“Respond in haste, regret at leisure.”
So goes an old adage. There have been many more of these wise sayings recorded, down through human history with a similar message. A quick temper is not generally considered to be one of them ore desirable traits of the human character.
It has also been said that when words are spoken in anger, then it is that we discover what a person is “really thinking”. This may or may not be true, but what a person is thinking at present, could change as he or she becomes aware of more information or learns more about relevant circumstances.
As conflicts arise in human affairs, which they inevitably do, feelings and emotions are stirred, nerves are frayed and fears and insecurities surface.
In times such as these we are presented with opportunity. On the one hand, we can “join the fray”, “escalate the hostilities”, “add fuel to the fire”, and be at least partially responsible, as harm and, sometimes, irreparable damage ensues. On the other hand, after a few moments of sober reflection we could be the quiet, steady voice that brings calmness and reason, before hurtful, poorly informed, words are uttered and the “toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube”.
Someone once said “When you know better, you do better”. How wonderful would it be, if that was always true! Sadly we can still behave rashly and callously, against our better judgment, because we don’t take those few crucial moments to slow things down, realize that there is a lot we don’t know, and look for a way that we may improve rather than harm.
It’s all about striving to apprehend a “bigger picture”. There is always a bigger picture.
There are, and have been, those mortals who are revered and celebrated for their great intellect and seemingly vast stores of knowledge, which seem great, in comparison with our own, but even those emminents know virtually nothing, when compared to the God of heaven, whose knowledge is “from everlasting to everlasting”.
In Psalm 139, David, who is the psalmist in this case, writes: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down, and my rising up. You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD you know it altogether… such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it… If I ascend into heaven, you are there, If I make my bed in hell, behold you are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
Let’s be clear. While it is noble and commendable for us to grasp for knowledge, leading to a better, fuller understanding of things, God’s “big picture” is THE big picture! And yet, in Psalm 103, David declares to us that: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy…”
Now, if the Almighty, who knows all can restrain His anger towards us, and show grace and mercy, surely we as sinful mortals ourselves, must try harder to be gracious and merciful to one another as we each struggle day by day to follow the example set by Jesus, as to how we should live, to please our Creator.
The Bible contains much advice and many suggestions regarding how each of us is responsible for controlling our own behaviour, especially when we feel angry or threatened.
We read this in Proverbs 15:1. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”
In Titus 3:2 – “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men.”
In James 3:17 – “But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
In Psalm 18:35 – “Your gentleness has made me great…”
In Ephesians 6:4 – “…fathers do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Do we see a pattern here? A “soft answer”, “gentleness”, “peaceable”, “grace”, “mercy”, “humility”.
Much more good is likely to come out of tense situations if more time is spent listening rather than talking.
Remember, the words “listen” and “silent” have all the same letters!