Slow To Anger

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I found it, that dreaded puddle on the floor near the freezer in the basement. The door left open by mistake with the yellow sign on the front stating “don’t forget to close the door”…and I lost it, screaming out in frustration:

“WHO LEFT OPEN THE FREEZER!?
WHO WAS IT?
EVERYTHING IS RUINED? ALL OF IT…ALL THE FOOD! EVERYTHING!
GIVE ME A BREAK! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? WHY?”

And the rant continued…until I scared the neighbors and everyone in the house. Looking back I acted so silly that it’s comical now, but it showed my heart at the time. I railed and rumbled like a mighty giant, but it was really immature and unhelpful. I couldn’t undo the mess, I couldn’t change the thawed food, and now I had to repair the damage done to my children and wife.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32 ESV). 

The Hebrew word for slow in this passage is arek, which means long or long suffering, patient, slow to anger. The Hebrew word for anger is aph, which means a nostril, nose, face, anger.  

Can you envision my explosion with nostrils flaring, angry faced screaming above?

But slow is better, so much better that the passage says it’s better than the mighty. The Hebrew word for better is towb, which means beautiful. Can anger be beautiful? Yes, if it’s slow anger.

The other meanings behind that word are: beautiful, best, better, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, fair word, be in favor. Thus, it’s a good thing to be slow to anger so much so that it’s better than a mighty warrior who takes a city. 

So, how is it possible to be slow to anger? The second half of the verse explains it, by ruling our spirit or temper. Ruling is the word mashal, which means to have dominion, reign, bear, cause to, have ruling have power. 

Matthew Henry’s commentary on v32 states:

To overcome our own passions, requires more steady management, than obtaining victory over an enemy.

So how is this possible? It’s God working in and through us producing the fruit of the Spirit who gives self-control. God knows the lack of self-control is one of our greatest foes. It’s more difficult than taking a well fortified city. God is slow to anger, and by His grace we can be slow to anger too.

So how do we apply this in our lives?

  • Self-control is slow, but anger is aggressive. Thus, we should do the reverse of aggressive anger, we should aggressively and actively pursue self-control.
  • How do we actively pursue self-control? Through God’s word, through prayer, through accountability, and by walking in faith despite our circumstances, by repenting when we lose it – like my rant above, and by being quick to seek forgiveness of others when we’ve lashed out in anger.

What about you?

  1. How has your life exemplified self-control in the midst of angry circumstances in the past?
  2. What are some ways you can be held accountable to this principle?
  3. How can you work to see this principle accepted and lived out by others?
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