Question:

Question

Answer:

How do you handle people with hot tempers?


The Bible speaks of two types of anger: the quick, fly-off-the-handle, hot tempered people; and the slow, methodical, vengance seeking people. Both are dangerous, for different reasons. We are told, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth" (Colossians 3:8). "Anger" is from the Greek word orge, the slow-building type of anger. "Wrath" is from the Greek word thumos, the passionate hot-tempered type of anger. Both are to be avoided by Christians.

The problem with quick tempered people is that they don't think when they get angry. As a result they rashly do foolish things that they later regret. "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly" (Proverbs 14:17). The person so caught up in anger is overwhelmed by their own emotions. "Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4). Therefore, it is near impossible to reason with a quick-tempered person while they are angry. Their mind is not engaged, so reasoning will not work. The best that you can do is first calm them and then reason with them. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Responding to anger with anger only esculates the problem. "An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression" (Proverbs 29:22). The initial difficulty is that a quick-tempered man is looking for a fight, so he will not be easily calmed. "A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention" (Proverbs 15:18). It takes a lot of love for the angry person to withstand the abuse until they calm down. "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins" (Proverbs 10:12).

One thing that helps is to be able to listen to what other people are saying. "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). Don't be quick to interject your own opinions because they will only be preceived to be challenges. Instead, quietly feed back responses that lets the person know you heard what they said, even if you don't agree with their conclusion. Once they begin to calm down, you can then broach the reasonableness of their anger. It takes quite a bit of experience to hit just the right balance and to restrain himself from being impacted by another's anger. "The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression" (Proverbs 19:11).

One thing that does not work is shielding a person from the consequences of their anger. "A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again" (Proverbs 19:19). Humility is the ultimate long-term solution to a quick temper. But when a person is rescued from their own mistakes, they become arrogant. They see no need to change because they have suffered no great harm.

One last thing to keep in mind is that flying off the handle is a learned response. "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25). Putting quick tempered people with other people with the same habits will simply amplify the problem. If at all possible, you are better off isolating a hot tempered person until they can gain control of themselves.

 

March 15, 2005