Understanding why we should be slow to anger is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in the Christian life. Proverbs 15:18 counsels, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (ESV). Slowness to anger is one of the attributes of God: “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). The Bible has so much to say about being slow to anger that we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a careful look.
The hot-tempered man in Proverbs 15:18 is literally “a man of wrath.” Such a man is quick-tempered or easily enraged. But the man who is calm and slow to anger is one who averts arguments and stops quarreling. He is a natural peacemaker. The ability to quiet contention and live in harmony with others is a priceless virtue. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Another word meaning “slow to anger” is patient. In the New International Version, Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” The English Standard Version uses “slow to anger” in place of “patient.” The New Living Translation states, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” When we learn to control our temper and curb foolish fits of anger, we show that we’ve gained great understanding.
Proverbs 16:32 affirms, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (ESV). Over and again, the Bible extols the benefits of cultivating patience and controlling anger: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV).
As we start to understand why we should be slow to anger, we can begin practicing patience in our relationships. James taught believers not only to listen to God’s Word but to put it into practice. He said, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:19–22). A wise Christian is one who listens to God and obeys and who listens to others, carefully considers what he hears, and then answers with cautiously chosen words.
Human anger, James explained, is a waste of energy. It is motivated by selfishness and ambition and creates division among brothers and sisters in Christ. Anger won’t produce the righteousness that God desires: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
When we react in anger, we can cause injury; when we hold on to anger, we breed unforgiveness. But gentleness and patience make room for healing and harmony in our relationships (Psalm 37:8–9; Proverbs 12:18). Another proverb warns, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (Proverbs 29:11). If we want to show good sense, wisdom, and discretion in our lives, we will learn to be slow to anger and practice patience in our dealings with others. The Bible unambiguously warns us to rid ourselves of anger and rage and to be kind, gracious, and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:31–32; Colossians 3:8).
Psalm 86:15 confirms, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” It is the Lord’s patience—His slowness to anger—that allows us to come to salvation (Numbers 14:18; Joel 2:13). We ought to always be aware and grateful for the Lord’s gracious and compassionate patience, for without it, we would not be saved: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It is God’s patience that delays Christ’s second coming and the consummation of history. It is His gracious compassion that holds back His wrath and keeps open the door for sinners to repent. The Lord’s incredible patience and love for humankind allow those who have not yet repented to have an opportunity to be saved. God uses time and patience to serve His purposes of grace. And since our God is slow to anger and abounding in grace toward us, ought we not emulate His character in how we treat others?