Kicking the anger can a little further down the road, I thought I’d write something about where this anger comes from in the first place. I doubt any of us gets up in the morning hoping to get angry at someone, especially someone near and dear to us.

The Bible is very clear about where our words come from: they come straight up from our hearts. So if something nasty comes out of our mouths, then our hearts have got some nastiness in them. No way to dodge this. In Matthew 12:4, Jesus says, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” And again in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

Now how can a sweet Christian woman get angry and say “evil” things to her children? Does that mean she has “evil” in her heart? Unfortunately, that’s what it means. We all have evil in our hearts. No one is good. So we all need gospel grace day in and day out.

Here are a couple of suggestions  Think about when you are most likely to be tempted to be angry. Is it when the kids first get up in the morning? Then pray before you go to bed that you will be full of goodness and light at the breakfast table. Is it during nap time? Then pray ahead of time that you will not get angry during nap time. Expect to be tested, and be prepared. When you put the kids down for their naps, then pray, asking God to help you be obedient to Him, cheerfully correcting the children if they need it. It is entirely possible to correct with a mouth of goodness. So I’m recommending what I call preventative prayer.

But what about the times when you are blindsided? You were going along merrily and wham! you got hit by the unexpected and reacted badly. If this happens regularly, then ask God to open your eyes so you don’t have a blind side. Pray for a warning sign so you see it coming. Then expect a test and be ready for it.

If you have ongoing anger toward one person in particular, then it’s likely there may be some unconfessed bitterness and resentment toward that person, big or little, young or old. We get resentful over some of the dumbest things. Deal with the bitterness that is lodging in your heart. It’s poisoning everything! It feeds anger and needs anger.

Don’t take your children’s misbehavior personally. Don’t get into an adversarial relationship with your children. You are the mother; you are in authority over them. Don’t get your feelings hurt when they don’t listen or when they disobey. They are children! That’s what children do!

If we want wise tongues, we need wise hearts. Here are a few ways to get there.

1. Don’t be wise in your own eyes (Prov. 3:7). You may be wrong, incorrect, mistaken. Admit it.

2. Heed God’s Word. When you hear it or read it, do it. Apply it. (Prov. 16:20).

3. Be teachable (Prov. 10:8). Don’t assume you have nothing to learn.

4. Receive correction yourself (Prov. 10:17). Even when you don’t like the way the correction comes.

5. Seek knowledge and store it up (Prov. 15:14 and 10:14).

6. Let your heart be taught first, and it will teach your mouth (Prov. 16:23).

7. Don’t fake love (Prov. 10:18). Ask God for supernatural love; don’t rely on your own supply of human, fallible love.

8. Don’t talk too much. Weigh your words! (Prov. 10:19)

9. Feed people (build them up) with your mouth, and you will be fed yourself (Prov. 13:2).

10. Guard your mouth (Prov. 13:3). Pray with the psalmist: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

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43 thoughts on “Wise Hearts

  1. This one–
    And the last one…Bekah’s.
    They both unfortunatley-thankfully–
    hit close to home.
    I don’t want to give room for ungodly-anger…even an inch.
    And I’m thankful for it.
    For out of the overflow of the heart…
    My mouth speaks.
    Oh Father–forgive me and change me.

  2. Valerie,
    I see how they seem similar. What I mean by analyzing is doing some kind of deep sea diving into my heart to find out why I sinned. What I’m suggesting is something more objective. If you always get snippy at the family right before company comes, then you should notice the pattern and start praying before the company comes. This is just a defensive measure that makes sense. Analyzing is trying to find out why you get snippy before company comes. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe it’s setting too high of expectations for yourself. Maybe it’s something you can’t think of. All that can send you into a tail spin of discouragement. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need our help. Just confess the snippiness. And next time you’re having company, pray ahead of time! Go into it with your eyes open and your heart trusting and looking to Christ.

  3. Hi Nancy. I’ve not commented here before, but I’ve been a relatively frequent visitor over the last few months. I just wanted to clarify a point with you on this subject. I agree with all of your conclusions above on dealing with anger – thank you. But I do wonder about your opening statements about the heart.

    Firstly, in the passages you have quoted, the Lord is not addressing behaviour in His own children. In Matthew 12:4 He is speaking to the Pharisees – unregenerate and actively rejecting Himself. In Luke 6:45 , He is teaching His disciples how to recognise false professors and false teachers, likening them (who give themselves away by their evil behaviour and inaction upon His word) to corrupt trees and foolish builders.
    As Christians we have new lives and new hearts. Hearts of flesh for our old stony hearts and hearts upon which (in the words of the new covenant) the Law of God has been written. Although we are not yet free of our sinful natures (Rom 7) we remain from the point of salvation, new creatures in Christ “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24).

