After a short break, I’m continuing with the last of my family favorite verses. I am looking forward to getting back into Lisa Nichol Hickman’s Writing in the Margins! A family member gave me this as a favorite verse in the Bible and even went to the trouble of making copy of it for me from his King James Version.
All this, my dear brothers, you already know. Let every many be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness which God desires.
I’ve been pondering for quite some time: Is this truly a favorite verse…or just one I should read? How do I artfully respond to this? Am I focusing on the right part of the passage? But it’s the one that’s emphasized in the photocopy? This is a bit of a challenging verse for me. If you met me in person, I would be quick to say hello. I’ve never been one that is slow to speak. And while I personally feel that I am exceedingly slow to anger others don’t always have the same opinion of me. Not that I am proud of this, but there are times I yell, not often, but I do get frustrated and I yell and then I’m better in a few minutes. I get frustrated when I am misunderstood and when others don’t recognize that I am being serious. While I experience the normal gradual feelings ranging from mild annoyance to anger, most people don’t know that I’m upset until I hit #10 on the anger scale. I can be very angry and still smiling, but by the time I finally start to look upset, I look scary upset—and then it’s “Whoa. What’s her problem?” I can really relate to Unikitty from the Lego movie: My problem I think: I am always smiling. Here’s my resting face and my smiling face…. If your face is always smiling, then people simply don’t believe that you are upset. My husband has a more firm countenance. He can simply state the word “Now!” and everyone jumps into action. If there’s even a slight delay, he might calmly add, “You are playing with fire.” In eighteen years of marriage, I have never heard him yell, but he does have a way of letting others know that he means business. One day when I was feeling tired and did not want to chase my three-year-old daughter to get her in pajamas, I gave this a try. I said, “Come over here, now.” She didn’t come. I calmly and firmly restated, “Come over here now. You are playing with fire.” My eight-year-old son overheard me and just laughed: “Is that your best Dad imitation? It’s not working for you. You are too soft.” I felt like Anna from the movie Frozen trying to tell Kristoff in a firm voice to take her up the North Mountain. Some of us can’t carry a firm voice well. (It doesn’t help that my high-pitched voice sounds like a twelve-year-old when I talk.) So to accomplish the same purpose that a firm voice would achieve, I find that I rely on alternative methods: I either make the request fun or make it appeal to reason—to help the other person see that it really is in their best interest to comply. This takes a lot more energy, but along with an ever-present smile comes a high level of energy (so I figure this all works out fine)! In this instance, I summoned the energy for a chase. We giggled and laughed. I got her in her PJs, brushed her teeth, read some books, and got her to sleep. I was still in charge. I got her to do what was needed, but in a way that’s more natural for me. When I do lose my cool, people remind me of this verse: be slow to anger, bridle your tongue.
But to me it feels like I am very slow to anger and others just miss all the warning signs.
So here they are:
- Level 1-3: Laughter. I tend to laugh when others would get a stern look on their face. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel annoyed. It just means at this low level of aggravation I would rather feel better (and I feel better when I can lighten the atmosphere for everyone).
- Level 4-5: If you pay close attention, you might briefly see a slightly clenched face. I might try to change the subject or come up with some distraction. And it’s entirely possible I might still relax with a good laugh. (What’s going through my mind: I am trying to decide if it’s worth saying anything.)
- Level 6-7: At this level, I will usually feel the need to say something, but still nicely, maybe indirectly, with a smile on my face.
- Level 8-9: At this level, I might try saying something directly, but I just end up sounding ridiculous.
- Level 10: Angry unikitty!
A stern, but firm early warning look is not in my repertoire of facial expressions, but I don’t think that makes me any less “slow to anger” than someone who easily lets others know that he or she is level 2 or 3 upset. What does it mean to be slow to anger? What does it look like? If everyone got upset and angry about the same things, there would be so much less misunderstanding. Most of the time when I am upset, I am told, “I just don’t understand why that would bother you.” We are all wired a little differently. I heard a story recently about a person who becomes enraged just listening to the sound of people chewing? My goodness, we all have to eat? None of mean to get on each other’s nerves, but we do. I do my best not to annoy my family members and to be understanding of what bugs them, and I hope that if I share that something really bothers me that they simply will be understanding and respectful, too. It doesn’t help things to say “What a stupid thing to get upset about.” If I had someone in my family who became enraged at the sound of food being chewed, I simply would do my best not to chew food around the person even if I couldn’t understand. That seems like the obvious solution to me.
I think it’s important to recognize that people get angry in different ways. The little things that bug me—most of the time I don’t want to get into it with people especially if I feel they are unlikely to understand, but sometimes I just can’t take it anymore and I dig my heels in–I may even have a short-lived outburst. Other people find themselves in tears when angry and then a bad case of the worries follows. Some people get super intense and need to fix what’s wrong and just won’t let it go until the problem is resolved. Some people might get physical, throw things or even get violent. Some people just can’t help telling it like it is and end up offending others more than they would expect. Some people retreat and stop talking altogether—often for long extended time periods. Anger expresses itself in many ways. Anger can even express itself as a bridled tongue. A co-worker sent me a link to a video where Pope Francis addresses the challenges in family life and two common, but very different, expressions of anger:
“I say—plates are smashed hard words are spoken, but please listen to my advice: Don’t ever let the sun set without reconciling. Peace is made each day in the family: Please forgive me, and then you start over. Please, thank you, sorry….Let us say these words in our families. To forgive one another each day. Sometimes it’s not the arguments that are painful, but rather the silence. What weighs more than all of these things is a lack of love. It weighs upon us never to receive a smile, not to be welcomed. Certain silences are oppressive even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings. Without love, the burden becomes even heavier, intolerable.” -Pope Francis
We all have our angry moments—and keeping them quiet doesn’t make them any less angry. I would counter James, by saying, “Forgive quickly!” That’s an easy one for me. I wasn’t exactly sure how to illustrate it, but somehow this funny pink face with a straight smile captures my feelings about the verse….Sometime simple is best.
As a post script: After praying about this verse and talking about feelings of anger with some like-tempered friends, I’ve decided to add the following phrase to my warning system: “I may be smiling, but I am deadly serious.”
As a super post script: I got a call from the person who gave me this verse. “I read your blog, but you missed the point of why this verse was on my mind, and you are right it’s not my favorite verse.” It was a sweet conversation. It was still a helpful exercise to explore how anger expresses itself in my own life. And I think I better understand the verse: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”