Slow to Anger

A controversialist who loses his temper paints a target on his vitals in several ways. First, he is apt in such a state to make statements that, because they are inadequately considered, are impossible to defend in the greater authority structure (such as the teaching of Scripture) to which he stands professed. Second, the angry retort, in its canonical and frequently rational inadequacy, is supremely difficult to reconsider or retract, so that whatever reason or plausibility an opponent brings against it cannot be employed by the interlocutor in a search for truth. And third, the angry man is now more susceptible to the pride which retains his statement as unalterable, and thus, among those who follow him, as an article of faith they must defend at all costs. I believe a great many church divisions are born in and sustained by anger—which is easily communicable—and for this reason it should be placed second only to pride in the list of deadly sins.

Answers to antitheses should as a rule be considered slowly and advisedly, which discourages explosions of insult or outrage and inhibits hastiness and inaccurate judgment. That is why the biblical prescription of being slow to anger is not merely an admonition to avoid unpleasantness and spiritual sourness, but a moral command of the greatest weight, which necessarily lies at the base of the believer’s formation.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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