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It has been said, “Never argue with a fool. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.” Comparable advice can be found in the book of Proverbs, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” It means that when tempted to argue a point with someone who seems to lack good sense, we are more likely to get ourselves into trouble than to win the argument.

In a heated argument it is easy to say things we will later regret. We all would do well to remember the timeless words of advice: Keep your words sweet in case you have to eat them later. Jesus warns, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give an account for every thoughtless word they utter. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Many have found to their sorrow that they cannot take back the obscene language or hurtful, hateful things they never meant to say until they became enraged.

We are responsible for what we say — even in an argument when we are upset. Paul admonishes us, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Phyllis Diller once quipped that what this kind of advice means is, “Never go to bed angry — stay up and argue it out.” This surely is not what Paul meant. He means that being angry is not necessarily a sin, but that, as we all know, many sins are committed when one gets angry. It is better not to stay angry for long because it can get us into trouble. When the children of Israel made Moses angry he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. As a result he was kept out of the Promised Land.

Anger is only one letter away from danger. When we are angry we must be in control of our words and actions. We are responsible for what we say and do when upset. The best advice is to count to ten and delay reacting. Force yourself to be quiet. Take a walk, have a cold shower, or do whatever it takes to cool off, because it is important to guard how we behave when angry. Will Rogers observed, “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”

Arguing can become a way of life if we are not careful. We can argue with our family, with our coworkers or schoolmates, and with our neighbors. A common trait among young people is to argue with their parents. Sometimes Bible discussions with non-believers become arguments. “Argue” and “anger” have more in common than just beginning with the letter “a”. It is not unusual to become angry in an argument. This anger is never wise. The one who loses his temper in an argument loses more than just his temper. Paul advises Timothy, “A servant of the Lord must not argue. Instead, he must be kind to everyone, teachable, willing to suffer wrong, and gentle in refuting his opponents. After all, maybe God will allow them to repent and to come to a full knowledge of the truth.”

In life, things happen, and everyone gets angry sometimes. Since Paul says that it is possible to be angry and not sin, we must be on our guard when angry so that we do not sin. The Psalmist tells us, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” So God gets angry, and we know that God cannot sin. Jesus was angry when he cleared the moneychangers out of the temple, but he did not sin. So it is also possible for us to be angry without sinning, if we keep control of our temper. Don’t say or do anything for which we will be sorry later. We need to stop and think before putting our mouth in gear, and our body into action. No doubt Moses wished he could have taken back what he said and did when he struck the rock in a fit of anger.

David counsels us, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” His son Solomon says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Let us follow this advice by being less argumentative and controlling our anger. As Solomon tells us, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.”

Robert J. Lloyd

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