Poisonous Words

[Thursday] we examined two kinds of destructive speech that attempt to achieve ulterior motives. When we flatter someone, we deceive that person in order to gain an advantage for ourselves. When we gossip, we lower people in the eyes of others. Both involve deception. Today we will consider destructive confrontation. While it is direct and open, unlike the cowardly ways of flattery and gossip, the effect is nonetheless harmful.

  1. Arguments, striving, and angry words

Take the time now to read Proverbs 14:16–17; 15:4; 17:14; 18:6; 25:15; 29:11. You will also profit from a careful examination of the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself. (22:24–25)

An angry man stirs up strife,
And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. (29:22)

By arguments and striving I do not mean the expression of differing opinions or even constructive confrontation. Intelligent thinking and unguarded, open conversation must leave room for everyone to express themselves freely and without fear. Naturally, this will lead to the occasional difference of opinion. Arguments and striving, however, have to do with negative attitudes such as stubbornness and rigidity.

The phrase in Proverbs 22:24 rendered “a man given to anger” reads, literally, “Do not befriend an anger-owner” or “Do not befriend a lord of anger.” The adjective translated “hot-tempered” suggests a pot of boiling poison. This kind of person responds to virtually every negative experience with venom because he or she remains angry with everyone and everything. Because anger begets anger, strife follows this person like a dark cloud. The sage warned that this kind of anger can be a learned trait. Associate with a habitually angry person and you will soon become like him or her.

That said, we must recognize anger as a natural, healthy response when someone harms or offends us. Nowhere does God condemn anger as a sin in itself. He warns that unresolved anger can lead to transgression (29:22) and may give Satan an opportunity to destroy relationships (Ephesians 4:26–27). God therefore urges us to straightforwardly confront our offenders in order to resolve the issue face-to-face and once and for all. If that person apologizes, “you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15). If, after several attempts to reconcile, the apology does not come, you may have to “overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

Regardless, anger must not be given a place to lodge in one’s heart. It will take root and then overtake its host, transforming him or her into “a lord of anger.”

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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