    Dealing with sinful behaviour (such as anger) in the life of a Christian is a common theme in the epistles. Take for example Ephesians 4 where, amongst other behaviours, our topic of anger is mentioned. Paul doesn’t attack his readers by telling them that they are evil or that their hearts are evil (as the Lord rightly did to the Pharisees), rather he exhorts them to “put off” such behaviour as belonging to the “old man” and instead to “put on” spiritual behaviour in its place.

    Sorry if this sounds a little lecturish – it’s so difficult to adequately deal with these sorts of issues in this sort of format and acurately convey tone as well! I wish only to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) and I feel this is an important point to make for the sake of young Christians who may feel completely overwhelmed and powerless to remove the “evil” that is within them.
    Evil belongs to the devil but we belong to God. Sin is a defeated enemy and we have the victory – personally – through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57).

  4. So far this year I’ve been trying to focus on Prov. 31–especially “She opens her mouth with wisdom; the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” –And (strangely enough) so far this year I’ve had such a struggle being patient with my oldest (age 3!)–have been feeling so frustrated, and yes, have seen the anger coming from my heart. I have not opened my mouth with wisdom or been a spout of the gentle teaching of kindness. I really, really appreciated this. Thank you so much, Nancy Ann.

  5. I so often fall short of this anger, and just as you say,it can strike unexpectedly. Than I ask myself, “why was I angry?” I’m I being Christ like? I have no excuse, its sin point blank! Prayer does wonders! All the texts mentions are excellent reminders to bind in our hearts. Thank you.

  6. Nancy, I drank too much coffee, to ‘survive’, you know, no sleep and so much to do. At some point I realized I was loaded with caffeine and was just a bear when I crashed. I still drink coffee, as you know, but I needed to cut back. It was hard but it helped.

  7. I needed to hear this. Recently, my five year old said to me (when I was particularly angry), “Where’s my mommy smile?”

  8. Mary,
    Yes, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. But when we get angry at our children (or anyone else) we are acting like Pharisees. That doesn’t mean we are not Christians! But since we are Christian women, we should imitate Christ. Sin is always inconsistent with our profession.

  9. This is excellent! I testify that preventative prayer works! I can’t remember which post/book/audio series that it was mentioned in . . . but when I pray as I drive home after some sort of outting it always makes a difference in my attitude when I arrive home to whatever awaits me. Also, you are absolutely right that we will be tested, and I love the suggestion to pray not to be blindsided.

    Mary, any exegesis I’ve read or heard on Jesus’s teaching of the heart-mouth connection is emphatic that this applies to everyone, not just Pharisees. Jesus was teaching a universal truth about mankind. Christians have the Holy Spirit, but we are still at war with our fallen flesh. So I think Nancy Wilson is completely correct in all her statements here.

  10. Yes, I do agree that “sin is always inconsistent with our profession” and that all of us are capable of acting as, say, Pharisees. But in these verses, the Lord is denouncing them and all that they say and do as being essentially and fundamentally evil. Essentially and fundamentally we are no longer evil. We are “in Christ” – redeemed and holy. Yes, we are to troubleshoot sin in our lives. We are to seek to identify occasions when our old nature rears up, and your article very helpfully points out ways to do this. But the Lord’s scorching attack on the Pharisees is not the language He uses when correcting His own, and for that reason I feel the choice of text was a little unsuitable.

  11. Mary – hope you don’t mind if I horn in! I just had a quick observation . . . when Jesus is saying, “you brood of vipers” that’s the part where he’s denouncing the evil of the Pharisees. But when he says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” he’s stating a general fact, and teaching us a universal truth. It’s a basic description of how the world works. And that’s the part of the verse Mom was making application from . . . she wasn’t necessarily firing out accusations at people that they were vipers. And, not to be too dreadfully persnickety . . . but there are definitely times when Jesus uses “scorching” language when he’s correcting his own. Think of when he said “Get behind me Satan” to Peter. If I was Peter I definitely would have had my feelings hurt. But that’s not really the ultimate standard for deciding if a rebuke was justified or not.

  12. I love the lists you keep making in your posts ( I am a woman, what can I say). Your contentment list is printed out on my fridge.)They are easy to go through in a few minutes as reminders later and have been edifying. Great post. Thank you.

  13. MARY, I love your comments. Nancy’s posts usually leave me feeling bad about myself and feeling like I have an mountainous amount of work to do which leaves me discouraged. It’s great to remember that I am united to Christ and I am perfectly loved as Christ is loved and that I am dealt with in light of that.

