You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians:
Be angry, and don’t sin.” Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,Ephesians 4:26 (WEB)
Anger is by no means the only time when need to be careful about our words. In fact, anger is usually a secondary emotion. By this I mean it always follows some other emotional trigger. When someone stands on your foot, you may get angry about it, but the first thing you felt was pain, then anger followed. Similarly, anger can follow on from embarrassment, guilt or emotional pain.
In the midst of significant pain, irrespective of the type of pain or the cause, try not to speak out of that pain. Words that erupt from pain may feel very real indeed, but in the cold light of day, rarely reflect a reality we would be happy with.
As in all other things, Christ is our ultimate example of this. As He faced the biggest trial of His life, and indeed perhaps the biggest trial of all time, He was especially careful about His words. Indeed, there were moments when Jesus simply refused to speak.
Now I have told you before it happens so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do. Arise, let’s go from here.John 14:29-31 (WEB)
And similarly, before Pilate:
Immediately in the morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, bound Jesus, carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
He answered, “So you say.”
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they testify against you!”
5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate marveled.Mark 15:1-5 (WEB)
I cannot begin to imagine what Jesus would have been feeling in these situations, knowing what He was about to face. Were I in His shoes (laughable as it is), what might I have been saying? It seems hugely unlikely that I would have remained silent.
Yet, like a sheep before the shearer, He remained silent (Isaiah 53:7).
We would do well to learn to remain silent in times of great distress or pain. Too often we pour out words that harm ourselves and those around us. Christ did not say one word He did not entirely mean, and none of us can say the same.
I am no psychologist of course, and am certainly not advising you to simply bottle up your feelings and never share them. That’s quite a different and equally dangerous thing. I am merely saying that there is a time to speak, and a time to remain silent. When our emotions are high, when we feel an intense pain or boiling anger, that is probably not the best time to speak, or to discuss with others. Of course, we must find healthy ways of processing our emotions. Anger and pain are debilitating if not properly worked through, but often we require much time or space to do that.
I recently heard someone talking about a time of trauma they went through. They reflected that at the time, and shortly thereafter, they spoke often and loudly about the pain they had been through. Dear friends advised them to be careful about their words during that time, because it was clear their pain was driving what they were saying, rather than any reasoned opinion or thought. The realised this was good advice that they were sorely in need of. It took them a number of years to process what they had been through before they could speak about it with any sense of balance.
If you are not going through a difficult time right now, then please do not dismiss this. IF you are not going through a difficult time at the moment… then just wait! Chances are you will sooner or later, and when you do, don’t speak out of the pain you are feeling then and there.
For more on the power of words, check out my post Words can be Atom Bombs
God bless you!