Anger sneaks up on us. It seeps into our systems like a toxin without being noticed until we are completely infected. It shows up in our attitude. It appears in our unkind remarks. It becomes a part of our walk, our talk, and our everyday interactions. Before we know it, it becomes a poison destroying nearly everything in our lives – from our relationships to our own peace. It is dangerous if left unchecked.
If it is so subtle, how do we counteract? How do we handle the anger that seems to boil up in us? We start at the root. What is the cause? Where did it begin to find its way into our system? Where did it all begin? These are questions which often lead back to fear and misunderstanding. When we are afraid, when our beliefs or our ideas are challenged, we respond in anger. We tend to lash out when we are challenged. We aren’t always good at listening. We jump to conclusions and stop listening. We become so enraged that we cut off our access to common sense. It becomes a downward spiral and spins out of control fast. We don’t take the time to understand because what we hear is scary.
This seems to be where James’ words speak loudest to me. He teaches to be slow to speak and quick to listen. If I am listening only to respond, I am not listening. If I am constantly triggered by something being said, I respond only in anger and am not listening. The key is to be both – slow to speak AND quick to listen. Stop and hear. We might find we are not as far off as we thought we were. We also might find we are not nearly as angry when we take the time to truly hear. If we can listen, truly listen, we may see our anger dissipate. It won’t have the same result. We may find we aren’t angry at all when we take the time to understand.
This is hard. This takes work. But this doesn’t give us an excuse to stop trying.
Lord, may I be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to anger today.
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.
Photos included in Devotions are captured by David Cain – The Cain Gallery. Photos are available for sale by contacting The Cain Gallery