A traveler, between flights at an airport, went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies. Then she sat down and began reading a newspaper. Gradually, she became aware of a rustling noise. From behind her paper, she was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took a cookie herself.
A minute or two passed, and then came more rustling. He was helping himself to another cookie. After a while, they came to the end of the package with one cookie left, but she was so angry she didn’t dare allow herself to say anything. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the man broke the remaining cookie in two, pushed half across to her, ate the other half, and left.
Still fuming sometime later when her flight was announced, the woman opened her handbag to get her ticket. To her shock and embarrassment, there she found her package of unopened cookies.
I smile at that story because it reminds me that we all have been angry when there was no need.
Anger is a challenge. Aristotle observed, “Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time and in the right way—that is not easy.”
How do you respond when you are angry? For some people it is like this:
They explode. They rant and rave. They spew venom at anyone who comes near.
They withdraw. They pout and sulk. They are masters of the silent treatment.
They are passive-aggressive. They get jabs at people with their actions rather than their words.
They use sarcasm extensively to subtly express their anger.
They go to a third party. They do not talk with the person they are angry with, but they talk about that person to a third party.
They deny they are ever angry. They grew up in a household where it was not OK to be angry. Even though they are bursting with anger, they insist, “I’m not angry.”
God says it is OK to be angry. The issue is: How do I respond to my anger?
By God’s grace—and only by his grace—we can respond to anger in a godly way:
Slowly. “Be slow to anger” (James 1:19). “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.” (Prov. 14:17a)
Calmly. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1)
Lovingly. “Love is patient and kind…it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Cor. 13:4-5)
Gracefully. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32)
Can you imagine what would happen if we followed God’s practical advice on anger? Can you imagine how many marriages would be saved? How many parent-child relationships and friendships would be saved? Can you imagine the gift this would be to our children, our coworkers, and our friends? Can you imagine the difference in our own health?
What if we consistently responded to anger in God’s way— slowly, calmly, lovingly, and gracefully?
O Father, give us the grace to do this.