, you get the feeling you are always walking on eggshells. Everything in us wants to avoid them whenever possible - even if it requires extra work, we don't want to incur the wrath of their sensitive and irritable disposition. An even more penetrating question - are you that person? Are you the angry person whom others avoid?
Even if you are not known as an "angry person," you do get angry at times. Every one is liable to a temper. I never thought of myself as an angry person before, but as I feel the weight of more and more responsibility in life, it is like an amplifier to my sin. Under the pressures of pastoring, parenting, husbanding, home-owning, and more, I can be a bit quicker to anger than I ought. Even if you and I do not have reputations as angry people, we must admit that at times we can be too quick to anger.
There is a proverb which says that "good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11)." This makes me ask the question, how does good sense make one slow to anger? How does wisdom deter a quick temper? As I have pondered this question, here are some of my conclusions.
Quick tempers assume two things
The first assumption of a quick temper is that we are somehow better than the person on the receiving end of our anger. Our pride tells us that we are smarter than them, they are an inconvenience to us and they are not worthy of our patience. A quick temper assumes we are better than we actually are. This is a false assumption. This is foolishness. In the end, this leads to a quick temper.
The second assumption of being quick to anger is that we know the other person's motives, and assume the worst. We do not stop to understand the other person's situation or what has led them to do whatever it is that has rubbed us the wrong way. We assume we know before asking or understanding. This leads us to justify our anger, because we tell ourselves we have been wronged in some way and therefore, they deserve of our wrath. This also is foolishness and is the opposite of wisdom. It is foolish to assume we know another's motives, what has happened in their day or the intention of their heart.
Jesus corrections these two assumptions
In many ways, quick tempers assume the best about ourselves and the worst about the other. Jesus tells us to assume the worst about our own motives and the best about theirs. Jesus said it was hypocritical to look for the speck in our brother's eye without seeing the log in our own (Mt. 7:1-5). Good sense reminds us to consider our own sin first and do the hard work of pulling out the log before going after their speck. Quick tempers are prideful and ignorant of our own sin.
A person who is fast to anger walks around the world assuming everyone else has a plank in their eye, and is reluctant to even consider they might have a speck in their own, let alone a log. This is foolishness. Jesus reverses these assumptions. He says, deal with the log in your own eye first, then discuss the speck in your brother's. Jesus doesn't say to ignore the speck, he just says deal with your log first. He tell us to evaluate ourselves first and then confront them. The Bible does not say anger is foolish, only getting there too quickly.