Understand this, dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 NLT. This is one of those verses we read and then cringe – a little or a lot depending on our most recent anger episode. Each time we face anger, we have a choice to make, and sometimes it’s just too easy to make the wrong one. Today, we look at part 3 of James’s advice on anger.
The Root, Literally
The original meaning of the word anger used in James 1:19 comes from the Greek root “orge.” This word explains anger as “a settled condition of the mind, frequently with a view to take revenge.” Another definition connects it to a plant or fruit that is “teeming” with juice.* What if we rephrased the verse like this: “slow to let anger settle in our mind, slow to take revenge, slow to explode in anger.” That definitely brings it a little closer to home.
When anger strikes we want to take action. The severity of the action can depend on the intensity of our ire. Again, this is where we get to show maturity in our anger.
The actions of anger can look different. For some, we take action by simply filing our anger away, letting it settle in our hearts. While this might feel like appropriate Christian female action, it isn’t. Anger that takes up residence in our hearts is like ignoring a crack in the foundation of a home. It might be an unsightly blemish now, but soon it will destroy the entire home. Truthfully, tucked away anger usually reveals itself in the form of revenge, either in our thoughts or reality. Ever had the thought, “I wish my husband would hurt like he hurt me?” Or maybe you were purposely late getting home one day, so he could share in the anxiety you feel when he isn’t home on time? Looking closely, we can see that both of these actions are tinged with revenge. Just like that crack, we weaken the foundation of our relationship – and even in ourselves– each day we choose to react with immature anger.
Maybe our anger action is attacking in the moment. We explode in a tornado of emotions all over another person – sometimes not even the person who has made us angry. (Remember my story from last week?) The hurt and insecurity teeming inside gets voiced in accusations, negative blanket statements, and dare I say, name-calling. Add in a dehumanizing tone and some yelling and we’ve got ourselves an “unhinged” moment. There has never been a moment when I’ve looked back on an anger explosion and felt good about it. In fact, I feel worse than I did before the anger showed up. Like the house built with the crack of revenge in its foundation, exploding anger kicks holes in the wall and breaks windows, making it all the more unsafe. Both anger response choices are not indicative of maturity in handling anger. Being slow to anger means the action we take is a healthy one, not one that brings destruction.
A Final Note
Consider this: James does not advise us to avoid anger. He knows it will come, but he cautions us in our reaction to it. Anger is not an enemy; it’s a tool alerting us to deeper issues, ones that must be addressed in honesty and vulnerability. It’s important that we do life differently as a woman recovering from sexual betrayal. Those old tools riddled with immature anger must go.
If we aren’t there yet, then we need a safe community, a therapist, a trusted friend or pastor to work through our anger. In Corinthians, Pauls says, “ When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a (wo)man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13: 11, NLT, brackets mine). As we walked this road of betrayal recovery may we be like Paul and put the ways of childish anger behind us.
Wrangling Hope with You,
*information taken from Blueletterbible.org