All of us know what it is like to be angry. Everyone is vulnerable. Sadly, anger is one ensnaring weakness that often trips us up in our daily lives, vexing and troubling those around us.
Commentator Albert Barnes describes this sin well. “It is an excitement or agitation of mind, of more or less violence, produced by the reception of a real or supposed injury, and attended commonly with a desire or purpose of revenge.”
Anger is a grievous sin. It takes only one angry person to break up a family, church fellowship or friendship. Such are the harmful effects of uncontrolled anger. The Book of Proverbs has much to teach us concerning the dangers of this serious sin:
1. An angry person “dealeth foolishly … and … is hated”
“He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated” (Prov 14: 17)
The word “angry” in the original has the idea of “short of nostrils”. “When a man is angry, his nose is contracted, and drawn up towards his eyes” (Adam Clarke). This reflects the repulsiveness of such a character.
“Men who are peevish and touchy, and are soon angry upon every the least provocation, deal foolishly; they say and do that which is ridiculous, and so expose themselves to contempt; they themselves cannot but be ashamed of it when the heat is over” (Matthew Henry).
Unrestrained passion causes a person to speak and act foolishly. Such a spiteful man is to be pitied because he makes himself odious to others. When the angry person calms down, he may be ashamed of his folly. But he cannot undo the damage he has done. Indeed, he has dealt foolishly.
2. An angry person “exalteth folly”
“He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Prov 14: 29).
The understanding person is slow to anger. He takes time to reflect on the situation before responding. He is willing to accommodate the faults of others. As such, he is not easily ruffled or provoked to anger. But one who is “hasty of spirit exalteth folly” and displays his anger publicly. Interestingly, the phrase “hasty of spirit” means “short of spirit”. It describes one who is easily agitated; he loses his cool at the slightest provocation. Acting rashly without thinking of the consequences, he exposes his folly so that it is seen by all to his shame.
“He that is hasty of spirit, whose heart is tinder to every spark of provocation, that is all fire and tow, as we say, he thinks hereby to magnify himself and make those about stand in awe of him, whereas really he exalts his own folly; he makes it known, as that which is lifted up is visible to all, and he submits himself to it as to the government of one that is exalted” (Albert Barnes).
3. An angry person “stirreth up strife” and “aboundeth in transgression”
“An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression” (Prov 29: 22).
One with an angry disposition is quarrelsome – he stirs up strife even over minor issues. He finds fault with others because he is easily offended. “A furious man aboundeth in transgression” – describes a man whose habit is to react in anger. Easily provoked, his wrath rises up in him quickly. This ungoverned passion leads to many sins like blaming others, swearing, cursing, violence and even murder. He is a trouble to both family and friends.
4. An angry person torments himself
“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh” (Prov 11: 17)
By dealing mercifully with others, we are doing good to ourselves. Commenting on this verse, Charles Bridges aptly remarks: “We are friends or enemies to ourselves. … He has the pleasure of doing his duty, and contributing to the comfort of those that are to him as his own soul … He that waters others with his temporal good things shall find that God will water him with his spiritual blessings, which will do the best good to his own soul.”
But for one who is cruel, unmerciful and unforgiving, his sin becomes his punishment – he “troubleth his own flesh”. Anger, if uncontrolled, can lead to disastrous consequences that will affect not only others, but also ourselves.
An angry person is controlled by the words and actions of others. Haman the Agagite was one such example. He was so disturbed by Mordecai’s refusal to bow before him that it “ate him up”. Even as he was boasting of his achievements and honours to his wife and family, the thought of Mordecai snubbing him tormented him and marred his comforts: “Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Est 5: 13).
(… to be concluded)