  14. Dear Lovey,
    So sorry my posts make you feel bad and discouraged. Certainly not intended!

  15. Hi Lovey. Thank you! And that is exactly why I posted. Although I’m sure Nancy did not intend to discourage, I was afraid that perhaps it may have that effect.
    “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13) Although we all have a mountain of work to do, we also have the God-given strength and grace for the task!

  16. I love that you point out the two times of day that I struggle the most! In the morning, I don’t like my kids being my alarm clock (here enters frustration (anger)) and at nap time when nobody seems to stay in their beds even when I lay out clearly what my expectations are (enter more anger)! Thank you so much for this…I needed this encouragement and these reminders badly!!!

  17. I have never posted on here before, but am a frequent reader. I am always encouraged, exhorted and challenged. My plea to the ladies who are offended and find the need to “nit-pick” these types of posts, is to examine your hearts. Please . . . go back and look at number 1 in this post for example and see if you are being wise in your own eyes. My perception is that Nancy is too gracious to point this out. If a blog continually leaves you feeling discouraged it is self defeating and neurotic to continue to visit the site. You should examine the site and your heart. In this case, I do not believe Nancy would ever intend to discourage anyone, therefore it is a good conclusion that you may want to examine your heart and ask the Lord why you feel this way.

  18. Just wanna say that although Nancy’s posts occasionally make me feel bad, it’s in a “faithful are the wounds of a friend” kinda way, and that her posts are so gospel-saturated that they consistently point me in the right direction to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    Thanks, Nancy!

  19. I really appreciate the practical pointers- thank you. I grew up in a Christian home but the words of correction were frequently delivered angrily. My sisters and I don’t remember what we got in trouble for; we just remember thinking “Mom’s angry… Better get out of the way or do something differently.” Things are better now and I’m not angry with my mom but I’ve always been terrified that being an angry mom was inevitable for me. God has been showing me how to deal with my frustration and moments of anger in a godly way and how to deal with the sin in my heart. I praise Him for using your article and Rebekah’s, too. You have been a great encouragement!

  20. Nancy & Mary,
    It strikes me that you are both quite right.
    The Pharisees are not told to ‘put off’ or otherwise deal with what evil comes up out of their hearts, as they lack the power of God’s Spirit to do so. As believers, it’s not that there is no longer anything evil in our hearts to come out our mouths, as the Spirit wars against the flesh, but it is that, by the power of God’s life & Spirit, we can ‘put off’ such things and be changed.
    Thanks so much for this writing, which is a new find for me this morning.

  21. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, and I was praying about this very subject last night. Your list of Scripture is so helpful.

    Have a wonderful day!

  22. I would say that whenever I have felt bad after reading a post in Femina it is because the issue being dealt with is one that I have trouble with; Nancy is being used to teach me. I understand that someone may think some words are harsh, but (as has been pointed out by others) speaking truth is not always sweet. If I have an issue with what someone says, I would try to look at it as whether it is truth or not. I think these ladies are clearly writing truth and wisdom that needs to be read.

  23. Mary, Please go to Canon wired and search for Toby Sumpter’s Easter homily entitled, My Song is Love Unknown. Listen and then please respond and tell me how tender and new hearts of flesh don’t see our sin and failures that follow us each day of our lives. Our song is one of love unknown, isn’t it? The understanding of this new heart of flesh that finds refuge and forgiveness in Christ is what is freeing. We battle sin all the days of our lives or as Michael Horton said without understanding and fighting the battle, the battle is lost. I am clean and pure in the righteousness of Christ and have rejoiced in becoming a Reformed Christian. I, however, understand that Christ IS doing a work of sanctification by revealing sin to me. When our little congregation came under Reformed teaching, and the understanding of just this, it was freeing but not easy and not without many a lesson to learn. Our refuge and hope is in Christ. He died for our sins. He knows our frames. Discouragement is not what we need to feel when confronted with sin, however, nor can we just pat ourselves on the back and rejoice in a new heart. It is the righteousness of Christ that covers me and what keeps me going and growing and being thankful for sweet teaching that Nancy Wilson gives.

  24. This is such a timely post for me! I had my first child 15 months ago, and for the past 15 months, I’ve been realizing just how deeply routed some previously unrecognized sin has been for most of my life. Anger has definitely been the biggest struggle, and my husband has helped me to see that the source of my anger (as with any sin) has been idolatry–namely, my daughter’s sleep, or lack thereof. So, I’ve been striving to pray for a heart that fully hopes in the Lord and not in my own sleep or free time. But you’ve given such a practical way of preventing the anger before it comes through prayer, and I’m really thankful that I read this! 🙂

  25. Thank you for your post! This really hit me personally. When my children (5 & 3) disobey I take it personally. I didn’t realize it! I really need to read the verses and work on this….

