“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” — James 1:19-20.
Welcome to 2020. What a long strange trip it’s been — already. With the coronavirus in the air, protests and riots in the streets, and elections coming up, fur is flying on Facebook and elsewhere. Fueled by anger, friends, relatives and neighbors are blaming, flaming and shaming each other; being unbending and unfriending each other over political, philosophical or religious issues.
While being quickly “more offended than thou” over the latest real, imagined, or manufactured outrage is in vogue, the writer of Proverbs has a different take. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” states Proverbs 16:32.
Ron and I had been close friends for about five years when one day we had a very strong disagreement over a mutual friend of ours named Scott. While it would have been wise to more carefully listen to each other, ask thoughtful questions and better understand the other’s point of view, anger overcame patience, and things went downhill faster than a late ’90s tech stock.
Rather than being quick to listen and slow to speak, thoughtless, painful and regrettable words were spoken in haste and fury, and we stormed off on our separate ways. Our anger sure didn’t work any righteousness. Now, Scott was getting a different message from each of us, and Ron and I weren’t speaking to each other.
Being slow to anger, or better yet not getting angry at all, would have been a much better idea. Proverbs 14:29 says “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” My folly was on full display that day, exalted unto the heavens.
Neither Ron nor I had considered Proverbs 15:1, which says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Instead, we screamed at each other, vainly trying to change the other’s mind. Later, we each told mutual friends just how wrong the other one had been.
I felt awful about the situation, as did Ron, I later learned. A couple of weeks later, we ran into each other at a mutual friend’s house. Overcoming initial prideful resistance, sincere, humble apologies were made, forgiveness was extended, and there was restoration and reconciliation.
Ron and I decided our friendship was more important than the issue we had fought over, so we agreed to disagree, shook hands and parted friends. We both felt much better.
A week later I received the shocking news that Ron had suddenly died of a massive heart attack. He was only 45. I have always been very thankful that Ron was willing to forgive me, and that we reconciled before he passed away.
The whole painful drama could have been avoided if only I had considered Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”
As Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Whoever will seek to be a peacemaker in the days ahead will be blessed.
• Guy Crockroft is executive director of Love Inc. Juneau. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.