Cool Down and Leave No Scars

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18)

While engaged in the task of sweeping the carpet in the family downstairs’ game room, the vacuum I was using suddenly shut off. I thought maybe the dirt bin needed emptied, so I did that. Perhaps I had tripped a breaker; I checked that as well. Neither of these enabled the sweeper to restart. Then I took the next best step – I searched for the owner’s manual for this product, now less than three years old.  The manual gave me several things to try, including allowing the appliance to be unplugged for at least 45 minutes in case it had become overheated.  The vacuum did feel a little warm, so I did something else for a while An hour or so later – I pushed the on/off button, and it started like a charm. I chuckled to myself, recalling that earlier that day I became a bit over-heated at a local chain store where management was not enforcing a policy they had advertised.  Fortunately, I had not allowed my frustration to shut down the shopping trip. I simply focused on my list and allowed myself to cool down before it became an issue.

In Matthew 5:22-24, Jesus teaches us about the unhealthiness of two different types of anger: being angry oneself or causing anger in another. Both are unhealthy, because our anger is not from God. It is written, “if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”  Even though it is possible that anger may serve us positively in certain instances, it has been proven that excessive or habitual anger will result in negative, self-destructive consequences, both to the one who is angry and to those who are around them. It is therefore true that managing one’s anger as well as reconciling with those with whom one is angry or may have angered are two fundamental aspects of spiritual growth.

A story was told of young boy with a very bad temper. The boy’s father wanted to teach him a lesson, so he gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into their wooden fence. On the first day of this lesson, the little boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the course of the next few weeks, the boy began to control his anger, so the number of nails that were hammered into the fence dramatically decreased. It wasn’t long before he discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. The day finally came when the boy didn’t lose his temper even once. He was so proud of himself and couldn’t wait to tell his father. Pleased, his father suggested that he now pull out one nail for each day that he could hold his temper. Many weeks went by, and the day finally came when the young boy was able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. Very gently, the father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. “You have done very well, my son,” he smiled, “but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same.” The little boy listened carefully as his father continued to speak.” When you say things in anger, they leave permanent scars just like these. And no matter how many times you say you’re sorry, the wounds will still be there.”

We are not able to easily track those occasions where we might have done irreparable harm by not acting appropriately in “the heat of the moment.” It seems as though it has become quite easy to irritate others and provoke anger in today’s world. Consider how social justice declarations at a sporting event can upset and alienate fans who are there purely for the love of the game. Entering into a political discussion at a high school reunion can cause division that takes away from the fellowship of the affair itself. Dredging up an old conflict at a family holiday get-together can evoke a heated argument, thereby isolating relatives.  Believers in Christ are called upon to be peacemakers and find a solution, before allowing an incident or conflict to escalate. “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires” (James 1:20). We must practice how we might respond to potential opportunities for conflict. For God is glorified when we ignore it, walk away, let it go, or at least allow 45 minutes to cool down.

REFLECTION: Have you had events of anger occur in your life that have resulted in or caused permanent marks?  Are there ways you have applied Christian values to resolve them? How can you contribute to preventing heated situations from getting out-of-hand in organizations of which you are a part?

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