A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.
Our feelings can turn us into fools. The foolish are the ones who are driven by their feelings. Every situation that doesn’t feel good is treated like a tragedy. Those whose feelings become foolish hop on every emotion and allow it to take them wherever it leads. They are being controlled by their feelings. I like to say, “Emotions can be good servants, but they make terrible masters.”
Let’s think for a moment about the above passage? The Bible is not saying that the wise person bottles up their frustrations or refuses to acknowledge pain, anger, or other negative emotions. Those who bottle up their feelings start building pressure. Stress begins to build and at some point those same feelings will come out – and explosively.
This is not what the Bible is teaching. It’s speaking about controlling our feelings. We have the power to rule our emotions, and our emotions serve a purpose. Serve is the key. Serve, not rule. The truth is that when we allow our emotions to rule unchecked, they become the masters of our personalities and lives. Someone who explodes in anger has given anger control of their life. They then do things they would not normally do, and say things they wouldn’t normally say. Handing our lives over to anger guarantees regret and future problems with anger.
The more an emotion controls our life, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is to regain control. The key to controlling anger is not to bottle it up, but to hold it back. Let’s look at a life-example. Before David became king of Israel, he was in hiding from King Saul, the man who wanted him dead. Though Saul hunted David relentlessly, David never retaliated, but instead restrained his men from harming the king when the opportunity came. His testimony was that God would avenge, and no one had the right to touch a king God had placed on the throne. His restraint caused him to act wisely.
David also shows the opposite to be true. During one of his times of hiding, he guarded the flocks of a wealthy man named Nabal. After serving Nabal voluntarily, he sent messengers to ask the man for provisions during the harvest. Nabal spoke harshly to the men, insulted them, and mocked David. When his words were told to David, he armed his men and set out to destroy Nabal. His anger burned and it got the best of him. When Nabal’s wife got word, she took provisions and rushed to meet David and appeased his anger. When David regained control, he made this statement, “Blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.”
Abigail, Nabal’s wife, held back David’s anger so he did not act foolishly. After the emotions passed, David realized how valuable her restraint was, for he would have done things he would have regretted. In fact, he would have become a murderer.
In the same sense, we must constantly play the role of Abigail with our emotions when they lose restraint. When emotions are kindled, they attempt to take the reins of our lives and drive us to make choices that are based solely upon feelings. Most of these choices will harm us, those around us, or both. A man or woman controlled by anger is damaging their emotions with each moment of frustration.
Yet the wise person holds back. Just as the Bible says, “Be angry, but do not sin,” wisdom recognizes that anger itself isn’t a sin, but if allowed to rule, it will drive them to sin. Angry words are used to pierce the hearts of those we love. Afterward, we may apologize, but the wounds are still there and scars will remain. Our goal must be to hold back until after we have emotions under control.
Some people falsely believe that expressing rage is a release for stress. It may seem that way for a moment, but in truth it creates more stress. For each outburst of rage is a deeper hook into our lives, and as anger controls us, it becomes nearly impossible to control anger. The same is true for jealousy, greed, sorrow, or any other emotion that seeks to control us. The more it controls, the more it demands to rule. Then when we are faced with frustration, that emotion creates more stress as it demands release.
Wisdom calls us to hold feelings back. At first, it will be stressful because we are preventing an emotion from having the control it demands. But as we control feelings, we are also seeking a wise solution to the problems that frustrate us.
Sometimes the problem is us. When we stop long enough to examine our frustrations, we’ll find that most of the time we are frustrated because we aren’t getting our way. It’s selfishness hiding behind emotions. Or should I say, selfishness pushing emotions to do its bidding?
When emotions are the problem, we cannot identify the real issue. They overrun everything and overshadow any problem. When emotions are held back or kept in check, we are then free to look at the problem and determine the correct solution. It may be that the problem is so petty that it isn’t worth our investment. It may be that we are offended and the desire to defend ‘self’ is making us into a fool. Or it may be something that needs to be dealt with.
When emotions are in check, we are free to problem solve, but when they rule, they are the problem. Then we fall under the warning, “A fool vents all his feelings.”
The wise person and the fool have the same feelings. One is ruled by feelings, the other knows how to bring them under control so they can act wisely.
It’s a struggle bringing emotions back under control, but it can be done. And must be done. Learning how to turn emotions into servants will change your response to life and allow you to listen to the call of wisdom.