Different struggles have different characteristic traits. Anger comes with a sense of urgency. When anger goes bad, it is usually trying to correct too much too quickly. The pace and intensity of the change does as much or more damage than the wrong which triggered the anger.
Think of a few classic examples. A teenager back talks his/her parent. The parent is incensed with the disrespect and wants to put an end to it immediately. The result is smacking the teenager across the face.
A husband and wife are in an argument. One person is unable to follow what the other person says. The response to having to repeat what was already said is a derogatory slam for being “too stupid to follow a conversation… no wonder we can’t get along when this is who I have to talk to.”
A boss is feeling pressure at work, because last quarter’s numbers were low. Everyone knows it’s the economy, but no one knows how long it could take for that to turn around. So, instead, a tone of criticism and sarcasm fills the work environment in the name of “motivation.”
These brief snippets may share many things in common, but the point being illustrated is that they reveal the “rushed” nature of anger and that sinful anger does more damage than its trigger.
A parent should correct disrespect, but “putting a child in their place” with random, sniper-esque violence does nothing to teach respect. The teenager grows to covet the power to treat people how you like and blame them if they don’t like your lack of self-control. Come to think of it, that is probably what started the argument in the first place.
It is reasonable for a spouse to expect to be understood. But when the ability to follow a conversation becomes the measure of whether you deserve the basics of mutual honor, then the foundations of trust and security have been eroded.
A boss does provide income for his/her employees by motivating them to perform at a level which consistently earns a profit for the company. But the residual impact of a negative environment and unrealistic expectations makes the term “success” a cruel fairy tale.
So what’s the point? Godly anger recognizes the pace at which change can take place. Out of love for the person, godly anger looks to influence change in a way that does not destroy or demean the person experiencing the change.
The cliché application of this point is to “count to 10.” But if you don’t know why you’re counting to ten, then your tongue will just be 10 times sharper when you finally do speak. We pause because we want to accurately represent our God.
Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (emphasis added).”
It might be better to memorize this passage and repeat it to yourself instead of counting. As you repeat it to yourself, add the following brief prayer, “Lord, I am tempted to be rushed to anger. Help me represent you in mercy and justice, what I say and what I don’t. If I must choose between sin and silence give me the grace to choose silence until I can honor You.”