by Morris D. Hunsucker, Sr.
This article first appeared in FrontLine • July/August 2000. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
My temper has always been a problem. When I was younger, I regularly got into trouble because I got so angry, so easily. Whenever a conflict would arise, I always ended up doing something or saying something that would ultimately only make matters worse. My defense for my actions was always the same: “It’s not my fault!”
For years I blamed my lack of self-control on everyone and everything else. I never once thought the problem was mine, so I always had an excuse for my anger. I honestly thought (and often said out loud), “If everyone would just leave me alone, I wouldn’t lose my temper.” I would make foolish statements such as, “I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am,” or “You’d be mad too if that happened to you!” There were times I even attempted to blame my problem on my younger brother. I can still remember telling my parents, “It’s his fault. He made me do it!”
After I got married and entered the ministry, I began to blame my occasional flare-ups on the stress of the job, or on the trials of parenting, or on family financial pressures. I continued to make excuses, and consequently, I continued to have a problem. Finally, one day at a school basketball game, I noticed that my son was starting to develop the same problem with an uncontrolled temper. After the game, when I confronted him about his temper tantrum, I was stunned by his response. He simply excused his actions by saying, “I can’t help it, Dad, that’s just the way I am.” Now where do you suppose he learned that excuse?
I immediately realized that if I was ever going to be successful in training him to control his temper, I would first have to learn to control my own. The first thing I did was to take my Bible concordance and look up every reference for words such as “anger,” “wrath,” “fury,” and “strife.” Then I began studying each Bible verse that contained one or more of those words. It wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit revealed to me one central truth: my loss of temper was not caused by what was happening on the outside but rather by what was happening on the inside.
I must confess, I never did get rid of my temper. Trust me, it’s still there, just below the surface, waiting to explode should I give it the opportunity. What I was able to do was learn to control it. The truth is, we all have a temper. It’s just that some of us have learned the importance of keeping it under control. Below are a few things I learned from the Book of Proverbs that helped me to get control of my own terrible temper.
Five Warnings to Angry Men
- God expects us to learn to “rule” or to control our temperament and attitude (Prov. 16:32, 25:28). Evangelist Tom Farrell put it best when he said, “Your attitude is your choice!” He was right! You can and you must learn to control your attitude (your way of thinking).
- “Anger is outrageous” (Prov. 27:3–4). The word for “outrageous” in that verse means “like a flood or a downpour.” A man given to anger is like a flood out of control. He rains havoc and destruction on everyone and everything in his path. Often he winds up hurting the very people he loves the most.
- Angry words only lead to more angry words (Prov. 30:33). Strife only tends to stir up more strife. Solomon said, “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife” (Prov. 20:3). In other words, “If you have any sense, you’ll stop the nonsense.”
- The man who does not learn to control his temper will continually suffer for it (Prov. 19:19). Until you learn to control your emotions, your emotions will control you!
- Just like stink follows a skunk, sin and trouble follow the angry man (Prov. 29:22). Transgressions abound wherever he goes. Whether you are willing to admit it or not, most of the time, you are the cause of your own troubles!
Five Things You Can Do to Get Control of Your Temper
- “Make no friendship with an angry man” (Prov. 22:24, 25). Learn to stay away from others who have the same problem. Angry men always end up alone and lonely (Prov. 22:10, 24; 24:1).
- Teach yourself to react slowly (Prov. 14:17, 29; 15:18; 24:8). If you don’t learn to practice patience, you will soon make a fool of yourself (if you have not already).
- Understand that, at times, a silent response is a good answer, a slow response is a better answer, and a “soft” response is the best answer (Prov. 15:1; 25:15). Soft words are often the only kind that can get through to a hard head. Tender and gentle words will not make you less of a man. It does not take much of a man to yell at a woman or a child, and what good is a man who can not control his temper around other men?
- Learn to forgive (Prov. 19:11). Vengeance is not your right or responsibility. The ability to “pass over a transgression” is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Remember that the source of your anger is your own proud heart (Prov. 13:10; 28:25). Humble yourself and learn to trust the Lord. Think about this: Your sinful outbursts are not caused by any outside input, but rather by your own inside output!
Morris D. Hunsucker Sr. is assistant pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Avon, Indiana.