Ouch. This one really hits close to the bone. After years of destructive behaviors that have led to many arguments and disappointments and feeling stupid for believing so many lies, prevarications and distortions...well, sometimes the simplest question is at least tinged with doubt. And when it regards something big that has frequently been a disaster, it is really hard to keep the fear and frustration out of my voice. And it is really easy to jump to conclusions. And plenty of friends and family members model the doubt to me so I really feel I don't want to be fooled again.
So why is this on the list? For me, it starts with what God calls me to do in James 1:19: "Know this my dear brothers and sister: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to grow angry." First of all, I appreciate the warning that this is not an easy thing. See where it says, "dear brothers and sisters"? This is means, “Hey, this is going to hard.” Now, if this is difficult when you are speaking to the gal running the check-out line at the grocery store or the bicyclist crossing on the red light, then that needs to be attended to NOW.
But for most folks, this is a problem, dare I speak the truth on this, with our nearest and dearest. Yup, accusatory speech is all about remembered wrongs that reside within our families: birth families, families of choice, marriage families, work families, church families, civic organization families, prison families, bar families, team families. So, be prepared. This is going be a work in progress.
Then we are told to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” and yesterday we spoke of that. But what comes next I find very interesting: be slow to grow angry. It does not say we may not grow angry because there are things that rightly make us angry: lack of justice, and when our grandchildren or younger siblings are at risk to name two. So what do I make of the directive to “be slow to grow angry?”
Well, for me it starts with not starting angry, not living angry, not embracing anger to build walls to shelter behind. It means when a situation requires energy to right a wrong or protect the vulnerable then getting angry is often the start of something important, something big, maybe even a part of our purpose in life. But anger needs to remain an emotion that invites examination: What is making me angry? Why? What fear is this touching? What healthy thing can I do to address this? What is my life response to the root of the anger? Anger can get us out of an abusive relationship or work to change policies or laws or it can be the springboard to improving self-control.
But anger is a rotten, useless, wasteful, dangerous place to live. There are plenty of people behind bars for the rest of their lives that can speak to the truth of this. No one’s child or parent or lover was ever comforted by rage. No one had a more productive, loving, useful life because they embraced their fear rather than their God.
So if anger has taken up residence in your life, please give that to God as a sacrifice to truth. God loves you, no matter what, and longs to heal you, grow you and grow in relationship with you. He wants this for those you love. And as you build your relationship with God, the changes in your life will speak more tenderly to those you love than ever our words can.