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One-a-Day...for the Heart: Slow to Anger

Almost nothing made my mother angry. She had great control of her spirit, and the law of kindness defined her. We could count on her gentleness, and her personality was very comforting. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Psalm 103:8 (ESV) says. God sets a behavioral standard of excellence in that verse, and without His help, few of us can attain it. The Lord’s ways were respected, taught, and revered in the home my mother grew up in. With such an environment, she learned patience and self-control—the keys to being slow to anger.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32 ESV). It’s mightier to rule our spirit than it is to capture a city! “The conquest of ourselves, and our own unruly passions, requires more true wisdom, and a more steady, constant, and regular management, than the obtaining of a victory over the forces of an enemy,” Matthew Henry explains in his commentary.

In contrast, consider the short-tempered, hotheaded person in Proverbs 14:17: the hotheaded do things they'll later regret (MSG); short-tempered people do foolish things (NLT). We’ve all said or done things in anger that we sorely regret. Sometimes, irreparable damage is done by angry outbursts, but despite our failings, the Lord’s standard of excellence of spirit remains. If we pursue that excellence of spirit by controlling anger, His power is displayed in us in ever-increasing increments. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power (Nahum 1:3 KJV).

Perhaps there is an argumentative, contentious person in your life. What to do? Proverbs 15:18 (ESV) tells us, a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. That’s a powerful effect of being slow to anger. Having that restraint of spirit is developed through careful attention to the Word and prayer, for we need God’s help to develop His patience, His discipline, His mercy, His graciousness, His love.

Anger is ugly. I’ve never seen an attractive red-faced, angry hothead, have you? Anger causes blood pressure to rise, blood vessels to dilate (hence the red face and even red eyes), and the heartrate to accelerate. Aside from the harmful physical effects of anger, Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NLT) warns us to control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. That’s a label no one wants!

It’s something to work on and be mindful of every day. Raising the Lord’s standard of excellence over our spirit and training ourselves to be slow to anger is a mark of maturity. Paul the Apostle encouraged us in Colossians 3:8 (KJV) to put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

There’s a beautiful word in Ephesians 4:31-32. “Tenderhearted” means compassionate, of good-heartedness, full of pity. Sounds like Jesus. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Being slow to anger is a powerful thing.

© 2021, Chris Werre

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