By, Isam Itson III
Love is not easily angered – 1 Corinthians 13:5
Every time I have lashed out in anger verbally or physically, I have ultimately regretted it. The greatest harm was always to my reputation. A person who cannot control their anger cannot be trusted with responsibility. So whenever I give in to my anger I undermine my personal, social, and professional relationships. As I have learned to control my response to my anger my social status and relational value have increased.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that love is not easily angered or provoked to react in anger. He also wrote to the church at Ephesus, in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, but do not sin.” We can’t live without getting angry. Even God gets angry with our self righteousness that leads immediately to injustice in relationship with each other. Sin is an archery term in Greek that means to miss the target. So the goal of love is not acting out in anger and sinning, or missing the target, of our God given existence. Love is not easily provoked to acting without a care for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. A loving person learns to stop when their anger is aroused, and to not respond or act in the heat of momentary passion or unrest.
One of the practical ways this principle has been articulated is that when we feel confused or distressed or emotionally overwhelmed, we should HALT. We should stop and think, are we Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. A loving person practices mindfulness of themselves and others within their immediate surroundings and circumstances with all humility and honesty in regard to our shared physical and emotional limitations. A loving person accounts for their own need and the need of others to rest and eat and honor their significant relationships. All of these activities help relieve the stress that contributes to our inability to control our response to our emotions. Including anger.
When we feel the waves of anger beginning to rise and overwhelm us, it is best to stop. We keep our mouths shut, and allow the feeling to wash over us and recede into the background before we speak. We eat and sleep and take the time to remember that God is in charge. We retreat, rest, and remember that God is our strength and our defense. We do not have to protect ourselves. We do not have to protect our personal pride, reputation, or family honor. God has already provided for that in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In addition, God has graciously given us a role in the fulfillment of his interests that is greater than the pursuit of our shortsighted self interests.
The more time we take to remember this basic truth, the more likely we are to stand firm and act humbly and thoughtfully in the face of our anger. This basic spiritual discipline is at the heart of more positive interactions with the people around us. The end result is a deeper connection with God and others that adds value to our societies as a whole.
1. What tends to arouse your anger?
2. How do you react in the moment?
3. How do you respond over time?