I could not believe he said that to me.
I was—what’s a nice “preacher sounding word?”—incensed. Beside myself. Seeing red. Mad as a hornet. The infraction was legitimate: this fellow pastor disrespected me in front of others with a heartless statement. He wasn’t backing down. My personality type doesn’t back down either.
It was a stand off.
And as I took a breath to respond, the Lord reminded me of the words of a friend. These words were an application of Proverbs 30:32-33:
If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.
It’s easy to look back and think “I shouldn’t have done that”, but what if we cultivated the Lord’s mind in us to the point where we saw it coming? Imagine the pain we’d avoid if we shut down our egos before we hurt people. Is it possible?
This Proverb indicates it is. If you are putting yourself in a position of pride, “clap you hand over your mouth!” it warns. If we don’t stop ourselves before proceeding into the result of our own foolishness, our “stirring up anger” will only produce “strife”.
In other words: pot stirrers only get burned by their own brew.
Good advice, huh?
But what does it take to get there?
The two-part answer is in the Proverb itself.
- Recognize your ability to occasionally be unwise (“play the fool”).
- Acknowledge your heart is naturally drawn to “plan evil”. This side of Heaven, we still struggle through our sinfulness.
The short of those two points is simply this: our hearts will mislead us apart from Christ.
The advice that friend gave me years ago that kept me from laying into that guy on that day was this: “Act in the opposite spirit.”
When you want to yell in anger, act in the opposite spirit.
When you want to knock the daylights out of that person, act in the opposite spirit.
When you want to use what you know against someone else, act in the opposite spirit.
When you want to “plan evil”, “clap your hand over your mouth”. The alternative is simply not worth defacing your reputation in Christ.