“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Proverbs 29:11 (NIV)
Nehemiah’s example shows us how to use anger as our ally. When he discovered the abuse of his people, he said, “I got really angry!” What do you do when you get really mad? How do you respond? Is anger your ally or your nemesis? While anger can be the number one enemy that destroys relationships, it can also be our greatest means to deepen those relationships. How?
Nehemiah took the first step we must take to use anger as our ally. Rather than impulsively reacting, he thought through what he needed to do with his anger. Anger is not really the problem in our relationships. It’s how we handle our anger that makes the difference. The Bible tells us what Nehemiah did.
“After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet.” Nehemiah 5:6 (MSG)
He shows us how to handle our anger. Think before you speak! After thinking it over, he knew what he should do. He confronted the source of the problem. He called a meeting with those who were violating God’s law and exploiting the people. Then, he took the second step. He spoke the truth. He told the nobles and officials,
What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?” Nehemiah 5:9 (MSG)
I love that phrase, “Don’t you care?” Nehemiah was saying, “Because I care, I’m confronting you with the issue that is hurting you and others.” Anger is often an indicator of how deeply we feel and care for others. If you really care for someone, you will have the courage to confront them and speak the truth to them. Giving careful thought to what you are going to say will enable you to speak the truth and attack the issues and not the person. If not, anger turned inward leads to depression and makes you feel helpless and hopeless to do anything. Paralyzed by fear of what others may think, we say nothing. We become cynical, bitter and depressed. Anger turned outward leads to rage. It is destructive and hurts others rather than helps. Instead of clamming up or blowing up, what do we do? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:15 what to do:
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is Christ.” (NIV)
God uses anger to help us grow up in Him, to grow in our relationships with others and to speak the truth in love. How do you know if you are speaking the truth in love? Check your motive before you speak. Is your motive to build up and correct the problem or is it to attack the person? In verse 29 of Ephesians chapter four, Paul adds,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)
This is exactly what Nehemiah did and it resolved the problem that was upsetting the community and distracting them from fulfilling God’s purpose in their lives. He used anger as his ally by thinking before he spoke, speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love. By the end of his meeting, the people were hugging it out rather than fighting it out! He took the risk to be honest with his feelings and to speak the truth!
It’s only the truth that will set you free, but it may be painful to share at first. The only way to be truly understood is to be honest. Are you holding on to a hurt? You’ve become irritable and angry. Rather than avoiding the issue any further, maybe it’s time to think through how God may want you to share your heart with the one who hurt you and experience the healing that can come from speaking the truth in love.