Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 15:18
"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute"
This is the Hebrew word hema, which means heat, hot displeasure, indignation, anger, wrath. It comes from the root word to be hot. When a person sees that things do not conform to what they want, they can become hot. The person who constantly runs hot is the person who always wants everything to go their way. Anger is a function of how flexibly you can hold your expectations. What your expectations are in a given situation and how strongly you hold them determines whether you are irritated or angry in that situation.
The person who is hot-tempered is really the person who has inflexible expectations. The angry person is the person who has a way they expect everything to be and they cannot accept it not being that way. They want to impose their idea of "right" on everyone else. When a situation does not conform to their expectation, they have no flexibility (meekness) to allow someone else's order or plan to dominate. Their expectations must be king and therefore they are irritated, angry, hot-tempered, upset, and frustrated all the time.
I can remember being with people who needed to contest every spot on the freeway; who needed to be first in line, who needed to have the music just their way; who believed that their taste in decorations were the right way; who insisted that their personal preferences were some how biblical and given by God. These people are usually angry and prickly and needing to be surrounded by people who will help them embrace the fantasy that they are always right.
This is the Hebrew word gara, which means stir up, contend, meddle. The idea is clearly here that the person who is constantly aware of whether everything they want to happen is happening, excites everybody else's sense of displeasure. The less flexible you are, the more the people around you will exhibit the same level of inflexibility.
Do you always want to live in a maelstrom of anger and conflict? Then keep being upset all the time about everything and everyone else will make a big deal out of everything also. But if, instead, you go out of your way to keep calm and not make a big deal about things that are not a big deal, then people around you will also flex and bend.
This is the Hebrew word madon, which means strife, contention. The idea is that people are in camps. They are on opposite sides on issues. All of a sudden there is conflict because our differences have been emphasized. If a person allows their anger to constantly point out how they have been disappointed, then they will create obvious camps. "I think this way and they think that way." "I want this and they want that." Instead of emphasizing relationships and shades of gray with room for compromise and interaction, there is only this or that. There is “who is for me” and “who is against me.”
slow to anger
Slow is the Hebrew word orek, which means length. Angeris the Hebrew word apwhich refers to the nostril or face and is consistently translated anger as the nostrils tend to flare when a person is angry and the face changes when the reaction is anger. The idea is that if you are to become wise, you must put more time between your reaction to a situation that displeases you and your external expression of that displeasure. You need to think it through. You need to see the nuances of what is happening. Don't just erupt or it will prove that you have not put in the valves of wisdom. It doesn't mean that the person who is wise never gets angry. It is just that they do not express their anger quickly.
Anger is a motivator. Use it as a fire in your belly to move you to action to change unrighteous conditions to more righteous scenarios. Do not let anger burst forth like a volcano, melting those who oppose you and betraying you as a person who has no control on your reaction.
God Himself is one who is described as slow to anger. He has a way that He expects the world to operate and a way that He made man to act, but He does not instantly flash out from heaven with thunderbolts and earthquakes to destroy people who do it wrong. He instead works with, woos, and communicates with people, calling on them to repent and giving them time to return.
It is the job of the wise person to develop the ability to regulate their reaction to not getting their own way so that they are motivated by the lack of their expectations winning but not allowing open conflict between them and another person until all other options have been exhausted.
Now I must say it is not wrong to have expectations. It is, in fact, essential that you have expectations. But it is whether you can slow your reaction down to your expectations not taking place that determines whether you are a leader or just an angry person. There are times when your expectations should take place and they are not. That is where low levels of anger act as a motivator to change the situation. It motivates the leader. But when your expectations have no connection to righteousness or essential issues; and they are just personal preferences and they still have to be dominant is when you are a bully, a jerk, or overbearing leader.
Solomon is pointing out that you can choose how strongly you let your reactions be. Just because you didn't get your way doesn't mean that you have to be angry or overbearing. Just accept that fact that you are not God and things will not always go your way. Realize that when you are angry, it is a symptom that you have unrealistic expectations in that given situation at that moment. Your expectations may be right and they may be needed, but they are not happening and so they are unrealistic given the level of communication and circumstances at that moment. Don't let your reaction destroy your credibility.