Japanese Psychologist Takahisa Kora, MD., made this statement during one of his lectures: “The key is to not resist or rebel against emotions or to try to get around them by devising all sorts of tricks; but to accept them directly, as they are.”1 Although I studied psychology at the University of North Dakota, in no way, shape or form do I consider myself a qualified psychologist. However, I learned enough that I can safely say: Never let your emotions take control of you, always take control of your emotions.
If you have ever seen or viewed a report on what we call today, “Road Rage,” you will have witnessed a great example of emotions out of control. Almost every local evening news report will include a violent domestic dispute. Those are valuable learning lessons for us to remember what can happen that a person may regret the rest of their lives. Even though I’ve not read this anywhere in the many books on psychology that I have perused, I don’t think it would be out of line for me to suggest the following rule: However you react after being unduly criticized or insulted, keep in mind that whatever you do, that’s what you’ll be remembered for a long, long time.
Whenever you are suddenly confronted with something that makes your blood boil, instead of thinking about how you feel, think about how to react. That may require taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. And instead of looking at the individual who insulted or slandered you, look up and imagine the One who is watching you. It all begins with what Dr. Kora said: Don’t dismiss what you are feeling; don’t deny what you are feeling; don’t try to avoid what you are feeling; just accept it and then take control of it.
The Bible is not silent on this subject. King Solomon has a number of proverbs for us to remember. Once he said that fools are quick to lose their temper, but those who are wise remain relaxed when insulted.2 In another place he said that a person who knows what they are doing always keeps their temper under control. They know that to lose control would be an awful mistake.3 Solomon goes on to advise us that to keep control of one’s temper is better than being famous, and being able to control self is better than being able to control an army.4 And finally, Solomon tells us that any person who is lacking in self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.5
But Jesus gives us one of the most significant examples of taking control of one’s emotions so that the results are not embarrassing or do damage to one’s reputation. Matthew in his Gospel tells us about Jesus and His disciples were ministering in the area known as Caesarea Philippi, which is at the base of Mount Hermon, north of the Sea of Galilee. He was curious to find out what the people in that area were saying about him. Each of the disciples told Him what they had heard, but Peter comes right out and says that he is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus immediately congratulated Peter on receiving such a revelation from His Father in heaven. He even told Peter that he would be a big part of the assembly of believers that would result from other’s believing that same thing about Him.
You can imagine that this made Peter somewhat proud to be the one God chose to reveal this vital and essential truth. So as Jesus began to speak to His disciples about His plans of going to Jerusalem, and what would happen to Him there. He warned how He would suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders, that He would be killed, and that three days later He would be raised to life again. When Peter heard this, he just couldn’t believe that the One he just confessed to being the Messiah, the Son of God would allow Himself to be treated like this.
So he walked over and softly whispered in Christ’s ear, “Lord, can we talk for a moment?” Then He led the Master some distance away from the other disciples, and begin to rebuke Jesus for talking this way. Peter more or less said to Him: As long as there’s a God in heaven this will never happen to you. Can you imagine how the King of Heaven, the Son of God felt when this lowly fisherman, the son of Jonah, talked to Him in such a condescending manner?
While we are not told precisely how our Lord felt, His actions say quite a lot about it. Matthew records that Jesus reacted to Peter with words that have become very well-known, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle in my path!” The Greek verb strephō that Matthew uses here literally means to “turn around, to turn one’s back to.” One Jewish translation renders it, “Yeshua turned his back on Kefa (Peter”). In other words, Peter and our Lord were talking face to face, but when Peter began to speak to Him so disrespectfully, Jesus turned around and started to walk off. While God had put the revelation that Jesus was His Son in Peter’s mind, it was clear that Satan had put these words in Peter’s mouth. That’s why Jesus told Peter that his admonition was from a human perspective, not from God’s point of view.6 So it wasn’t that Jesus turned His back on Peter, it was that He turned His back on Satan.
What a great illustration for us when we are rebuked or spoken to disrespectfully. Don’t consider the source as being your spouse, child, neighbor, fellow worker, boss, or friend. Just as an enemy cannot betray you, an enemy cannot insult you. The real assailant here is Satan using a friend to insult you. So don’t turn your back on your spouse, child, etc., but turn it on Satan. Paul made this very clear to the Ephesians when he told them: If you become angry, don’t let nursing your grudge cause you to make a big mistake. Don’t let it torment you all day without dealing with it. Resolve to take control of the situation right away. For when you let anger continue unabated it will stress you out. By doing so, you are surrendering your rights to the devil.7
All of this may sound to you like the total opposite of what you’ve been told or believed to be the way to handle your emotional outburst. Get in their face, let them know exactly how you feel. And don’t be afraid to use any words you can find that will make them feel like the stupid, useless, good-for-nothing bum that they are. That way you’ll get it off your chest and you can go on feeling relieved that you told them off. But clearly, Jesus said, that’s the devil’s way, not God’s way. So which way will you choose? The one that makes you look like a child of the devil, or, the one that makes you look like a child of God? Keep in mind, whichever you choose will be your reputation for a long, long time. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Takahisa Kora MD, How To Live Well: Secrets of Using Neurosis, Published by State University of New York, 1995
2 Proverbs 12:16
3 Ibid. 14:29
4 Ibid. 16:32
5 Ibid. 25:28
6 Matthew 16:13-23
7 Ephesians 4:26-27