I once opened the bowling for my club cricket side and thought that a bouncer would be fair, given that the opposing batsman was supposed to be good at the game. It knocked him in the head. Down he went like a sack of spuds. “You OK?”, I asked as he groggily stumbled to his feet. “Will be if you don’t bowl that $@*&#!* to me again”, came the aggressive and probably shock-induced reply. So, like any good sportsman would, and seizing the initiative, I bowled another bouncer. He ducked, and then he ran…straight at me!
I was feeling rather defenceless against this crazed hothead flailing his bat and aiming for my ears. My unhelpful ‘teammates’ (and his) all watched meekly. With upturned palms and a shrug of my shoulders, I offered: “I didn’t bowl it to hit you in the head”. What I felt like saying was: “Average cricketer; below average bloke.” Needless to say, my discretion won the day, albeit being motivated by a sincere desire to remain vertical. He backed off. And then he walked off. His captain had finally intervened and removed him for a bit of a spell. He later apologised and admitted that his opening batsman hadn’t quite sobered up from a big night out and that his reflexes were a little slow.
I learned, that day, that we can’t always control the anger of other people, only our own. We can’t always prevent the people from acting irrationally, even if we behave innocently. Yet we can do what Proverbs 15:1 says and use “a soft answer” to turn the anger away. Being deliberately less provocative and ‘losing a battle to win the war’ is sometimes the order of the day. I’ve tried to learn when to necessarily adapt to circumstances. It is occasionally OK to be a ‘shark’ (in the language of one popular personality profile) but it’s sometimes necessary to be the owl (wise and discerning), or the fox (clever and creative) or the teddy bear (friendly and submissive), too. And it is often necessary to avoid having to be right at all costs, especially if we then harm relationships that can benefit us or that can prevent us from relativising responses as we see fit. Legitimising anger can ruin chances for us to influence people positively as we drag ourselves down to their level…or lower. In your anger you can feel right, but be oh so wrong.
To use another cricketing analogy, you sometimes have to duck the bouncers and wait for the right ball to hit, because a wild swing will likely get you “caught out”.
Jesus said it like this, in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers”.
Maybe He was an opening bowler, too.