A man of wrath stirs up strife,
and one given to anger causes much transgression.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Oftentimes I’ll tell couples that they need to have a Ground Rule between them that they
will protect their family times, holiday times, vacations, dates and intimacy times from conflict.
Let the happy times be happy times. Control your problems. Don’t let them control you. Go have fun and deal with the problems later. When I say this, once in a while I’ll get the following objection:
If I don’t say what I think and feel, then I am a hypocrite.
A person who operates this way is saying that if she’s at a party where her mother-in-law is in attendance and her mother-in-law drives her crazy, then she needs to say something about it. She can’t put on a happy face if she’s in inner turmoil. If she’s “pretending” she’s in a good mood, the feelings on her face aren’t matching her heart. She may be tempted to think it would be better for her to not be at the party than for her to “fake” that she’s actually enjoying herself.
However, in contrast to this, a more mature view would echo the verses above: If you are in a group gathering, a wedding, a birthday party, or Easter Brunch, and you are in whatever bad mood for whatever reason, you put your bad mood on hold and enjoy the moment with your friends and loved ones. Then, you can come back to your bad mood later. It’s no one else’s business that you are going through whatever and the purpose of the meeting takes precedence over your individual feelings at the time.
This view chaffs the person who feels compelled to share every feeling with everyone. But if she shares every feeling with everyone, this is going to lead to a lot of misery on the part of the person who says it and all her hearers. For one thing, this statement turns the definition of a hypocrite on it’s head. The traditional definition of a hypocrite is someone who tells you to not do something evil and then does the evil on the side. What the verses at the top of this article are advocating is that if your feelings are telling you to do and say something mean and hurtful, that you don’t listen to your feelings at that point. Your feelings are leading you astray. If you listen to them and say what they are telling you to say you are going to hurt someone, most of all yourself.
For example, you are very hungry and you pass the bakery and smell fresh baked bread. It smells so good. Your feelings tell you that you are hungry and you have to do what your feelings tell you, right? If you don’t, you’re a hypocrite! So you steal the bread, right? No, you don’t! You don’t listen to your feelings, because your feelings are wrong! You don’t steal the bread. That’s called self-control!
But just for a lark, let’s say you tell yourself that you must do what your feelings tell you or you are a hypocrite, so you steal the bread. Let’s say you get caught by the police and get hauled off to jail and now you have to testify before the judge. When the judge asks you why you stole the bread and you tell him that you did so because your feelings were telling you that you were hungry and that you must do what your feelings tell you or you are a hypocrite, we can all hear the judge say:
You poor thing! You are right. As long as your feelings told you that, then you are totally justified in stealing the bread. You MUST do what your feelings tell you. I agree with you completely. You are free to go. Thank you for being such a transparent and genuine person.
Are you kidding me? I don’t think so. There’s a time and a place for everything under the sun. There’s a time to open up and talk about your problems and concerns and there’s a time to be cordial and kind and be a genuinely nice person, even when you feel like crap! You don’t have to say everything you think and feel every time you think and feel it. Sometimes it may be very appropriate for you to keep your big fat mouth shut! Everyone doesn’t need to know your problems. It’s none of their business. There’s 6.7 billion people in the world and they all don’t need to know how you feel.
No. Your feelings tell you you are hungry and you want to steal the bread. You ignore them. You move on. Later you eat bread you paid for. No judge, no police, no jail, no problem. Feelings come and go.
You go the party and your mother-in-law, who drives you crazy, is there and your feelings tell you to be mean or short-spirited or sarcastic. You ignore your feelings and you are nice to her. You are polite. You are kind. You say appropriate things. You make a joke or two. You laugh with everyone. After awhile your mood lifts. You did the right thing. You are rewarded. Your mother-in-law laughed at your joke. Maybe she’s not so bad.
∗ Both verses today are from the English Standard Version