In my part of the world, we are experiencing a heat wave. Temperatures of 35º to 45º Celsius with the humidex (95° to 113° Fahrenheit for my friends in other parts of the world). This is creating the right ingredients for a thunderstorm. Warm, moist, unstable air is rising and as it cools, it forms a cumulonimbus cloud, out of which comes a thunderstorm. As you know, thunderstorms are characterized by sound and fury – the lightning causes a loud crack, or a deep rumble, and hail, fierce winds and tornadoes may be devastating. On the other hand, there may be no precipitation or fierce winds or tornadoes at all, and we are treated to a magnificent sound and light show. This is a time when we are in awe of God’s creativity.
What about the storms in our lives? In particular, what if someone becomes hot under the collar and tempers erupt? Is there a path of destruction as words that can never be retrieved are spoken, devastating those who are caught in this path? I knew someone long ago who said how much better she felt after she had “let off steam”. She may have felt better, but those upon whom her invectives were hurled certainly did not feel the better for it. It was alienating and hurtful.
What to do when tempers start to flare? Immediately separating oneself from the situation is an excellent move. I don’t know that counting to ten gives a long enough space between anger and action, unless one is accustomed to using it as a means to cool down. If a person cannot separate him or herself from the scene, and this pattern repeats itself over and over again, perhaps a long-term solution needs to be found. This could take the form of therapy, or a physical move. It doesn’t have to be forever – only until the person has his or her anger issues under control.
.A good discussion – and even a heated discussion – where no one is vilified can be productive. It’s all in how we say it.
The Apostle James has a very descriptive way of representing the power of the tongue:
James 3:3-6 “A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (The Message)
In contrast, listen to the prayer of the Psalmist: Psalm 141:3 “Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips.” (The Message)
May the thunder and lightning in your life be a dynamic source of creativity, rather than a source of destruction and devastation.