  26. Mary,

    good reminder as we are new creatures and children of the Most High God. We are not Pharisees. We do have the victory in Christ. That being said, I fail often even though I have every resource in Christ, so I do appreciate Nancy’s encouragement.

  27. Hi all. I wasn’t going to post again, but as it seems my motives have been misunderstood by some, I will in the hope of clarifying things a little.
    Firstly, I did not post with the intention of telling Nancy she was wrong and I was right. She isn’t wrong. As Judy and Jason have posted, really it is just two sides of the one coin. Practical sanctification vs positional sanctification.
    Yes, we are still sinful. Yes, I do believe that being made aware of sin in our lives is a good thing. No, I do not believe we should always be made to feel good about ourselves.

    There are a myriad of passages in the Bible on the subject of dealing with sin in the life of a Christian (eg. Ephesians 4, Romans 7-8, Colossians 3, etc.) But neither of the texts used are among them! Although a well taught Christian will read this with a background knowlege which will allow them to follow Nancy’s line of thought, someone who doesn’t have either a broad knowledge of scripture or of Nancy personally could come away feeling defeated, sinful and hopeless. It is essential that scripture be used contextually to avoid such possibility for misunderstanding.

  28. Mary, Nancy Wilson was using the Scripture in the correct context, as defined by orthodox and traditional exegesis of Scripture. The only place I’ve seen your understanding of the passage in question was in John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. Though the book had some good points, his Biblical scholarship was more Fundamentalist (literal) than traditional (examining the use of language, culture, other Scriptures, etc.). Nancy Wilson is being orthodox, traditional, Apostolic, Augustinian, and Reformed in her use of this passage . . . so she has about 2000 years of Christian scholarship which would say she is using the text in its correct context. There is no difficulty in following her logic. For you to say that you disagree with Nancy Wilson theologically is one thing, but to say that she is leading people astray is just flatout wrong. There is nothing misleading or unorthodox in her use of Scripture. In fact, your use of that Scripture as being “only for Pharisees” is the unorthodox view.

  29. I didn’t say she is “leading people astray”. I don’t think that. I said only that there was possibility that a person might get the wrong impression from the text used.
    You may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Personally I can’t get past Matthew 12:25 – “Jesus knew their (the Pharisees) thoughts and said to them….” and He continues to speak right up to verse 38 – “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered Him saying…” As His address is directed to their thoughts and they in turn respond, I do not see how the child of God fits into these verses. But, as I said, feel free to disagree with me! I’m sure we’ll agree one way or the other when we meet in heaven. 🙂

    Finally, please believe I am not wishing to attack Nancy so there really is no need for you all to be so protective! As she obviously doesn’t wish to enter into any further discussion on the subject, we will leave the matter closed. This is her blog after all. I will probably continue to visit from time to time as I have found various articles to be helpful and thought provoking in the past, but I don’t think I’ll bother to comment again as obviously external perspectives are not encouraged around here! Love in Christ to you all.

  30. Wasn’t Saul ( Paul ) a pharisee ? He never denied his Pharisee years . So couldn’t some of the Pharisees Christ spoke to , and read their thoughts, have been like Paul ,part of those whom he called to Himself . As we, are bound to think, if we follow certain certain “rules” we too will be like God. We can’t deny our natural tendency to be a Pharisee .

    I guess I see my husband as ‘grace’ and myself as ‘law’ . I think ‘spank that child’ he seems to be unaware of how horrible that child is acting. He has a way of turning it in to a light hearted moment. I want the child to pay for the crime. No mercy! Like Nancy said ” They are children ! That is what they do ! I needed to hear that .

  31. I’m late to the game, but thank you for this! And as a side note, after reading 90% of the posts here (recipes don’t really have this effect), I am quite uncomfortable on one hand – convicted and all that business, but also very comforted as they consistently provide hope. Thank you! Keep it up.

  32. Thank you for this great reminder. I love your insight about determining when you are usually tempted to become angry and praying specifically before then.

  33. Dear Nancy, I am Brazilian and I am so thankful to our Lord for beeing able to comprehend English, because through this language I have been blessed with wonderful articles like this one. May God keep blessing you with His wisdom cause I really enjoy reading this website. Today for, example, I had a hard time being angry with my husband about little things. At first, what comes to my mind is: ” Oh, you are pregnant and tired because you spend the day taking care of your little daughter, you are right to be angry sometimes.” But I know thai it is sin and we should never accept it and depend on our Lord to fight against this sin. Because as Christians we are new creatures and his name shall be glorified in our attitudes.
    Thank you, again. You have encouraged me!!

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