Why What You are Angry About Is Not Why You Are Angry.


January 14, 2017

Proverbs 14:11

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 was already about to boil over.

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. 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.


Abba Father, thank you for the gentleness with which you approach us in our frailty. There is none like you. Teach me your gentleness and empower me by your Spirit. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


1. Why are so many people so angry these days?

2. 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.

3. How might we become slower to anger? see James 1:19 again.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.