We see throughout the book of Proverbs that a quick temper is a negative thing in a person's life. It can get us into a world of trouble. Here we read that the man who is quick-tempered exalts folly. Giving in to anger, resentment, and bitterness in our lives only exalts folly. The idea here expressed is that it is the "unthinking" and "unreasoning" way to live our lives. Anyone can become frustrated or angry and then give in to having a blowout that involves a temper flaring up and expressing itself in hurtful words or actions. That exalts stupidity and living foolishly. What then, can keep us from exalting folly by being quick-tempered?
The Bible says that someone who is slow to anger has great understanding. The word for understanding here is "tebunah" and it means to have both understanding and insight. It is taking both knowledge and wisdom and applying it in a way that helps us look into our anger and examine it before reacting. That indeed is wisdom. We need to ask ourselves the question, "Why am I so angry about this?" Looking into our reaction often will make us ask deeper questions and deal on a deeper level than just saying, "I'm so angry about this!"
When we probe our anger we need to be ready to run into personal issues that exist on the inside of our lives. I will never forget the shock it was to me when an older, wiser man told me the reason I got so angry with my children was because of my pride. On the inside I wanted to snap back that it was their disobedience that was making me mad - not something wrong with me. In no way was this man saying I should not have disciplined them for being disobedient and rebellious - he was only saying that I needed to see why at times I felt out of control while doing it. His wise counsel was that my pride and anger came from a desire to control my children - so they would never disobey. My reason behind this thought was that my kids made me look bad as a parent when they disobeyed - and that made me angry. A wise parent would know that children are GOING to be disobedient because they are sons of Adam.
The fall of man will ensure that every child will be disobedient and rebellious in some way. Therefore having a disobedient child does not mean you are a bad parent. A parent who is failing in their role is one who does not discipline his or her child for their disobedience. I was failing not because I was disciplining my child - but becasue at times I was doing so in anger. My anger was foolish because I was expecting my child never to disobey - so I would look good in other people's eyes. Therefore my anger - when disected with understanding - was due to a couple of foolish things. First, I was not grasping the true nature of a child. Second, I was wanting my child to be good so I would not be bothered with having to interrupt MY DAY with things I did not want to do. Third, the reason I wanted a "good child" was so that my glory could be advanced. When looking at my quick-tempered responses suddenly I was a little horrified (understatement of the year) at their root. It was pride! Therefore wisdom applied - understanding deepened - and a willingness to have the Holy Spirit probe deeper into my motivations yielded repentance . . . and it yielded an ability over time to be much slower to anger.
Let me encourage any of you who are struggling with being quick-tempered. Take the time to submit yourself to the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to take you deeper into your angry responses in order to look at them and see them at the level of your heart motivations. He will walk you through this process and will help you to understand why you have a quick-temper at times. I will not say that this is pleasant - but God will do it with a view to repentance and restoration. He will do so with great grace and comfort - as well as a little heart surgery that will help you to become someone who is far more slow to anger. You will find that His grace and His gospel will be enough to turn from quick-tempered foolishness to patient love and understanding.