Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
This is an important principle to learn, and the ones who have learned it (both the righteous and the wicked) have achieved great success in life. Even the wicked know the truth of this proverb. Anger is a powerful passion. Anger can increase strength due to the rush of adrenaline, giving an individual the power to accomplish more than expected. But it is the adrenaline, not the anger, that produces energy, and the key to success is harnessing the adrenaline so that you control it rather than be controlled.
I remember a basketball team of talented players that nevertheless struggled because of the inability of most of the players to handle anger. The most talented member often had to sit on the bench because of losing her anger during the game. She would get fouled, then get mad, and then get reckless. Another player would sulk if the ball was stolen from her. But there was another player who would get knocked down, perhaps have the ball stolen, but would immediately bounce back up and keep playing aggressively. Indeed, she would take advantage of the opposing players by getting them angry with her aggressive play. She did not need anger to motivate her. She simply kept focused on her goal.
It is the one who keeps focused, who remains patient and perseveres that wins and keeps the victory. That is the point of the second half of the proverb: “he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Many persons have won victories in sports or business or the military, only to lose what they gained. Their anger got them the burst of energy to win the battle, but they had not the wisdom to know what to do when they won. Essential to military success is knowing ones limits and not overstretching. An army can win too much territory too quickly, exposing itself to counterattack.
Anger can be helpful and even the right emotion to have depending on the circumstance. But the key is that we must control our anger to make it useful rather than let anger control us, which is what happens most of the time. We should be angry at injustice; sometimes it takes anger to get us doing something that normally we would be afraid to do or indifferent about. Even then, the anger needs to be harnessed, controlled by our wisdom. It is difficult to do; thus, we need to be those who are slow to anger.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org