#GrowWise. What Are You Really Mad About?

January 14, 2015

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Proverbs 14:29 (read the whole chapter)

Whoever is patient has great understanding,
    but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.



It’s fascinating how we use the metaphor of a thermometer and temperature to talk about anger. It also points up one of the great myths about the so-called “quick tempered” among us. Temperature doesn’t typically wildly fluctuate instantaneously.  In the same way, a quick-tempered person does not explode in anger all of a sudden as it may seem. The truth? People we think of as “quick-tempered” already had a fever. They were already mad. A quick temper looks like a spike in a person’s temperature who already had a fever.

That’s what anger is like, a low grade fever. People who have a “quick temper” typically carry the low grade fever of anger around with them all the time.  Their temper can spike at the slightest thing. It often looks quite irrational and even foolish (i.e. folly). It’s because quick tempered people usually aren’t mad about what they are mad at.

So the real question for those of us who have a quick temper is, “What am I mad about?” It often takes either a good friend or a professional friend (i.e. counselor) to help one unearth the deeper issue. It can go all the way back to one’s childhood, and we can literally carry it for a lifetime. I have become convinced that the low grade fever of anger underlies much of what we call depression and anxiety. It literally makes us sick. (It’s another post, but this is why the antidote to anger is usually some form of forgiveness.” Depression and anxiety may require medication, but anger can only be cured by forgiveness.)

One of my most popular tweets of all time is this one: “Usually what people are angry about isn’t what they’re angry about. Keep that in mind when you are with angry people today.” 

Wisdom looks and feels like patience. It brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s famous words, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” (There’s six words I’d like to have tattooed on my hands. Left hand: Love is patient. Right hand: Love is kind. It all brings me to a new working definition of wisdom: Wisdom is the every day expression of skillful Love. (i.e See Jesus)

Whoever is patient has great understanding. Patience is just not a common human trait. In fact, it’s not a human trait at all. It’s a Divine virtue. In fact, patience is a divine virtue that serves to humanize us; to make us truly human. (i.e. see Jesus)

There’s so much to be said at this point that I have neither the nor the wisdom to say at this point. I will turn to our wise New Testament friend, James, the brother of Jesus, for counsel.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20

There’s that word, “listen” again. Following closely after comes a reference to our words. This idea of being “slow to anger” is good, but it is really only managing a fever. It’s why I love the way Eugene Peterson translates the next verse. He gets to the deeper longer term solution:

In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. James 1:21  The Message Translation

Patience doesn’t come from trying to be more patient as we so often resolve to be. Remember, “Whoever is patient has great understanding.” Patience comes from great understanding– from deep wisdom.

It’s yet another reason why I want to be a person of One Book.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 15.

P.S. So seriously, what are we really mad about? It’s time to name it, get it out the shadows of our soul and deal with it. How’s that for an Rx? ;0)


J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Comments and Discussion

7 Responses

  1. As I was trying to sort through my life coming unraveled on multiple fronts, the most traumatic being church, I read “Sacred Thirst” by M. Craig Barnes. The first part of the book met me where I was in regards to church and told me what I was feeling and experiencing; he is also very honest about the state of the mainline denominations. Many things Barnes said stuck with me. One day, I went back to retrieve exactly what he had said about something–probably to justify why I was entitled to be angry and frustrated, and feel victimized by the whole situation–and a whole other quote leapt out at me:

    “God did not make you angry”.

    There are different ways to view the verb “make”, the point that was driven home in that moment was God did not create me to be angry–that is not how He wants me to live. Based on my experience, the next verse, 30, in today’s chapter speaks at the source of anger:

    “A heart at peace gives life to the body, envy rots the bones.”

    We always want more than the life we are given. Remember how angry Jimmy Stewart’s character was in “It’s a Wonderful Life?”

  2. Just read your article on angry and liked it very much. I will have to reread this and remember that when I am tempted to be angry that I must think about the reason why.

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