15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice.
16 Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult.
17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness speaks deceitfully.
18 Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Today’s reading from Proverbs reminds us to think before we speak or act: this is something that should be a ‘no-brainer’, but sadly, something I still find myself struggling with!
I have a temper and although I have learned a lot about how to control it over the years, there are times when this temper can still get away from me and cause me to do or say things without thinking that I quickly come to regret.
Although there are many things that can stress me out, making me more vulnerable to losing my temper or acting foolishly (like work, finances, relationship stress, etc.) it is my daughter that can really set me off. My daughter and I know how to push each other’s buttons, and when caught up in an argument with our tempers really cooking neither of us wants to give up the fight…a trait that has led to some very loud arguments, things being thrown, damage to the walls, and more than one visit by our local law enforcement (due to the noise), as well as a lot of things that were said out of anger which lead to many hurt feelings!
To avoid such foolishness, I have found that it is important to learn when to let go of the argument, when to walk away and cool off…because continuing to fight would be not be helpful, and only making things worse between us. However, when already in the midst of a temper tantrum, it is hard to simply turn it off and walk away, but I found that when I can do this, things improve greatly.
Of course the best thing is to not let myself lose my temper in the first place….and to do this, I had to learn how to think before acting foolishly, to stop and think through what I am going to do, and to consider the outcome…where I will be on the other side, will this make things better or worse? In other words, to ask myself: “How important is it?”
I have also learned to watch for my triggers, the things that can set me off, like being too tired, letting myself get too stressed, too frustrated, and too wound up with my anger (justified and otherwise). These are the red flags that I watch for, and when they come up, and I find myself sliding towards losing control, whether it is on the road, at work (I work at a Customer Service Call Center remember) or at home with my daughter, I need to stop and take a break to think before letting my anger get the better of me.
I would love to say that using these techniques I have avoided speaking and acting foolishly, and losing my temper….I would like to say that, but it would not be the truth, as I only practice these techniques, I do not do them perfectly. I can still lose my temper from time to time, and get caught up in arguments with my daughter and others that become so intense that we can lose sight of what we are fighting about in the first place as the anger takes over.
At these times, when it seems that all of my good intentions and practice has failed me, and I wind up losing my temper any way, causing me to act foolishly there is one more thing I can do: pray for help to calm down! Sometimes this help comes from others, who I can reach out to for support and advice…people who have been through the same experiences we have gone through, and who can understand our own moments of weakness.
When we do lose our tempers leading us to act foolishly, there is still hope, as we can practice forgiveness! Just has God has forgiven us, we can forgive those who have caused us so much upset and frustration that we wound up acting foolishly. When we can forgive others, and ourselves for falling short of our best behavior, we can then take the next step and apologize…for forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of our faith, and what we are called to do as Christians: to bring each other together in love, where anger and resentment seeks only to pull us apart.
Once reconciled and forgiven there is healing! We can learn new was to react to stress and disagreements, ways that do not include losing our tempers and acting without thought, but instead offer real solutions to our problems…solutions earned on the ‘anvils of experience’ or ourselves and others. Solutions that will help us to continue to live together, work together and grow in our faith together, not only as part of our own family, but also as part of the larger family of God…as we are ALL well-loved children of God, no matter who we are or where we are.
Let Us Pray:
God, help us to think before we act foolishly, to learn from others, and to pay attention to those ‘red flags’ that warn us that we are going off-track. Help us to practice patience and wisdom, to think through our actions before they get the better of us, and to seek out better ways to react to situations that make us angry or afraid. When we do lose our temper, saying and doing things we wish we hadn’t, please help us to practice forgiveness and reconciliation…just as you have taught us to do, keeping in mind that we are ALL your well-loved children, and we are all part of the same family.