It’s interesting that James adds anger to the short list of communication skills—hearing and speaking. Inevitably there will be moments in every relationship when anger kicks in and good dialog breaks down. James acknowledges this possibility by including the instruction, “slow to anger.” Point being, unrestrained anger ends any useful communication between two people. No amount of quick listening or slow speaking will ever repair dialog when two people are mad at each another.
If left unresolved, the hot emotion of anger can destroy a life in a moment of time. It’s a key ingredient to the downfall of Cain. Just look at Genesis 4, verses 5 and 6: “But for Cain and his offering He [God] had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?’” In a moment Cain gave place to his anger, acted upon it by murdering his brother, and effectively ruined his future. So to speak, his pressure-cooker overheated and he exploded.
There are a myriad of verses indicating the emotion of anger is not sin until we act upon the passion as Cain’s example portrays. In Ephesians 4, verse 26 we read, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The idea is that anger will happen, but you want to deal with it quickly before it has time to fester into action.
And just so we’re aware, according to James, nothing good can come out of the action of an angry disposition! James tells us straight forwardly in verse 20, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” If an individual thinks anger can end in a good thing for God, they’re gravely mistaken. An individual maybe able to manipulate people by using anger, but James makes it clear the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God!
So, how do I “chill-out” hot anger issues before going nuclear? Paul writes in Ephesians 4, verse 31:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
In short, put away anger. The phrase “put away” is like the idea of telling kids to put away their toys. In other words, stop indulging the thoughts that make you upset. Again, Paul repeats himself in Colossians 3, verse 8: But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Simply put, quit thinking about issues that get you mad! It’s nearly impossible to talk reasonably with someone when you’re angry, anyways. Putting away anger means to cease playing-out an issue over-and-over in your mind.
And, once the heat of the moment is cooled, profitable dialog can begin again. Speech seasoned with salt, being quick to hear; these communication skills can resume once anger is put away. And then watch how easy troubling issues between two people can get worked out! This is how you “chill-out” your anger before doing damage to self and others.
J. Robert Hanson