Written by: Joanne Beckley
This past week one of my Bible classes studied from Genesis 4. From there it was good to consider God's warning and consider this emotion called anger. I thought to share it with you.
Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure against a wrong and it was given to us by our Creator. If anger is properly motivated and controlled, it is a necessary part of a Christian’s character. But there is a major downside to this emotion for it can easily be used incorrectly (Eph.4:26-27). How can we be angry and yet not sin? We find the answer to this question when we look at the nature of God’s anger. His anger has a different motive and is always controlled. God’s anger is at all times directed against sin, or against that which is against His nature and law (Ex.32:9-10). God is not motivated by greed, lust, pride or selfishness which develops anger in our hearts (Eph.4:31). In Matthew 5:21 and 22, Jesus compared anger toward a brother with murder itself. Let us remember that God is love and this love is what controls His anger (Mat.23:37). We too must love if we are ever to have the right motive and learn to control our anger.
Uncontrolled anger is sinful. It develops when we allow sinful attitudes to build up in our hearts. Not surprisingly, we actually train ourselves not to deal with anger until it grows and grows in our hearts. This self-centred, unruly spirit will only bring unhappiness and insecurity. Anger draws self-pity to our hearts, which finally develops into bitterness and physical hurt toward others. The trick is to recognize what we are doing to ourselves before it grows. God tried to teach and warn Cain not to let his anger grow (Gen.4:6-7). Cain did not listen. Do we?
Controlling our anger is one of the most difficult tasks God has given us. Why? Because we are naturally full of ourselves and we want everything to go our way. When someone insults us or doesn’t do what we want them to do, then we become angry. This is not a good anger and we must change our thinking in order to control this kind of anger.
Our very makeup demands that we learn self-discipline. We cannot afford to think we are protecting ourselves by denying that we get angry. Why? Because denial breaks our own standards which have been trained and built into our character. If we do not face the responsibility to control our anger it produces guilt. The soul knows itself and does not like what it sees. When we do not live up to our own standards we condemn ourselves.
Guilt concerning anger only occurs when we honestly judge ourselves worthy of blame. The human spirit, given by God, comes provided with a divinely given judge – the conscience. The higher we value our own good, the greater we despise our failures. This self-loathing is due to our self-accusing conscience – because of our self-love. The more we value ourselves as God values us, the deeper we oppose ourselves. The wise man in Proverbs 5:22 calls this process being “held with the cords of his sin.”
But guilt is only a temporary tool. It is the soul’s pain, designed to give warning that we must change our actions, but our mind will not accept feeling guilty for very long and we will begin to excuse ourselves. Be thankful the guilt comes, and then quickly clean out the guilt by repenting. The Bible is God’s “rod” of correction that will bring us to repentance (Heb.12:5-13). When we can understand that a properly and timely administered “spanking” will heal our souls and restore us to wholeness of spirit, we will learn self-control and rejoice in being free from the anger that hurts ourselves and others. Read Job 36:7-12.
Job 36:7-12: He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; But they are on the throne with kings, For He has seated them forever, And they are exalted. 8 And if they are bound in fetters, Held in the cords of affliction, 9 Then He tells them their work and their transgressions-That they have acted defiantly. 10 He also opens their ear to instruction, And commands that they turn from iniquity. 11 If they obey and serve Him, They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures. 12 But if they do not obey, They shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge. Uncontrolled anger is a matter of choice. Yes, each one of us has to learn to control his/her anger if we want to please God. Our anger doesn’t happen because of what someone else did. (This is true about any of our emotions, being sad or happy or angry or lustful.) We CHOOSE to get angry and if we CHOOSE to let that anger build until we lose control, we have CHOSEN to sin. It is not anger that is sinful; God has given us this emotion. (If I gave you a gift of money, it is YOU who chooses how to spend it.) Sin occurs when a bad attitude prompts the anger and if we lose control over the anger. Ephesians 4:27 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Did you notice God’s solution to help us control anger? If we do get angry with any one we must remove that anger from our hearts as quickly as possible. In so doing, our conscience can be at peace. If we do not remove anger quickly, Satan will use this opening and crack our hearts wide open for malice and revenge (2 Cor.2:10-11). Many of our feelings are produced when we think we are just defending our rights and holding on to what is our own. These feelings are the temptations of the devil. Our hearts (our emotions) can deceive us! – especially when we become angry.
One of the best ways to control anger is to learn to stop anger before it gets started. If we can do this we will take an important and positive step forward. We have to study ourselves and learn WHY we get angry – what triggers our anger? Let us ask ourselves: Do I make quick judgments about people, condemning, accusing them? Consider this: When our actions or comments are too big for a certain event, something else is going on – OUR desires, OUR demands, OUR expectations. After many personal experiences with anger we develop our own style of displaying or hiding anger. Yes, we can even hide bad anger and fool ourselves into thinking we are good Christians!
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I consider myself (a) a very angry person, (b) about average as an angry person (c) a person with very little anger.
2. My friends and family would say that I am (a) a very angry person (b) about average as an angry person (c) a person with very little anger.
3. When I am angry, my tone of voice is __________________________, my facial expression looks like _______________________, my body movements are __________.
