“My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

In the first two parts of our series on this passage, we focused on how being “quick to listen” and “slow to speak” affects our relationships—now and in the future.  The final point, “slow to become angry,” is equally as important and can greatly impact our relationships.

The American Psychological Association says, “Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion.  But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.”

Slow to become angry?  It’s easy to think about when you’re not frustrated, aggravated, or in the midst of a heated discussion.  However, when you are in the middle of a conflict or faced with a major disappointment, being slow to become angry may be a much more difficult task.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.”

The word letting indicates that we have a choice in allowing anger to take over our emotions, whether or not we allow ourselves to be controlled by it, and whether or not we sin.

I have found that being a person who is slow to anger can help you to become a person of reason, can keep you from saying or doing something regretful, and can make you a better friend, date or mate.

Become a Person of Reason

I travel via the airwaves about 100,000 miles a year.  I don’t recommend it for anyone who is short on patience or cannot be slow to become angry.  Whether it’s stripping down for the TSA screeners, squeezing into a middle seat on a long, sold-out flight, or lost luggage on a business trip, there are plenty of scenarios that can stretch you.

On one occasion when my luggage was “misplaced,” I stood in line behind a gentleman who was also in the same predicament.  I never heard such unfounded words and at such volume directed toward another who could possibly help him with his situation.  The traveler went away angry, frustrated, red-faced and mumbling to himself.  When it was my turn with the travel agent, I responded with a smile and a light comment about the previous traveler to which I received a smile in return.  My reaction resulted in the same consequence as the angry response yielded—a claim number and a phone number—but it didn’t leave a negative impression and heart palpitations for either of us.

A person of reason can deduce that the agent at the counter had nothing to do with the misplaced luggage and was actually there to help.  Allowing anger to take control does not usually produce better results; oftentimes it makes the situation worse.

"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute" (Proverbs 15:18).

Personal pride can often play a role in decreasing the amount of time it takes to get angry.  The desire to be right or be acknowledged as right can cause a person to speak louder, with more emotion, and without reason. 

In Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love & Respect, he says, “You can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.”  I have found this to be true.  People don’t necessarily hear better at a higher volume, and in a relationship, the importance of maintaining self-control, being a person of reason, and speaking in the right tone is vital to the success of that relationship.

Refrain from Being Regretful

One of the first events chronicled in Moses’ adult life is in Exodus 2:11:  “He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”

I have to believe that anger played some sort of role in Moses’ action that day.  A person doesn’t revenge the beating of his own people by killing another without some sort of anger inside.  “When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses.  But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15).

The chain reaction that is caused by a response born out of anger can last a lifetime.  How would history have been altered had Moses been slow to become angry and considered the ramifications of killing the Egyptian?  I wonder how some events in my life would have turned out differently had I been slow to become angry instead of saying or doing something in the midst of my anger when I was young.

If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it? And if you did, would you be big enough to stand it?

These words were penned by James McBride, author of The Color of Water, speaking about Mitch Albom’s latest book, For One More Day.  I hope that many of us would take the opportunity to make amends of something we had said or done that may have hurt someone in the past.  Why not prevent that regret in the first place by being slow to become angry?

Speak when you are angry—and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret.
—Laurence J. Peter

Preparing to Be a Good Mate

While I was doing some research on an online dating site, I found a section where a person chooses their “Can’t Stands,” things that they can’t (or won’t) stand for in another person.  When I was compiling my mock list, one item I noted was, “Anger … I can’t stand someone who can’t manage their anger, who yells, or bottles it up inside.”  I imagine this may end up on many individuals' “can’t stand” lists when choosing mates, yet many relationships end, in part, due to what was said or done in the midst of anger, or because of anger. 

Ephesians 4:26 reads, “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.”  The second part of the passage is often mentioned in regards to couples, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  This verse is often used to encourage couples to talk through any disagreement or conflicts they may have before ending the day and not let the anger carry into the next day.

Ephesians 4:27 is sometimes omitted as part of the discussion, yet it gives prudence to the preceding verse.  “… For anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.”  Feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction, unmet expectations, pride, and selfishness within a relationship can all lead to anger, which the Devil will use to break the fortitude of the couple.  By being slow to become angry, we can eliminate that possible foothold of the Devil and relate with more understanding.

As the American Psychological Association said, “Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion.”  How we deal with it—prayerfully and in a “slow to become” manner—is a personal, emotional and spiritual struggle.

If we, as singles, want to prepare ourselves to be a good mate, we only have to look as far as the Bible to gain insight into the character qualities that we should be pursuing.  We should be slow to become angry because James tells us we should and because “The Lord is slow to anger and rich in unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion …” (Numbers 14:18).

During your next conversation, I challenge you (and myself) to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  It will change the way we communicate and impact our relationships for the better.



Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.

**This article first published on February 20, 2008.