“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”
Proverbs 29:11 (KJV)
“She took my Band-Aid!!!” screeched the three-year-old girl, in the middle of preschool story time at the public library, as she pointed her finger at the Band-Aid stealer. The story teller simply told the irate girl to sit down. Reluctantly, the little girl sat down, crossed her arms and waited until the end of the story to demand justice.
When we’ve been wronged, it is easy to vent our anger quickly and demand our rights at once. Yet, throughout the book of Proverbs Solomon encourages us to be patient in our anger and to think before we speak. I have to admit I don’t always heed this advice. Many times, I have spoken in haste and demanded justice quickly, just like my daughter did during story time in the library several years ago. After all, the Disney Princess Band-Aid was a treasured possession to her – it not only covered the scrape on her arm, but it also had her favorite princesses on it. When someone took it off her arm, she wanted it back… immediately.
Children are likely to blurt out exactly how they feel, but as adults we are more responsible for what we say – and how and when we say it. The way we handle anger can be the difference between wisdom and foolishness. Proverbs 29:11 tells us that it is wise to consider the reasons for our anger before we speak, and to consider our words carefully when we do. Proverbs 29:20 reinforces this: “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (NIV) Impatience and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind are foolish.
Why is it so hard for us to truly live the command in James 1:19 and consider our words before we speak? I believe it is because of our mindset. What do we really believe about ourselves and our rights? Our anger usually arises in situations in which we feel someone or something has infringed upon our rights. But truly, does it say anywhere in the Bible that we are owed anything? In lieu of rights, we are asked to love God and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). When we keep these commands in mind, it changes our mindset from being self-focused to other-focused, which should help us to think before we speak.
If you struggle with impatience that results in angry outbursts, pray Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (NIV) When it comes to words and anger, remember your friend, Patience, and leave Folly behind.