“When you are angry, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”
— Psalm 4:4 (NRSV)
Contrasting two pieces of biblical advice—this one above, with Ephesians 4:26b (“do not let the sun go down on your anger”)—we see an opportunity for responding well.
In both passages there is acknowledgement of the inevitability of anger. To be angry is to be in a state recognised and accepted by the Bible. Being angry, of itself, is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s the outworking of that anger that is usually problematic.
It isn’t the normal human default response to meet our anger calmly.
We are more likely to take the haste of the reptilian response, as our anger flashes over at boiling point reached within seconds. Such a response is a response of a child, for children of ages 2-5 characteristically lose control instantly.
Our challenge is to rise above the reptilian response, and, employing the higher adult mind—that which is trained by virtuous portions of stately patience—we enjoy the ability to remain silent, pondering the stimulus to anger on our beds (or in some other quiet place, whether physical or mental).
Engaging in Mindfulness
If and when we are given to anger—notably the source of rage that has an outworking of damage or the potential to damage—we have missed the invitation to mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a discipline of the mind consciously engaged in thought for the moment. Any of us can improve our capacities to consciously engage within our moments. God provides wisdom to the extent of our capacity to invest in the learning.
As we are mindful, which is saving a significant portion of our thinking space for a broader perspective than our anger, we are blessed with reason beyond ourselves. This is when we know God is with us, helping us, empowering us to decide with a reasonable mind.
These are practised things. More and more we can achieve control in our angry moments. When we are practicing patience with consistency, calmness becomes us more and more, and in explosive moments we find sufficient capacity to be silent and enough wisdom to wander away from the danger zone.
We can thank God for the capacity for contemplative silence in moments of rage. But these disciplines we must be trained in. We will gain in the development of wisdom and patience and perspective according to the earnestness of our prayers desiring same.
Achieving better outcomes in angry moments is essentially about gaining mastery over acts of silent inaction within the moment. The less we do, the more gain there is.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.