Been angry lately? There’s nothing wrong with the emotion of anger. God gets angry (Numbers 32:13) and Jesus got angry (Mark 11:15), these types of anger are called “righteous anger.” If you get mad at injustice or abuse that’s ok. It’s the anger that causes us to hurt others with our words or actions that is not ok. Stuffing our anger and blowing up later at a non related event is not good anger. Perhaps the better title to this post would be “overcoming sinful anger.” Here are four steps:
1. Identify what triggers my anger. A trigger on the gun is just a small piece of metal but when we pull that trigger, it causes an explosion that propels a bullet forward in what could be a deadly or lethal trajectory. The trigger is feeling, or hurt, or the circumstance when it’s present, it causes an explosion of anger in our life that leads us to say or do something that is damaging or hurtful. One of the keys to overcoming an angry outburst is to know what typically triggers your anger. I found that if Niki, my children or anyone else says something or acts in a way that I feel disrespected, that’s a trigger for me. Most men I talk to agree that respect is a big deal to them. Often when I get angry, raise my voice or verbally cut into someone it takes a while to figure out, “what was that? What caused that? Do you know your triggers? Think for a moment what sets you off? Sarcasm? A judgmental look? People that run late? I’m sorry- I run late!
It funny because I’m impatient if I have to wait in traffic, in a line, or if there is a project that’s running behind, I get frustrated by the lack of movement and I begin to get angry, What is it for you?
It’s not an excuse if you’re exploding in anger because of your trigger. Someone didn’t pull your trigger, you pulled it yourself.
“People with good sense restrain their anger” Proverbs 19:11. The author (Solomon) says that anger can be restrained and that we have good sense when we do.
What happens when I feel my temper rising? What happens when I feel that my trigger has been pulled and I’m about to lose my temper? I can do one of three things:
A. I can blow up and take it out on somebody
B. I can shut up and cram it all down, or
C. I can look up and ask God to help me.
Obviously choice C would be better. That’s what number 2 is about…
2. Pause and pray when my temper is rising. When you feel your temper surging, pause and pray until you have control of your anger. It may mean you leaving the room; it may mean that you need to remove yourself from that situation at least temporarily so that you can regain your composure before you say anything. Pausing doesn’t mean you are walking away or giving up. There are times when I need to think or cool down, but Niki wants to follow me and work it out. If I give her a time table for this pause it is better than just leaving. Some call this an “exit strategy.” We exit before someone gets hurt.
Pausing keeps you from saying something foolish or hurtful when you’re at the height of emotion. Look at what Proverbs 15:1 says. “A gentle answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger”. Pausing in the heat of the moment doesn’t remove the anger, it only keeps you from saying or doing something foolish. That’s why you have to pause and then pray. In the heat of the moment, just say a simple one-sentence prayer. Something simple like “God, I’m getting angry right now, help me to control my anger”, “God, help me to remain calm”, “God, help me not to say something foolish”. How many times do we say something really foolish, really hurtful in the heat of the moment because we don’t think? In these situations, pause, don’t say anything right away, and then pray and ask God to be with you in that situation. There’s a simple spiritual discipline that helps prevent destructive anger and it’s called the Discipline of Silence. Our anger is usually expressed in words, in vengeful, bitter, sharp words that hurt other people. A related expression mom used, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!” If anger is a problem then the more we can learn to remain silent when we’re angry and say nothing, the less likely we are to say or do things that we might regret. Taking a short time every day to practice not talking, just to be quiet and listen to God. It means not listening to the radio, not listening to the TV, not talking out loud to God but just sitting in silence and listening to God,
Proverbs 4:29 says this, “Those who control their anger have great understanding”, they don’t fly off the handle, “those with a hasty temper will make mistakes”. Identify your triggers, pause and pray when your temper is rising, then #3, not popular and very difficult to do but very important.
