If You Lose Your Cool, You Can’t Win

post date: September 13, 2008

Several times this week I started to write something about the presidential race, but I haven’t been able to do it properly, mostly because I find myself getting irritated by the comments I read on the Internet and the statements made by certain members of the media. To be honest, more than once this week I’ve found myself getting angry—and it’s only September!

I am writing this mostly to myself. If it helps you, so be it. Years ago my good friend Howard Harvey talked to me about how keep cool under pressure. He said that it’s not the things people say that get to us, it’s the value we assign to their words. For instance, a guy could come up on the street and start swearing at me in Bantu, and I wouldn’t be offended because I wouldn’t know what he was saying. He could utter awful things about my wife or my children, but I could walk away with a smile because I wouldn’t understand a single word.

"Ray, when you feel yourself getting hot about something someone says, just tell yourself that they are speaking Bantu,” Howard said. If you don’t assign value to what they say, you won’t get angry. There is enormous wisdom in those words. No one can “make” you angry. Anger is choice, a response we make to the provocations of others.

I have two small pieces of advice.

1) Don’t let anyone get to you. Walk away from a conversation when it begins to get heated. Turn off the TV. Change channels. Get up and take a walk. Listen to some good music. Go for a bike ride. Read the Bible. Play with your kids. Listen to the discussion but know your own limits. There are some people—and they may even be good friends—you just can’t talk to about politics. Fine. Check in with them on November 5 and pick up your friendship anew.

2) Remember Proverbs 16:32. "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” Years ago I heard it said this way:

If you keep your cool, you can’t lose.
If you lose your cool, you can’t win.

Have your convictions, know where you stand, be ready to explain yourself when someone asks. But don’t lose your cool over an election. It’s not worth it.

And one final thing. Remember the sovereignty of God. He’s God and we’re not. I can assure you that the Lord in heaven is not wringing his hands over the latest commercial or wondering who is really qualified. He is seated on his throne watching the chattering on earth, but it does not disturb the atmosphere of heaven. He’s not worried about who will be in the White House for the next four years. I’m happy about that, and I think I can feel my blood pressure going down right now. That’s what good theology does for the soul. It calms you down after you’ve watched too much cable news and gotten all riled up.

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