Why You Need to Visit Your Angry Friend
By Marlene Houk
The air crackled with his fury as she quickly swung herself off the animal and knelt. His stare stabbed her calm, almost cracking her resolve to remind him of his royal destiny. Their swords drawn, his soldiers hesitated, stunned by the beautiful woman, alone, talking softly to their leader. Her words slipped around his anger and slowly returned him to thinking rationally.
Abigail’s story in 1 Samuel 25 dramatically demonstrates a brilliant strategy when defusing the future King David’s anger. She uses brain science skillfully, supporting the statement that she is of “good understanding.” (verse 3)
Three thousand years later, neuroscientists begin to comprehend the stunning insight she used in convincing David that his anger was unnecessary and irrelevant. The emerging field of brain science only now begins to explain why the Bible’s messages to us through its stories help us to resolve overpowering emotions and quench the lava of anger. In his book, The Other Half of Church, Jim Wilder, a neurotheologian, and Jim Hendricks, a pastor, teacher, and trainer, help me comprehend Abigail’s wise words.
Rev. Hendricks relates a story about feeling angry after losing files on his computer and sharing his feelings with his wife. She was sympathetic, helping him to release his feelings of being alone in his anger. She mirrors Jesus’ promise to us in Hebrews 13:5 to never leave us.
According to Jim Wilder in this book, “The presence of Jesus helps metabolize the emotional energy of trauma.” When Abigail went quickly to David, she helped him to defuse his anger and return him to biblical thinking. Talking with others who experience similar crises to ours creates a sense of community, turning our focus outward.
Abigail quickly came to David and humbly asked permission to engage with him. There is something very powerful about asking a person if you can enter their world. It gives them a measure of control and an opportunity to be gracious, a tiny first step toward neutralizing the anger. She talked David down from his lethal precipice of revenge by agreeing with him about her husband Nabal. Who better to talk with him than someone like herself who had endured his rudeness and surly temper for perhaps a long time. She completely agreed with David that Nabal was not worthy of even his anger.
Our body language, tone of voice, and choice of words signal to our furious friends a possible path out of anger. Like someone lost in a forest fire, we may lose our way among the smoke-filled jungle of confusion, missing the biblical path to restoring our calm thinking. Most experts agree that the majority of communication occurs nonverbally. Our haste to enter into their troubles helps them to know that we care for them and want the best for them. Abigail demonstrated the power of this concept when the verses noted that she acted quickly, both in gathering the food and when she met him. (verses 18, 23)
Just as David had soothed King Saul’s angst with his harp, so Abigail smoothed the anger from David’s soul with the music of her wisdom. When we rapidly respond to our friend’s anger, empathizing, and using our words to help restore their clear thinking, we are not only using neuroscience for peace but following the gentle wisdom of Abigail.
Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at Bible167@gmail.com