Learn To Keep Your Mouth Shut

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”  James 1:19

How many problems could be avoided or easily dealt with if we simply followed this sage advice- “If you’re wondering whether or not you should keep your mouth shut– you should.”  The old saying goes that “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”  The same could be said about fools mouthing off when angels are afraid to speak.

The reason so many young or inexperienced ministers find themselves in hot water early on in their tenure at a new church is that they have not learned to measure their words very carefully.  Instead they instinctively develop a knee jerk, reactionary ministry style.  This individual feels the need to quickly react to every situation, crisis or choice that is placed before him or her.  But this type of response only serves to make things worse.

Compare this “reactionary missionary”  to a young tennis buff who is practicing returns against a machine set up to hit balls towards him.  Only this machine is different- with every ball that he hits into the net, or hits back outside the lines, the speed of the balls being served by the machine increases.  With increased speed comes more mistakes, and with more mistakes, still more balls come at him both faster and harder.  You can imagine that in only a short period of time you would find this fine specimen of an athlete crouched cowering behind a bench for safety.

Working in the local church is no different.  When a minister develops a style of leadership that compulsively responds to the variety of situations that arise nearly every day, then people come to expect those kinds of immediate gratifications when they are the ones serving up the concern.  When there is dissatisfaction with what is served back, the result is not less stress but more.

One danger area that should be closely guarded is anger.  Yes, anger.  People will make you mad.  Furious, fuming, even ferocious.  Early on in ministry you may find it hard to believe, but those same precious faces and warm arms that welcomed you to their church can turn to darkened scowls and pointing fingers.  It’s only natural that you would want to react to that anger, especially if it is directed toward you, or someone you are close to.  But you should not… you cannot… you MUST NOT give in to the feelings to spew your anger back with the same energy with which it was aimed at you.

The Scriptures don’t tell us that anger is wrong.  There are many instances where we see that great men and women of God became angry.  There are specific examples within the Bible that paint a picture of God the Father declaring His anger among the nations.  Jesus became angry in the temple when He saw the selfish and unholy attitude the moneychangers exhibited as they conducted their dishonest business there in the house of worship.  We see Moses angry when he descends from the mountain top experience with God, only to find the children of Israel at the foot of the mountain.  Moses’ anger was so great that he destroyed the tablets upon which God had personally penned the Ten Commandments.  Peter even speaks in angry tones to the Lord when Jesus mentions his impending death.  You see, anger wasn’t the problem… Problems came when what individuals DID with their anger was not holy.  How each person handled their anger determined its goodness or godlessness.

When you find yourself on the edge of an angry confrontation (notice I said “when”, not “if”), stop and back off.  Close your eyes and count to ten, or count to 100.  If that doesn’t work, then recite the books of the Bible front to back and back to front.  If all else fails to calm you, and an explosion of anger seems imminent, simply turn and walk away.   Just be very careful about reacting, not just overreacting, when you are angry. An angry blow up at a church member could be the biggest mistake you will ever make.

But wait-  you could fall right into the trap of making the second biggest mistake right on the heels of your first one.  The second biggest mistake you could make might be taking prayer less or worldly counsel from an otherwise well-meaning friend or peer.  Anger nearly always seeks out justification.  When we get angry, we want to have our anger and our actions approved of by others, affirming that what we are doing and how we are feeling is somehow justified.  If this is your tendency then beware.

Be very cautious, even picky, about whom you go to for counsel when you are angry.  We know that if we seek out that person who holds a grudge against the person we are currently in a conflict with, that they will most certainly back us up.  They will understand and affirm our grievance. They may even help us with a creative and sharpened response.  Please don’t be this stupid.  Instead, seek out someone you know to be a person of wisdom and prayer.  Enlist them to help fight this particular battle on a spiritual plane rather than in the gossip ring.  Then stand back and let God work.  He doesn’t promise to always work it out just like we want, or when we want it.  He does tell us that are to seek out godly counsel, and that we are to cast all of our cares upon Him.

Trust me.  Learn to keep your mouth shut.  Not only will it be a kind thing to others, it may be the kindest thing that you will ever do for yourself.


Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. What do you think are the three worst things to do when you’re angry?

 

 

 

 

  1. What is the best advice you ever received?  The worst?

 

 

 

 

  1. How do you know when it’s best to keep YOUR mouth shut?

 

 

 

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. List the top two things that make me the maddest the quickest…

 

 

 

 

  1. Ask my three closest friends to rank me as a Areactor@ or a Athinker@…

 

 

 

 

  1. The worst part of losing my temper and blowing my stack at someone is…

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