The things I will most regret with my family aren’t the things I have done or not done, but the things I have said. When we are easily provoked we say and do things we regret later on. A lack of restraint results in foolish behavior and words. The Bible frequently warns us about being easily provoked and the anger that accompanies it.
“He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Proverbs 14:17) Nothing good comes from a hot temper. “Anger helps straighten out a problem as much as a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers”, wrote Susan Marcotte.
“Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools”. (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Note the warning against having an angry spirit even before our angry actions. Also, he warns against being “hasty” to become angry. The result, the Bible says, are actions of a fool. (That’s a great Scripture to write on a card and memorize or put it in a highly traveled place to remind you of the folly of being quick to anger).
The Bible talks about a person that is “angry with his brother without a cause” (Matthew 5:22) This speaks of the kind of person that is petty, already has a spirit of anger, and is provoked easily. Ted Camp says, “Have you ever noticed that when you’re mad, you don’t want to be mad alone? You want people to know you are mad”. That’s true! It’s also damaging to your relationships.
Why do we behave this way? It’s because we lack love. The Bible teaches that love “is not easily provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).
Do you ever find yourself in a spirit of anger all through the day, touchy, irritable, and impatient? I have been there. When this happens it is like a warning flag that I am not walking with the Lord. It also means that I have been unloving all during that time. No wonder people pull away from their spouse or their parent when treated this way over time.. Having a short-fuse is more serious than we realize; it’s a lack of love.
Moses, besides Jesus, had the toughest job in the Bible. He had to lead millions of complaining, ungrateful people for forty years in a difficult climate. At one point he became so angry with them that “they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips” (Psalm 106:33). His anger was manifested by his words.
This is interesting because one of Moses’ character qualities God mentions is that he was the meekest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). Meekness and anger are polar opposites. Everyone has a limit to their human efforts to be patient; and if pushed past that point a volatile response is sure to happen.
God will allow us to experience unpleasant people and circumstances to show our desperate need of His help and the strength of His sufficiency. Our natural tendency is to be short with people that drain us; it is supernatural to be patient and not easily provoked at selfishness and thoughtless people.
When you sense your temper about to explode remember that you will say and do foolish things that you will feel sorrow over later. Someone wrote, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret”. This is especially true in our family.
I have often taught that when our children (or anyone in the family for that matter) makes a mistake (a speeding ticket, for example) the first thing that comes out of our mouth will reveal what we value the most. Do we express concern for them as a person before we delve into correcting them? Does the tone of our voice reveal anger before we get all of the facts and we realize we shouldn’t have been angry in the first place?
One of my priorities as a father is to take our family on a vacation every year. We haven’t always been able to do that and some of them have been very simple because of finances. But I wanted them to have some great memories of an extended amount of time when we laugh a lot and participate in new activities together.
About seven years ago we were headed to Florida and were on I-10 headed east. After our trip Ashley was going to leave our vacation site and head off to college in Jacksonville. So, we had two vehicles, our conversion van and Ashley’s car.
In order to maximize our time we left Sunday evening after church about 10 p.m. and drove all night and rotated drivers. I had driven the first stretch in our van down to I-10 and then my son, Jon, took over. It was in the wee hours of the morning and we were following Paula and Ashley in her car. Everyone in the van was asleep and Jon and I were having a wonderful conversation about life, philosophies, and family memories.
About twenty-five miles after Jon had taken over he noticed that the dashboard indicator showed the engine was beginning to heat up and steam began to come out from under the hood.
As we slowed down to pull off on the side of the interstate, Jon said, “Oh, no, Dad!” He was frightened, I could tell by the tone of his voice. He looked at me and said, “I’ve been driving all this time in second gear”.
A couple of things went through my mind quickly. First, how were we going to get another vehicle at this time in the morning? Second, the motor is probably ruined and I’ll have to buy another van. (We needed a van because of the size of our family and it was the only transportation we had).
Then, I thought about my son, Jon. He was very quiet now and I could tell he was scared. The last thing he needed was for me to hammer him. He didn’t mean to do it and we were having a great time talking. I knew that this was a very important time because he was watching and waiting for my response.
We opened the hood and the gray smoke began to pour out from the engine area. I knew my son felt awful. I said, “Jon, don’t worry about it, everything is going to be alright. I could have done the same thing”. He began to apologize and I again tried to quiet his anxiety.
I won’t bore you with the details. It took awhile to get everything cared for that night, but we were back on the road within a couple of hours and the van ran great for us until we sold it years later after the gas prices got so high.
The response I gave to my son was one that not only encouraged him and quelled his fear at the moment, but also pleased the Lord. I will assure you that it is something that he will never forget even though we rarely talk about it.
Don’t get the picture that I am a super saint; I’m not. There have been times when I have reacted wrongly. But in that instance I received the grace God gave me to do what was right. Also, I had seen my father react to me in the same way over different issues many times. I wanted to reflect the heart of my Heavenly Father, but I was also reflecting the example of my earthly father.
Remember, when someone irritates you the first words out of your mouth will show them what you think about them. Do you value them as a person and your relationship or do you value your reputation and your possessions more?
Many years ago when I was a teenager one of my close friends had a minor car accident. He didn’t need a tow truck, but there was some damage to the vehicle. He came over to our house nervous and very upset.
His father had a hair-trigger temper and he didn’t want to go him and give him the bad news. My Dad began to talk to him and try to comfort him. He tried to tell my friend that his father wouldn’t be as upset as he thought. Dad said, “Well, do you have insurance on the car?” After my buddy affirmed that he did, Dad replied, “That’s what you have insurance for; they’ll fix your car”.
Decades later my friend still remembers this exchange with my father. Your children (and coworkers and kids you coach) will remember how you handle it when they disappoint you, too – some for the rest of their lives.
Here’s the principle – when I love someone I am patient with them and don’t get upset with them easily. The result of following that principle is that you will bless them beyond what you realize at the moment.
We want to be treated by our intentions and not just our actions, but we tend to treat others by their actions and not their intentions. Perhaps you have blamed your being easily provoked on your temperament, your heritage, or your background. You will never change until you see it as a sin. Confess it to the Lord and ask for His grace to replace your anger with His mercy.
Who needs your mercy today? May we reflect the heart of our Heavenly Father in not being “easily provoked”. You are building memories, good or bad, especially for your children.