“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
— Proverbs 16:32
“For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”
— Proverbs 30:33
Fred [not his name] was a professional associate in Christian service and an angry man. He was angry at the boss, angry at the board of trustees, angry at organizational policies, and was uniquely able to generate ad hoc anger toward a host of other things. He interrupted a staff meeting and told off the boss in front of the entire team and then wrote a vicious letter to strong supporters of the institution. At that point, the leadership decided Fred could “best serve God in some other vineyard.”
I can quote lines from Fred’s tirade and his tone from more than four decades ago! His ill-managed anger left its deep scars on me.
Fred’s problem wasn’t his intellect or his talent, not his training nor his skills. It was not the passion for justice and righteousness we often call “righteous anger.” It was his tolerance of his own selfish, ego-centered anger and his inability to manage it.
When Proverbs says one who manages his or her anger well is of more value than a great warrior or strong conqueror, it speaks well. In the long run, hot-tempered people destroy more than they build.
Wisdom Principle 6: Anger is the nuclear fission of the emotions. It can light a city or blow it to bits depending on how its power is released.
It is an immutable law of interpersonal strife and organizational dissension that at the heart of both is an angry person. If relationships are turbulent or the management team is torn apart by schism, look for the person with ill-managed anger. Proverbs declares that there is an inevitable link between interpersonal strife and personal anger as surely as there’s a link between butter and churned milk or a bloody nose and violent twisting.
Wisdom Principle 7: Ill-managed anger is an antipersonnel mine; trigger it, and it will maim you and cause permanent injury to those near you.
The key to getting past nuclear anger is surrender. The Pauline Wisdom Principle of “dead to self, alive to Christ” is central. Dead men don’t respond, and only when we give up all rights to the One who bought us are we free not to defend ourselves and strike back in anger. Galatians 5:20 describes one of the manifestations of the flesh as “fits of rage.”
Wisdom Principle 8: The only way to manage anger is to surrender it to the Spirit of God; as surrender increases, ill-managed anger decreases.
Fred called me after three decades passed and asked for my forgiveness! He said he’d discovered “all those other people’s problems were really his.” He was right . . . and I forgave him. But, in the meantime, the rest of us “took a lot of cities” from which Fred didn’t get any plunder.