Recently one of my friends gave me a cartoon she had clipped from the local newspaper on 9/11 by syndicated cartoonist Jeff Koterba.
It shows a couple walking their dog and having a conversation.
The first caption reads, “The tragedy of 9/11 seems like only yesterday…” the second concludes, “But the way the country came together afterward feels like ancient history...”
Unfortunately, most of us understand that sentiment well.
Those who watch the news, are familiar with the “talking heads,” the paid political commentators with differing views who argue, or perhaps more accurately, yell at one another over their differences.
A significant number of Americans no longer watch news programs, at least partially because of these angry exchanges.
The issue for us is how we choose to deal with those who whose opinions differ from ours.
In The Daily Article, Jim Denison suggests the ultimate test of our character is how we treat those who have mistreated us.
He observes, “Grace and mercy at these times are particularly surprising and powerful.”
We can decide to be agreeable, even if we do not always agree.
Dr. Denison tells a great story about Robert E. Lee that illustrates how we do not have to respond to bitterness with bitterness just because it is expected.
The defeated general was called to testify at the trial of a man who was known to be his enemy.
He surprised the court by saying kind things about the defendant.
The frustrated prosecutor protested, “But General Lee, don’t you know what he has said about you?”
Lee replied, “You asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.”
Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.” (NLT)
In a similar vein is Proverbs 19:11, “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” (NLT)
The book of James takes the point even farther, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NLT)
All of us are sometimes tempted to lose our temper when someone frustrates us.
However, giving into that temptation rarely improves things for us or changes anyone else’s mind.
Controlling our temper and being kind, even when we are frustrated, are important steps in the process of getting along and earning a hearing.
When we lose our tempers, no one listens.
When we control our anger, we take a huge step toward actually hearing one another.