WHO hasn't been insulted at some time? Or threatened or falsely accused? Perhaps we experience situations where individuals are rude or abusive to us, lacking tact or consideration in what they say or do. Perhaps on crowded roads or highways inconsiderate persons suddenly swerve in front of us. How do we respond to such irritating situations? Many respond with an impulsive burst of rage or anger: "He can't do that to me! I'll show him...!" Then suddenly, a nasty verbal exchange, or worse, a serious accident or injury is generated. The news media are filled with accounts of human tragedy caused by lack of emotional control under unpleasant situations. Many family and personal problems, costly work mishaps and even senseless killings result.
Harmful Emotional Habits
All of us from time to time face the need to learn control of our emotions under difficult circumstances. Such control is the mark of a great mind. The Bible repeatedly admonishes us to be slow to anger. "A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient." "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly." "He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city" (Prov. 14:17, 29; 16:32, RSV). Slow to anger? Patient and controlling thoughts and emotions under duress? How do we achieve these qualities of character? What values, understanding and attitudes produce them? The Bible reveals there is a right time and place for anger (Eph. 4:26). But how do we control our temper when confronted with someone's insults or rudeness or lack of consideration? How can we control emotions under trying personal difficulties so we don't descend into the pit of resentment, bitterness or depression? What we need is the right spiritual perspective, attitude and power of mind! What we need is a positive and loving perspective about today's confused world and the people in it. We need a right perspective about personal problems and difficulties that will enable us to cope with them in a beneficial way.
Some may ask, "Why should I try to quit blowing up under frustrations, or insults, or from mistakes of others?" We all need to for very important reasons. First, without human effort to control anger and damaging emotions, the glue of social cooperation and trust quickly breaks down. For another, learning to properly control and express our emotions saves us an enormous amount of wear and tear on our — and other people's — health and energy. It helps us find and work out constructive solutions to upsetting situations and problems. And it may prevent our losing a job, or save our marriage, or even save life — perhaps by helping avoid a costly accident, or avoid provoking a reprisal from someone. But there is a far greater reason for disciplining one's temper and emotions. There is a great purpose in human life! God created humanity with an awesome potential. That potential is the capacity, with God's help, to develop the kind of character God has. "Let us make man in our image," said the Creator (Gen. 1:26). God first made man in his physical image. God also intended mankind to develop character after his spiritual image — his character. In the Bible the Creator reveals knowledge of how this great character can be developed. This knowledge mankind must know so as to live abundantly and peacefully with others and in his environment. Without developing right self-control and character no one can be given great powers — not in this physical life nor as future rulers in God's soon-coming kingdom. How do we develop this mind? What are its qualities? To appreciate the greatness of these qualities we must understand the qualities and causes of wrong attitudes and character.
True Cause of Man's Problems
Most of man's mental and emotional problems are spiritual in nature. Our dealings with other humans are spiritual matters. Problems between individuals are caused by wrong spiritual attitudes of mind on the part of one or both individuals. There are, in addition, numerous poor health conditions or bad personal living habits that can increase our sensitivity to irritation or lower our ability to cope with stress and difficulties. The Creator has set dynamic physical and spiritual laws in motion. If we violate these laws — if we are in poor health, under prolonged stress, failing to get sufficient sleep, eating a bad diet or are abusing drugs (including alcohol) — we will eventually suffer adverse effects on our attitudes and emotions. But even if we are in good health, when we allow wrong spiritual attitudes such as hate, fear, lust, bitterness or un forgiveness to take root in our minds, we will suffer mental and emotional penalties. Many fail to understand that what is involved is more than "just humans naturally allowing their minds to think in negative or hostile channels. The apostle Paul explained to Ephesian Christians why they, before conversion, were blinded to God's spiritual law and lived in sin. It was because they "walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit [Satan] who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2, RAV). All of us have allowed various degrees of Satan's attitudes into our minds. Satan bombards the earth's atmosphere, literally broadcasts his harmful attitudes of jealousy, pride, resentment of authority, lawlessness, bitterness and hate into vulnerable human minds. We have also been influenced by humans and cultures permeated with these attitudes. If we constantly yield to damaging attitudes, moods or desires they become vicious habits of mind and emotion. What are these damaging emotions, attitudes and characteristics? And what, by contrast, are the characteristics of a great mind — as God, not man or human cultures, looks at it? Both are clearly identified in the Bible.
Spiritual Attitudes Contrasted
Here is the great contrast! "Now the works of the flesh [the natural human mind yielding to wrong pulls] are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness [physical and moral], licentiousness [being without law], idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders...." But diametrically opposite, "the fruit of [God's] Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:19-23, RAV). These are the spiritual attitudes we need to develop properly our minds and emotions. They are the marks of a great mind!
