Wanting To Hit Back

We’ve all seen it—an NBA forward takes a hard foul, and gets up swinging his fists. A pitcher throws at a hitter’s head, and both benches clear for an on-field shoving match. Hockey players drop their gloves and start going at each other. The intensity of emotions that are stirred in the midst of competition are at the same time part of what makes sports so much fun, and also part of what makes sports challenging. When we (or a teammate) are getting the pointed end of the stick, our natural, knee-jerk reaction is to want to hit back.

While there are moments in life when anger is both appropriate and necessary, many of our angry moments are not legitimate or healthy responses to hurt or disappointment—they represent an anger that just wants to strike back. So, how do we manage that kind of unhealthy, retaliatory anger? The Old Testament book of wisdom, Proverbs, offers a helpful reminder. In Proverbs 14:29 we read:

“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”

Many times, our desire to respond with anger to a difficult situation is less a reflection of the harm we feel, and more a reflection of our own shortcomings. The willingness, however, to display patience and caution when our reflex response might be retaliation displays a heart of wisdom that seeks to live beyond the circumstances of life—to find a better way. It was this better way that the New Testament writer James spoke of when he said:

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

The simple fact is that satisfying our desire for an angry response may feel good for the moment, but it will not fully accomplish the purposes of God. Being slow to anger can help us to protect relationships, and to deal with life’s difficulties in ways that are more healthy. It can help us to live lives of wisdom.

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain - Our Daily Bread