“Slow to Anger”
by Pastor George Van Alstine
That phrase sounds strange when you say it—“slow to anger.” We seem to know intuitively that anger is immediate, strong and aggressive. It’s the natural automatic response of a human being whose person or property has been violated in some way.
So, what we really mean when we use this phrase is “slow to express anger.” That’s a different matter. Anger itself is immediate and natural. Slowness in expressing anger is something that can and must be learned. For some, the necessary lessons come through parenting, education and everyday human interactions. Others find themselves needing to take an “Anger Management” course. A significant minority of people never learn to slow their anger, and they often end up behind bars that keep them from expressing it fully.
The great Motivator and Example of controlled anger is God himself. In two familiar psalms, God is described in this way:
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8)
Now many other Scriptures make it clear that God’s anger is real, justified, white-hot and immediate. He hates sin and has a natural responsive reaction of wrath and judgment. He is angry, but he withholds expression of his anger. He exercises “anger management” so that he can offer us the opportunity for confession, forgiveness and renewal. When we demonstrate control of our angry impulses, we are following God’s example.
There is some good advice in the Book of Proverbs about the importance of learning to be “slow to anger.”
(1) A person who is slow to (express) anger is able to act wisely:
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But one who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)
(2) A person who is slow to (express) anger is able to calm conflicts:
“Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife,
But those who are slow to anger calm contention.” (Proverbs 15:18)
(3) A person who is slow to (express) anger is more powerful than one who is physically strong:
“One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty;
And one who is slow to anger is stronger than a conquering warrior.” (Proverbs 16:32)
(4) A person who is slow to (express) anger is able to keep things in perspective:
“Those with good sense are slow to anger,
And it is their glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
In short, learning to be slow to anger shows you are following God, helps you to act in your own best interest, and makes you a blessing to those around you.