“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (Jam. 1:19-20). Are you an angry person? Most of us have a degree of anger in us, even if it is hidden deep, deep within us. Under the right circumstances, that anger will seek to drive its way to the surface and erupt like lava from a dormant seemingly volcano. The majority of people can subdue it, however, but some either cannot or choose not to. Suddenly and without warning, like the pyroclastic clouds of an erupting volcano, their anger bursts forth to consume everything in its path. Its destructive nature will give rise to actions that cannot be undone.
A spouse, child, friend, or stranger will become the victim of their fury, and hurtful things will be said or done. In traffic, it can lead to “road rage” with terrible consequences at times as the vehicle or something else is used as a weapon. We even witness this kind of anger manifest at sporting events where parents attack the referee or other parents. The tragedies emanating from this kind of vicious behavior have led to the loss of friends, spousal and child abuse, divorce, loss of jobs, criminal charges, and even fatalities. These seemingly timid men and women can instantly be transformed into monsters that ravenously feed off the fear and pain of their victims. Not even their most sincere apology will curb their paroxysm of rage because the same fury that released the monster will trample their sense of empathy and understanding for their victim.
Even more sad is the fact that rage acts like a forest fire; once started, it consumes more and more and becomes ever harder to control, leaving destruction, grief, and even death in its wake. Anger like that does not hear, does not reason, does not empathize, and does not forgive. Violence is its only weapon, and vengeance is its only goal. It descends into madness with less and less need for provocation as a false but enabling sense of power rises from every such event. At first, their outbursts are followed by sincere feelings of regret and guilt, but as with the lessening need for provocation, these emotions also diminish and vanish over time. They use excuses like, “Your actions forced me,” “I was only retaliating to protect myself,”or “I blacked out and lost control.” They may even point to Jesus’s anger in the temple and call their actions “righteous,” but ultimately, all they are trying to do is excuse their inability to control their emotions.
Most of us can curb our anger, even when something happens that triggers the desire to escalate the situation. We may raise our voices and say hurtful things we do not mean to, but we are still able to douse the flames of anger with reason, but they choose not to. These are the people that James is warning to slow down and listen before acting on their emotions. Listening is the best defuser of anger in the world because it often negates the need to be angry in the first place. When you understand the other person’s actions or intentions, you may realize it was not meant to be provocative and thus remain calm and in control. If you find yourself the victim of your own anger, you should seek counseling for it with all haste before you make other innocent people the victim and find yourself alone, in jail for abuse, or even murder.