Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
She was the first person I ever heard utter the phrase “instant bad mood.” With her temper, it was not an unusual occurrence. The classic example was the full-service car wash. Although the vehicles rode on a track while in the car wash, attendants had to drive the vehicles momentarily in and out of the tunnel. Those driving spurts only lasted seconds, but the same thing would occur every time. The attendants who handled her car always were taller than she was, and they would move her seat back considerably. Each time she returned to her car she would be infuriated because she knew it would take days to get that seat back the way she liked it. This minor annoyance would set her off and sometimes ruin an entire day.
There is a reason why scripture instructs us to be slow to anger, and it is the same reason why we are instructed to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Anger is not the product of deliberate thought. It is the result of quick, rash and emotional reaction to some stimulus. Those who are wrathful and given to anger do not practice clear thinking. The angry man is moved by emotion to take steps he later might regret instead of processing what has occurred and considering what the proper response should be. God wants us to be careful in how we behave and speak, but that becomes difficult when we surround ourselves with people who explode at a moment’s notice and for the most minor reasons. Anger begets anger, and we want to be free from such an environment.
Today’s command comes with a warning: anger can bring us trouble. There is a proper place for anger in the Christian life because we hate what God hates, but we must study the scriptures to know when anger is proper. That is an extreme response for us to have, and it is not one that should be shown or practiced regularly. We are called to joy and contentment as our default temperament. We are not called to fly off the handle in blind or instant rage because life’s circumstances are something other than what we prefer. We cannot practice improper anger and wrath while still remaining joyful and content. One must give way to the other. Father, surround us with those who are thoughtful and slow to anger that we would practice contentment and joy instead of wrath.