3. Leave the vengeance to God and respond with love. If we are hurt or treated badly, it’s really hard to let our anger go. It’s really hard to forgive. It’s really hard to trust God with that situation. It’s easier for me to take matters into my own hands. But the Bible tells us, don’t just leave the vengeance or repayment to God, instead respond with love or kindness. Look at what Paul writes in Romans 12:18-20. It’s a fascinating passage, “If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath for it is written, “it is mine to avenge, I will repay says the Lord.” On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”.
I experienced this verse recently. Someone had hurt one of my children in a way that law enforcement and lawyers were involved. I was very angry! Fortunately I had time to do number 2, pause and pray a lot. God spoke to me, calmed me down and told me to tell this person, “I forgive you, I do not wish you harm, I hope you are blessed and have a future.” When I did, this individual did something I did not expect. He cried.
Like I found, out this passage tells us that it is God’s job to deal with injustice and evil in the world. It’s not my job. My revenge pushes God out. And if we repay bitterness with more bitterness, all we do is we create a bad cycle of violence. Kindness is much more likely to be successful than punching them in the face or cursing them out. That’s what the Bible teaches. And on top of that, when we show kindness the cycle of violence is broken. Rather than an escalation of aggression by me doing something and you doing something back, they do something to me and I end it right there with kindness. That cycle is broken. I’m no longer hurting them and they are no longer hurting me. When Jesus was insulted and beaten at the end of his life, he didn’t retaliate. He didn’t threaten, he didn’t curse, he didn’t seek revenge. He simply trusted God and he left the vengeance to God. When we respond to mistreatment with love instead of vengeance, we’re not being weak. We’re not accepting the situation as okay. What we’re doing is expressing our trust in God that He is going to take care of evil. He is going to take care of sorting out injustice from justice. That leads us to the last step.
4. Repair the damage already caused by my anger. I have said things to Niki and my children that were hurtful to them. The best thing I can do for them, for me and fpr our relationship is to apologize and acknowledge my part in their hurt. Damaged relationships also affect me spiritually. Jesus says in Matthew 5:23 “if you’re standing before the altar in the temple offering a sacrifice to God and suddenly you remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar, go and be reconciled to that person, then come back and offer your sacrifice to God”. What Jesus is saying is if your anger caused you to hurt somebody, don’t pretend like you’re going to come up and cozy up to God. Make it right, apologize. If you feel far from God, you’ve tried going to church, getting in a growth group, trying to pray, and feel, “I don’t understand why God feels like He is so far away.” It may be because you’ve hurt somebody and you’ve tried to put it out of your mind but God is saying you need to go and make it right to that person. That’s the spiritual reason to repair the damage. The other part of this passage is practical. (vs 25-26) Look at how Jesus continues; “Then, come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late and you are dragged into court, handed over to an officer, and thrown into jail. I assure you that you won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny”. You see, if you’ve hurt someone with your anger, they may be sitting there resenting you. They may be thinking, “How can I get back at this person?” Jesus is being really practical, he says if you’ve hurt somebody and something is not right with them, go and make it right before it’s too late! Not only will it repair your relationship with God, but it will repair your relationship with that person as well.
“Whenever it is possible,” remember that phrase? I realize that it is not always possible, but when it is Jesus says to do your best to repair the damage that anger causes. Sometimes the other person, they won’t be willing to reconcile or willing to forgive you. You know what? That’s okay. You do everything that you can do. God is going to forgive your part, and even if they don’t forgive you, you did your part.
If you have anger problems: getting angry too often, making the people around you miserable, affecting your ability to enjoy life, affecting the people you care about the most or your affecting your job, there is hope. God can help you overcome the damaging sin of anger out of your life. If you will give it to Him, He can replace it with His peace and His presence, but you have to be willing to give it to Him. Thomas Merton wrote “We’re not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God”.
If you’ve never made peace with God before, you can because of Jesus..
Pray this, “God right now my life is filled with anger; I acknowledge that and desire to be filled with you. Thank you Jesus for loving me and dying for me, I receive you and want to live the life you would have me live. Help me overcome my anger. In Jesus’ name, Amen”