The Great Qualities
Note again these great qualities and their basic meaning: LOVE: The Scriptures reveal true love has a two-fold application. First it is deep respect, honor and worship of our Great Creator who gives us every good thing, every good law and every wonderful purpose that we can experience or hope in. And then true love is respect and concern for the well-being and development of other human beings created in the image of God, each having great human and spiritual potential. JOY: This is great happiness of mind in appreciation of God's plan, not only for us, but for all mankind. It is joy for the great riches of God's mercy and forgiveness of our sins as we repent. True joy recognizes and appreciates every good thing, physical and spiritual, that God gives us. Moreover, joy results from knowing God will work out all our problems, no matter how difficult at the moment, for our eternal good if we remain faithful to him. It is knowing for certainty, if we endure in obedience to God, that beyond all present problems, even loss of our life, an eternal kingdom of happiness, love, peace and power in constructive service to God and others awaits. PEACE: This is peace with God, with fellowman, with ourselves. We know our sins are forgiven. We're not plagued with guilt. It means we're not thinking or desiring to sin or hurt others, including those who seek to hurt or harm us. LONGSUFFERING: This is also sometimes called patience in Scripture. This is a willingness to quietly endure or suffer discomfort or pain caused by others' mistakes or our own. But it is not fatalism. It is knowing that one builds great character by doing what is right to resolve a difficult situation despite temptations to do otherwise. KINDNESS: This is looking for a way of being constructive to others in all of our social relationships. GOODNESS: This is doing the right thing because we discern right and wrong by understanding the true application of God's laws. FAITHFULNESS: This is sticking with our commitments and responsibilities to God, a mate or fellowman despite pressures to do otherwise. It is knowing God is the Author of faith. He sticks to his promises if we do our part. GENTLENESS: This is being aware that others have shortcomings and sensitivities and using tact and consideration in our basic approach to them. SELF-CONTROL: This means we recognize anything can be misused or abused. And that there are some things we must totally avoid because God reveals in Scripture they are wrong. Other things we are permitted to use, we use in moderation. Note how I Corinthians, chapter 13, describes the great mind motivated and empowered by God's love: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own [welfare only], is not [easily] provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things [in God's Word], hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (verses 4-8, RAV).
Difficult, But Not Impossible
You may say, "It's humanly impossible to be all that." It's true. These qualities are not natural to the human mind. They cannot be perfected by human strength alone. They are qualities of God's mind and Spirit. They must be developed over a lifetime. God is the Master Potter. We are the clay if we will yield and obey (Isa. 64:8). But there are conditions before God gives us his help and power to develop a great mind. God gives his Spirit to those who repent of their sinful attitudes and character and are willing to obey him and be baptized as God instructs (Acts 2:38, 5:32).
How We Build Great Qualities
God's Word, the Bible, is spiritual food in written form. We need God's Spirit to properly understand, value and obey it. God's Word and Spirit work hand in hand. Together they lead repentant minds in attitudes of mercy, forgiveness, forbearance, patience and self-control-attitudes we need to properly control our thinking and emotions under trials and problems. God's Spirit will empower us to express attitudes of respect, concern and consideration for others — including those who try to abuse us. But we must be diligent to do our part. We must earnestly seek and be strengthened by God's Spirit through daily humble prayer. We must also drink in and yield to God's instructions in Scripture. We then begin to develop a totally different attitude and outlook on the world and other human beings. We begin to see them as God sees them in their potential — even if they are presently unconverted or are spiritually blind to their wrong ways. Christ taught us when others abuse, insult or mistreat us, "Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44, RAV). What does that do? It puts our mind and motivation on concern for the ultimate well-being of others. By keeping this spiritual perspective in mind we can be more patient with fellow human beings who make mistakes or insult us. We want mercy and patience for our mistakes and weaknesses. Love directs us to exercise it toward others. If we lack wisdom to know how to handle difficult or upsetting personal problems, we can ask God. He promises the wisdom we need if we seek to apply his love and trust him to guide us (Jas. 1:5-6).
Our Perfect Example
The most perfect man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, faced in one form or another the trying situations and temptations we face in our lives. He was tempted in all points like we are (Heb. 4:15). "Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Pet. 2:21-23, RAV). Christ set us the example. He was filled with God's spiritual perspective. and power. Christ knew the utter deception the whole world was under. He was merciful to persons who sinned against him because of their spiritual blindness. This is how Christ was able to suffer insults. This is why he did not let the mockings of the gentiles and, finally, the cruel scourging and crucifixion destroy him emotionally and spiritually. Just before he died on the stake he prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34, RAV). How unlike so many humans. Millions are angry, bitter or resentful persons. Many of them don't understand the real reasons why. Many have tried to mentally block out past sins, or deep hurts and disappointments in life without resolving them as God instructs. They may be hurts from their own mistakes or hurts caused by parents, friends, a mate or a boss. Such hurt persons are often unforgiving of others' shortcomings. They aren't willing to forgive others, or maybe even themselves. They won't seek God's forgiveness. They won't admit their human frailty. They see only the frailty or shortcomings of others. Many try to push their unresolved hurts and anger out of their mind, but they're still there festering in their subconscious. Without the attitude of willingness to show mercy and forgiveness, bitterness and anger still boil deep within. Christ said God is only willing to forgive us if we are willing to forgive those who mistreat us (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). We must confess our sins to God and ask him to forgive us and clean up wrong attitudes. It takes character to change our attitudes even if others who wrong us won't.
Your New Goal
No goal in your life could be greater, no challenge could surpass the goal and challenge of developing the qualities of a great mind. We should always try not to repeat past mistakes or follow the wrong examples of others around us. Keep the all-important right spiritual perspective in mind: "Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good.... Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret-it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.... And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Ps. 37:1-3, 8, 9, 11, RAV). Determine you are going to take the steps needed to develop the qualities of a great mind! God reveals the way and the power in his Word!