The trouble started just as the waiter brought tiramisu and coffee.
He carried a large coffeepot and thick ceramic mugs on his tray. Suddenly, the heavy tray tipped forward, as if drawn by an invisible force, and the entire pot of steaming coffee poured down my back. One of the mugs followed, hitting my head so hard I saw stars.
The near-boiling liquid quickly penetrated my thick suit coat and my sweater underneath. But by the time the hot coffee soaked through the layers, it had cooled just enough not to burn my skin.
Thankfully, this gave me time to consider the best response. Should I:
Yell something ugly? (a few choice words quickly came to mind)
Insist the waiter be fired?
Demand him to pay my cleaning bill?
Or control my wrath and give the guy a little grace?
All eyes were glued on me. The waiter apologized profusely as he sponged me off. He looked stricken. The stunned dinner guests asked if I was okay.
Finally, I began to speak through the buzz of my thumping head and stinging backside:
“It’s okay. Could’ve happened to anybody, especially if I was serving. My thick coat protected my skin from burning. Let’s go ahead with dessert,” I said as I poured coffee out of my shoe.
I wish every time someone made a mistake, or did something dumb, or hit me upside the head, I could keep my cool. I want to make offending me just a little harder to do. Don’t you?
Sure, we all get angry. Anger is a necessary emotion to let other people (like husbands, children and waiters) know when they go too far. Anger is a relief valve when things get too hot.
But in our anger God tells us to “sin not,” or in modern lingo, not to lose our cool.
Here’s why: being touchy and easily angered hurts us. This attitude can tear apart our relationships. It keeps us focused on ourselves. Ultimately, taking offense often and melting down doesn’t make us happy–it just makes us more frustrated and isolated.
So, how can we keep our cool? Here’s a few tips with Scriptures.
Pause and pray.
As we’re taxiing down the runway of flying off the handle, it helps to pause. This gives us time to pray and think. It gives us time to choose the best response. When the waiter dumped coffee on me, I admit I was angry (it hurt and it ruined my white sweater), but my thick coat gave me a moment to realize that it was just a mistake. The pause helped me reign in my escalating emotions. That’s why the Bible tells us to slow down: “Whoever is patient and slow to anger shows great understanding, but whoever has a quick temper magnifies his foolishness.” (Prov. 14:29)
Develop a thicker skin.
If I had been wearing a tank top that night, I probably would have had an angry meltdown. This taught me a valuable lesson: how wearing a thick coat–or actually a thicker skin–protects us, giving us the emotional space not to take offense. Patience, or wearing a thicker skin, is merely a byproduct of spiritual growth. As we spend time with God, our spirit grows to be more like His. He enables us to become “…quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (Jas. 1:19-20)
Q-tip: quit taking it personally.
When my anger starts to boil, remembering the Q-TIP acronym (Quit taking it personally) helps me simmer down. No situation is solely about me or you, but it’s often tempting to see it that way. Taking it personally causes us to get offended, blow up, and then say or do something we regret later (read more on Q-TIP here). This verse reminds us that patience and restraint have great value: “Insightful people restrain their anger; their glory is to ignore an offense.” (Prov. 19:11)
Let go of having to be right.
I don’t have to be right, always—oh, but I really like to. But here’s the truth: being right is overrated. It’s not as important as being patient, loving, or kind. Those who must be right are easily offended. Quick tempered. And ultimately, lonely. The more we give up our right to be right, the freer we are to love and to live a happier life. The Lord advises us: “Keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building up one another.” (Rom. 14:19)
Remember, we’re all human.
Many times, I’ve been critical of someone only to realize later that I’ve made a similar mistake. Ouch. Even though our mistakes look different on the surface, they’re not really that different. Some are more public than others. Some mistakes have more consequences. And some are more hurtful, but all stem from our flawed humanity. Remembering this helps me be more patient. The Bible encourages us to: “Always be humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.” (Eph. 4:2)
Consider the outrageous grace God gives to us.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mt. 10:8) I’ll never know how much grace God has to extend just to stay in a relationship with me, but it must be quite a lot. Remembering this inspires me to extend grace instead of rage. We all are works in progress. Granted, some have made more progress than others, but God calls us to: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:13)
Prepare: more offense and irritation are coming soon!
Don’t be shocked when people make mistakes–expect it. Spending time with God prepares us to deal with irritating people more calmly. Focusing on what God is like (patient, merciful, kind and loving) helps us act a little more like Him. Seeking Him keeps us from getting caught in the trap of offense. That’s why the Bible urges us to: “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Col. 3:2)
Chances are someone in your life is going to make a dumb mistake, spill hot coffee down your back, hit you upside the head, or something similar, very soon. Remember when you lose it, you lose.
Your response not only affects the people around you–it also affects you. Use these tips and related Scriptures to help you keep your cool.
Learning to keep your cool is beneficial for everyone, but especially for children. Comment below if you have any tips to help parents raise patient, less angry kids.
And on the lighter side, do you like tiramisu? Subscribe in the blanks below to download this favorite recipe: