I don't know what it is about Christmas that makes me this way. Maybe it's the pressure and momentum of all that needs doing leading up to it. Or maybe it's my irritation with the commercialistic frenzy that surrounds it. Or maybe it stems from a strange insecurity that's uncomfortable with the special gestures of love that are extended my way at Christmastime. If so, there's pride in that, and it's something to repent of. It's probably a mixture of all those things that make me feel irritable and even downright angry as Christmas approaches.
And so often that anger is toward the ones I love the most -- my family -- my children and Fiona. Which brings me to what I saw in Proverbs 29:11. "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back."
Ah yes, some people may want to console me by saying I can't be so bad as that. They'd say that I'm not the person that proverb was written for -- I don't "always" lose my temper. No, but lately I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to say that I often lose my temper -- especially with my kids. And from where I sit, often looks a great deal like always. And when I do lose my temper, it causes the very thing that Proverbs 29:22 says it will cause: "strife." As I snap at the kids, they tend to snap back, and strife is instantly created.
Another verse that's quite well known is Proverbs 15:1. It says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" -- which in turn stirs up strife. And it's only a fool who would consciously choose to answer people in a way that only served to create a clash.
But I'm so glad that the Bible understands that we're human. Proverbs 29:11 says that "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back." It doesn't say that the wise man never has to deal with anger in his heart. It simply says that "a wise man holds it back." Old fashioned self-control.
There's one other proverb that puts it a little differently: "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick tempered exalts folly" (Proverbs 14:29). In this Christmas season and throughout 2010, I want to be a man of "great understanding" who understands that a gentle answer will minimize strife and that I can bring out the best in others by how I respond to them. I want to grow wiser as I check my anger before I express it, choosing instead to show love in a gentle answer to those I love most. May you have a peaceful, strifeless Christmas!
© 2009 by Ken Peters
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