When I peer through the looking-glass of this week, all I see is busy and hectic in a variety of forms. Now, to be fair, my level of busy is nowhere close to the astronomical levels experienced by those closest to me. Still, I compose these words in a blog post. Call it selfish or shortsightedness, you name it, any descriptor might be appropriate. The following verse rings true regardless of my current circumstances: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV). What I’m seeing in the midst of this day is a tendency to be curt with customers. From my perspective, I see that as a sign of anger rising to the surface. I guess that means I am without understanding while exalting folly.
In earlier posts, I touched upon the notion that testing comes in circumstances like these to prove my character. What are those circumstances? At the end of this week, I move into a new place. Before that occurs, I must switch over my address, arrange for the utilities to be turned on, schedule furniture deliveries, and complete packing for the move. Each one requires attention to detail, which is not my strong suit. Details frustrate me to no end, which leads to my temperature rising, and then the heat comes out of my mouth. Clearly, this behavior flies in the face of King Solomon’s words in the first part of Proverbs 14:29. When I express my heat, the understanding vanishes without a trace.
Keep in mind that I am not talking about the good kind of anger. If someone behaves rudely to a child, an elderly person, or an authority figure, there is an appropriate measure of anger against such behavior. It is another matter entirely to respond out of frustration without thinking about the impact of those words. In an earlier post, I expanded on one Proverb about rash words being described like sword thrusts (Prov. 12:18, ESV). Whether my words are rash or my temper is hasty, the root is the same: no self-control. How do I acquire self-control? The apostle Paul lists it as one of the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 5:22-23). Once again, this requires faith and trust on my part to surrender to the Spirit’s work in my soul.
Rash words are like sword thrusts. A hasty temper exalts folly. Those two images find their homes in the Proverbs of King Solomon. By the divinely inspiring work of the Holy Spirit, Solomon has left us an Old Testament book that is chock-full of tough principles for how to respond and speak in the heat of the moment. In Proverbs 14:29, a hasty temper leads to folly: actions and words that undercut my character and influence. Did I think about my words or my actions? When it comes to interacting with people, I think Solomon’s words offer a good baseline for guarding against reacting too quickly. I want to lead others wisely, which means displaying an understanding character. This means being slow to anger, which means having an understanding character. It comes full circle. Thankfully, the Lord sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to become wise and understanding according to Proverbs 14:29. May we trust in him today and this year.