By Paul K. Williams
“A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11).
From the baby screaming in its crib to the old man in hospital impatiently waiting for the bedpan, all of us have trouble controlling our tempers. The only one who has no trouble with his temper is six feet underground. But the wise man says, “A fool always loses his temper.” That means I am that much closer to being a fool every time I lose my temper! It makes me think.
A fool is one who does not have good judgement, who does not profit from experience or discipline. The one who says, “There is no God,” is a fool because he is denying the evidence surrounding him. The one who always loses his temper is a fool because repeated experience has taught him nothing.
I can think of five reasons why losing my temper makes me a fool. They are as follows:
1. Many times it causes me to do things of which afterwards I am ashamed. My temper overcomes my good judgement and I act the fool.
2. Losing my temper makes me act from the emotion of anger without thinking. James warns, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). I simply want to strike out and hurt the object of my anger. Unrighteousness is the result.
3. Losing my temper demonstrates that I lack self-control, and I lose the respect of those who know me. A man without self-control cannot be trusted with responsibility because he may ruin everything in a burst of anger. That is the reason an elder must not be quick-tempered (Titus 1:7).
4. Losing my temper causes me to hurt those I love the most. When I become angry it makes no difference if the person is my wife or my child – I strike out with words or blows. How foolish to hurt these loved ones!
5. When I lose my temper I usually succeed in causing the other person to lose his, and we wind up two fools instead of one!
Yes, the man or the woman who is known for his temper is a fool, especially if that person has no more sense than to brag about it. (Did you ever hear someone say, “I’ve got red hair!” or “I’m Irish!”?)
“But a wise man holds it back.” How can I become wise?
First, the wise man has come to realize the dangers of hasty anger. “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Prov. 17:14). As water breaking through an earthen dam wall becomes stronger and more uncontrollable, so quarrels quickly grow from a few hot words to full-blown feuds. The wise man knows this and tries to stop the quarrel before it begins.
Second, the wise man has convinced himself that he can hold his temper back. It is our lack of faith which says, “I can’t help it. I was just born that way.” God says, “Be angry and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Faith says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). God does not command the impossible. I am truly a fool of little faith when I convince myself I cannot control my temper. The wise man believes God and looks for the way to overcome.
Third, in looking for ways to control his temper the wise man has found two. He has found the easiest way is to be so prepared that at the beginning of the temptation he reacts with resistance. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus was immediately ready with the words of His Father. So when the wise man sees a situation where he will be tempted to become uncontrolled he takes preventive action. James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). So the wise man prepares himself to resist. He practices the “gentle answer” which “turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1) and finds that it not only cools down the other person but calms the speaker as well.
He trains himself also not to think too highly of himself, I find that when I lose my temper, it is often because of some slight or insult to me. Afterward I am ashamed of myself, for who am I to think I have to be treated with respect? My Saviour was insulted and reviled. Am I better than He? So the wise man does not wear a chip on his shoulder and takes slights without resentment. He has removed from within himself the greatest single cause for losing his temper.
But the wise man knows that sometimes anger gets ho. of him before he is aware, that vicious thoughts have riseF, unbidden to his heart and sharp words are ready to be spoken. He knows, though, that he can still put on the brakes. He can ask God to forgive those thoughts. He can “restrain” his words. “Count to ten.” “Bite your tongue.” Those old sayings have good foundations.
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:9).
“He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Prov. 17:27).
“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Prov. 15:28).
So let us restrain and ponder so that our spirits may be cool.
Fourth, the wise man probably has asked others to help him overcome his temper. Heb. 10:24 tells us to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” How helpful it is when my wife says, “Whoops, we are losing control. Let’s pray and read the Bible and then discuss this thing.” Then we both are able to become wise people with cool spirits.
I like the story about the sweet old lady. When a young girl asked her the secret of her serenity and of her gracious words she replied, “Honey, it’s not hard. I just taste my words before I say them.” She had learned the secret of holding back her temper and had become wise.
Let’s never forget,
“A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.”
Truth Magazine XXIV: 30, pp. 488-489
July 31, 1980