– Henry Ward Beecher
Restraining the Spirit
There is a sure sign of strength of character when someone is angered yet keeps their anger under control. The Bible teaches, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27). James writes, “My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). When we are slow to anger and restrain our words, we are like God, Who is patient and long-suffering. The Apostle Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Holding the Tongue
We’ve already read that we should be slow to speak (James 1:19) and restrain our words (Proverbs 17:27). “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19). Sometimes it’s better to say nothing than something you’ll live to regret. Words cannot be taken back. Words cannot be unspoken. Words are so important and can be so lethal that Solomon wrote, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
Strength When Needed
When you have an opportunity to do good but don’t, you know that’s sin (James 2:15, 1 John 3:17). When you have the means or the strength to do good, do it. I am reminded of a young pastor who was in a laundry mat with his wife when he saw a man pushing a young child around, almost like he was bullying him. The young pastor became angry but held his tongue until he got the courage to go up to the man. The pastor said, “You know, child abuse is illegal. I should report you. Why are you treating that young child that way?” The man went up to the pastor’s face to confront him; but when the young boy started crying, the man finally stopped. Later, the man told him he was a single father and wasn’t managing his family very good. The man learned a lesson. He hadn’t physically abused the boy, but he came very close to it. The pastor shared Christ with this father; and next week there they were, in the body of Christ. The pastor was glad he spoke up when he did, even though he was fearful of the man, who was much bigger than he.
There is a time for anger and a time for calm. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak up. The true strength of a person’s character is holding their anger in check, keeping their tongue bridled, and knowing when to speak up and not be silent at a time when there is righteous indignation about something seen. If men or women do nothing, then anything goes. Where there is no restraint, the people’s hearts are bent toward evil.