Controlling Our Temper

by R. J. Evans

Angry menBrother John Clark once related a story about a woman who told a preacher she had a bad temper, but that it was over in a minute. "So is a shotgun blast, but it blows everything to pieces," was the preacher's reply. And far too many of us who are Christians are triggered by the least little incident, frequently losing our temper. When we lose our temper, we usually do and say things in anger which we later regret. "He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly" (Proverbs 14:17).

It has been said that "anger is like rain, which breaks itself upon that whereon it falls." For example, anger usually culminates in bitter words, insults, the revealing of secrets or in the breaking off of relations between two parties. Of the aforementioned, insults are probably the most frequent cause of anger. Most of us had rather be injured physically than insulted. There is something about an insult that makes us want to repay with a worse insult. How many of us possess the magnanimous spirit of Abraham Lincoln when he was insulted? It is reported that when he was told that one of his cabinet members, Edwin Stanton, called him a fool, he replied, "If Stanton says I am a fool, I had better look into the matter, for he is a wise man." No doubt that worked much better than if he would have retaliated by losing his temper, setting off a chain reaction with much more bitterness and resentment to follow. Incidently, after Lincoln was killed, it was Stanton who remarked in subdued tones of respect, "There lies the greatest leader this country has ever known."

The Bible teaches us the importance of practicing self-control. It is listed as the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23, and among what we sometimes refer to as the "seven Christian graces" in II Peter 1:6. Self-control is one of the Christian's weapons against the world. And practicing self-control involves controlling our temper. We must follow after Christ's example - "Who, did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (I Peter 2:22-23). The person who continually loses his temper is like an undefended city or one in ruins. The wise man Solomon said, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Proverbs 25:28). What a sign of weakness when we constantly lose our temper! And it is certainly a poor reflection of Christ in our lives when we "fly off the handle."

Christians must learn to be calm and serious. James said, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). This brings to mind the motto: "Think twice before you speak. Losing your temper, blurting out angry words, and speaking your mind excites strife. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

Angry words! O let them never
From the tongue unbridled slip;
May the heart's best impulse ever
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Author Unknown
First appeared in Sunday School Teacher, 1867