Thomas Jefferson once said, “when angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry count to one hundred.” This technique of counting to ten before you speak and act emphasises two key elements of anger management – time and distraction. While we distract ourselves counting and take time to pause we are choosing to not mentally add fuel to our anger.
Adding the technique of taking a slow deep breathe between each number counteracts the fight or flight stress action that underlies anger and helps us relax and focus our attention on the moment rather than our anger.
Once we are calmer we can carefully consider how we are going to respond, and not react by using the helpful principals of empathy, compassion and assertion.
“Empathy is the ability to see a situation from another’s person’s point of view and as we adopt this stance it opens the way for compassion by providing a deeper emotional understanding of what the source of the conflict is. Being compassionate in an anger-arousing situation allows for the deliberate choice of tolerant but assertive response to resolve the conflict.” (D Johnson PhD professor of psychiatry and behavioural science)
When we take a stance of empathy and compassion it enables us to not merely react to situations but to respond assertively but in a way that does not crush or violate the rights or feelings of others. God’s word also encourages us to, “respond gently when we are confronted and we’ll defuse the rage of another.
Responding with sharp, cutting words will only make it worse.
Don’t you know that being angrycan ruin the testimony of even the wisest of men?” (Proverbs 15:1 TPT)
Every time we react with a harsh word in a conflict or disagreement we are going to stir up anger, which the bible also says only leads to trouble. Yet when we choose to respond gently and with compassion and understanding we will turn away anger and bring peace.
Next time you are faced with a conflict, disagreement or feel the heat of anger stirring within you take a moment and step back, breathe, count to ten or one hundred if need be, pray and ask for God’s wisdom and self control. Then make a choice to respond wisely, compassionately and with empathy.
A gentle answer instead of stirring up anger is always going to be more beneficial to both our lives and everyone else in our world, as we seek to understand and be reconciled rather than just having our own way and opinions heard all the time.
“Let everyone be quick to hear (be a careful, thoughtful listener), slow to speak (a speaker of carefully chosen words and), slow to anger (patient, reflective, forgiving); for the resentful, deep seated anger of a man does not produce the righteousness of God (that standard of behaviour which He requires from us)”.(James 1:19-20 Amplified Bible)
“Don’t get angry. Don’t be upset, it only leads to trouble,” (Proverbs 37:8)
“People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm.(Proverbs 14:17)
“Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbour a grudge.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
Prayer: Lord forgive me for when I have given way to anger and overlooked the harm and hurt it has caused others. Please help me to face the root of my anger and to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others. I ask for your grace and peace over my life and in my relationships today. In Jesus name Amen.