“Never forget what people say to you when they’re angry, that is when the truth comes out.”
This is a common maxim, one that we often assume is true. But is it true? Are people most honest or truthful when they are angry?
The logic is that when someone is angry, their emotions run high and they put down all their guards and reservations. That is the time they reveal what they really think about you. The assumption is that the demands of social propriety and decency cause people to be dishonest about what they really think about other people.
For example, if you’re slightly (or even very) overweight and your friend always compliments you for your good health and always says nice and positive things about you, they are not being honest with you. They are lying to you in order to stroke your ego and protect your feelings. This is true. We are not always honest with our friends in peacetime. But this does not necessary mean that it takes conflict and chaos to bring out the truth.
Anger is not always truthful, and here are a few reasons:
- Most of the statements made in anger are hurtful and are designed to be so. The angry person does not just use cutting words because those words are true, but because they are cutting.
- Sometimes angry words could have some truth to them (like telling the overweight friend “you’re fat”) but that truth is not being said because the person is angry. The point of the angry words is to shape the truth in a way that is unkind and aimed at inflicting the most damage.
- Angry words do not necessarily mean that what the person says when he or she is not angry is untrue. Decency, proprietary and prudence can be (and are) genuine reasons for “seasoning” our words and adding grace to our words in times of peace.
The bottom line is that angry words are not worth remembering. We give anger too much credit. The following are some biblical reasons for choosing to forgive and forget angry words:
- Angry words are an expression of our foolishness. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Prov 29:11)
- Angry words are a depiction of bad sense. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov 19:11)
- Angry words only display the evil harbored in the person rather than the good. “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:8-9)
The Bible is full of numerous reasons we cannot trust angry words, let alone take them to heart. The angry person is merely giving into his flesh and letting evil prevail over good. To assume that the angry person is only showing his “true colors” is not only unreasonable, but it also betrays our misunderstanding of the fall of man. The true colors of humanity are worse than we can ever imagine. It is only by grace that people show any sense of decency.
If angry words from our friends are to have any credit in verifying the credibility of words spoken, they must then be viewed as a mirror of the evil that resides in all humanity, including ourselves.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
For the fame of His name,