Angered At and Angry With

As I work my way through the Proverbs, I see anger everywhere

“I’m not naturally given to anger. I tend to be pretty easy-going and unlikely to spark a conflagration. But that’s not to say I can’t be too easily riled up, especially when living and ministering among people who may be a little bit more prone to anger. It’s when I’m sinned against in anger that I am most likely to sin in anger.

 

It’s the time of year when my Bible-reading plan takes me through the book of Proverbs. There’s something almost absurd about reading this book at a pace of three chapters per day. That’s like quickly crunching through a whole bag of peppermints rather than slowly savoring each one. Yet reading the proverbs in great swaths does make it easier to identify its themes. Just as we can miss the forest for the trees, we can miss the themes for the maxims. But what might be difficult to see at a meditative pace has a way of standing out when read quickly.

As I work my way through the proverbs, I see anger everywhere. I see the folly of anger, the danger of anger, the sinfulness of anger. I see that the godly learn to control their anger while the fools let it rage. The godly allow themselves to be offended while the fools demand satisfaction for every little slight. The godly draw people into close relationship while the fools destroy friendship. There’s a high cost to all this anger.

One proverb stands out as posing a particular challenge to me: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). It is sinful to initiate an angry confrontation, but equally sinful to exacerbate one with an unfitting response. Wisdom insists that we so put anger to death that we no longer respond angrily even when sinned against. Sanctification is not only about holiness in situations we initiate, but also situations we are drawn into.

I’m not naturally given to anger. I tend to be pretty easy-going and unlikely to spark a conflagration. But that’s not to say I can’t be too easily riled up, especially when living and ministering among people who may be a little bit more prone to anger. It’s when I’m sinned against in anger that I am most likely to sin in anger. It’s when I’m angered at that I tend to get angry with. And it’s right then that a soft answer might just turn away wrath. It might just turn it away from that other person and it would certainly turn it away from me.

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