4. I am having health problems that are caused by anger (a) overeating (b) not eating (c) headaches (d) upset stomach (e) nervous stomach (f) troubled breathing (g) skin rashes (h) skin twitches - and the list goes on ___________________________
5. Members in my family who have difficulty controlling anger (I have learned from them) _______________________________________________________________________
6. I have tried the following to substitute and mask my anger: (a) avoid the person (b) rebellion,((c) just give in to the demands of others (d) use sarcasm or hurtful joking (e) drugs, or alcohol. Other ____________________________________________________
7. The following influences my anger: (a) boredom (b) selfishness (c) injustice (d) insecurity (e) envy (f) past experiences (g) lack of goals (h) feeling rejected (i) drugs (j) loss of respect (k) jealousy (l) revenge. Other ________________________________________
8. Most often I find myself angry toward (a) God (b) my children (c) my mate (d) those in authority (e) my friends (f) injustice (g) my parents (h) myself (i) strangers (j) anyone in my way (k) things or events.
9. The time of day that I find myself getting angry most often is (a) morning (b) afternoon (c) late evening (d) before mealtime. (This could indicate a need for sleep or food.)
10. The events that are usually happening at the time of day when I get angry are _______________________________________________________________________
As you review your anger history, you may decide that there are certain areas of your life that you would like to work on. Note these areas and pray to God concerning them. The psalmist is our example of talking to God about our anger:
Psalm 39: 1- 4
I said, "I will guard my ways,
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me."
2 I was mute with silence,
I held my peace even from good;
And my sorrow was stirred up.
3 My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing, the fire burned.
Then I spoke with my tongue:
4 "LORD, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Take time to read these verses : Psalm 55; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 16:7; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:2; Proverbs 20:5; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 24:6; Proverbs 27:9 Sit down with your Bible and study about anger, forgiveness and patience.
Learn to accept situations which are outside your power to control (time, location, people, etc). This will help you to keep anger in its proper place. Sometimes you can avoid angry outbursts by avoiding situations that trigger your anger – Proverbs 22:24-25.
Rehearse in your mind, your positive responses to the emotion of anger before you are under pressure. If you are going to be around someone who does not like you or you do not care for, you can ask for God’s guidance. He will help you to respond as you should – if you are willing. Read James 3:2-18. The key to controlling your tongue is to plan ahead. Decide before you get into a stress situation that you won’t speak to hurt and destroy the other person.
Relax a bit. Perhaps you have been taking life and yourself a little too seriously. Perhaps the problems are not as big as you think they are. Find the humour in the tense situation, but do not use cutting remarks or sarcasm toward someone else.
Ask yourself questions like: What would Jesus do in this situation? How would He respond? Do I need to get angry? Will anger help me to handle the issue or conflict any better?
It is also helpful to watch the emotional displays of others in order to help you understand yourself. Listen for the inner origin of their feelings and for what he says and does in the name of these feelings. “You make me so mad I could hit you!” His anger gives him reason to do violence, to satisfy an aggressive urge he would never feel justified in following unless he felt anger. He never says, “I make me so angry. . .” It becomes pretty obvious who is generating the anger when a man says, “The more I think about it, the madder I get.”
Lastly, determine that you will be honest and loving whenever possible. Proverbs 27:4-6 Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; But who is able to stand before jealousy? Better is open rebuke Than love that is hidden. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse. Ephesians 4:25-27 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. . . .
Be open to criticism. Listen to it and see if there is truth in it. Grow! Share only one problem at a time. Usually we want to dump all of our frustration at one time, so be aware of the danger. Talk about your hurt without using anger. Try to find a solution that is helpful to both parties. Don’t make threats. Don’t accuse or attack the other person. Learn to use “I-words” Rather than “you- words.” For example, “I am becoming angry” Not, “You are always. . .” If you are bringing a problem to the attention of someone, allow time for the other person to consider what you have said. Give him “think time.” He also needs some time to talk with God and get his own attitude right. Put yourself in his shoes.
THE ANGER PROCESS
Peaceful, calm, serene, Mental response Physical response
tranquil, and relaxed. No feelings of anger____EVENT____________\_________________\_______
Rarely is there ever an approved time to react physically in anger. But there are times, such as when anger motivates us to protect our family from an intruder. But these times are indeed rare. If we do not train our children to deal with anger, they very likely will continue to express anger in a physical way as an adult. And sometimes the only way to control physical anger in an adult is with physical restraint; the most extreme form is imprisonment. If you are struggling with physical anger, seek help. It is a LEARNED response.
Remember, YOU are responsible to CHOOSE how you will respond in anger-producing situations. No one “makes you angry.” You make you angry. If what motivates you to be angry is sinful, face your anger as sin. Don’t fool yourself and make excuses for your thoughts and actions if they are sinful. Speak to the one you were angry toward and lost your control. Ask for his forgiveness.
So how do we train ourselves to control our anger?
1st Identify how you have been reacting in the past. If it is sinful and uncontrolled, name it so. Perhaps you had learned to strike back when you were angry, or you learned to hide your anger until it suddenly came out in a hurtful way.
2nd Change your understanding about anger. God made man with the ability to make choices. We do not have to be controlled by the reaction of others. We can choose how to respond!
3rd Determine your course of action. Picture different situations you might have to face and PLAN how you are going to act. Then use self-control that God gave you the ability to use when you are faced with the next situation.