A man storms out of the house after an argument with his wife. He gets in his car and screeches off, then goes faster and faster. He misses a curve and crashes the car into a tree. He crawls out of the car, bloody and broken and with his last breath says, “There, that’ll show her.”
Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once said, "How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it."
Anger is a difficult subject. With this single word, we can cover various levels of frustration from being displeased to full-blown rage. We have acceptable anger, justifiable anger, circumstantial anger, personality driven anger, violent anger and anger because of the color of our hair.
To excuse our anger we’ll mention Jesus casting the money-changers out of the Temple. The only problem is: the story doesn’t say Jesus was angry. In fact, the only mention of Jesus being angry in the NT is: Mark 3:5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
His anger, though, wasn’t from a personal offense. It was a response against the actions of others. The word used meant violent passion. It was anger coupled with love which resulted in grief.
Whenever we read of God being grieved, it is anger expressed in sadness because of love. Sadness that the object of His love has pulled away from Him and chosen to go a different direction.
We most associate grief with losing a loved one. If you pull back grief and look at its components, you’ll find the same thing God feels: sadness driven by love and anger. Anger that someone you love has been taken away. It is not an outburst of anger but a sadness that overwhelms. And we grieve our loss.
Grief is righteous anger. It’s appropriate and God permits it, but then He comforts us.
Jesus demonstrated appropriate anger toward the men choosing evil over good. That’s righteous anger. Bede Jarrett, a writer from the past century, wrote: "The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough [at that evil]."
David Seamands: “Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it's very questionable whether you really love righteousness.”
We are to have righteous anger against such things as: abortion and those who promote it, child abuse, sexual abuse, sanctuary cities, slave trade, pornography, drug dealers, swindlers, telemarketers, school shooters, cop killers, and injustice. These are evils perpetrated on society with no regard for who gets hurt. There is no sacredness of life. We are to be angry at the things that grieve our God.
But, the anger Solomon deals with is a different anger – anger that comes as an outburst of frustration. Where righteous anger is targeted against evil that may or may not touch us directly, outburst anger is targeted at things that affect us personally.
We are upset because of what has happened. Someone did something that hurt our feelings, our pride, our person, our plans and we are disappointed that our expectations weren’t met because of them.
When Solomon mentions anger or related words like: strife, quarreling, insolence, contentions, temper, he is talking about the outburst of our frustration.
A clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of angry men said, “I’ve seen many of my patients lose jobs, wives, and opportunities because they were simply not able to handle the normal frustrations and disappointments in life. They argue, they insult, and they sulk. They come to think of themselves as ineffective, unlucky, or just plain losers. They don’t admit this to anyone, but deep inside, they feel inferior…Their anger gets in the way of their ability to be good bosses, good workers, and good family men…These men did not start out with the intention of hurting others. They reacted impulsively."
Impulsive anger is a symptom of a life out of control. Solomon places those with no control over themselves into the foolish camp.
Prov 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.
In ancient days, the wall was the security of the city. It provided a boundary defining who could be in and who was to be kept out. When the gates were closed it provided safety for those inside and stopped unwanted intrusion from the outside.
Prov 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
Watch means guard, protect.
The heart is to be protected as with a wall around it. A man with no control over his heart is like a city with no boundaries. He lets things in that shouldn’t come in and lets things out that shouldn’t go out.
Within our heart we choose our action. We can either react by how we feel, or we can respond by how we prefer to act.
Jesus said if someone hits you on one cheek, turn to him the other. Our natural reaction is to hit them back. To do what Jesus said requires us to choose a different response. If I don’t respond, I will react and that reaction will take me down a path of regret.
Ambrose Bierce, an American journalist at the end of the 1800s said, "Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret." Never send the first draft of an angry letter.
Anger drives insolence: contemptuous, rude or disrespectful behavior or speech
Prov 13:10 Through insolence comes nothing but strife…
Prov 20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.
Description of a fool is one who relates to life only as it pleases him. He lives with no restraints. He says what he thinks and does what he is driven to do without control.
We have all sorts of techniques to control our anger:
- Biting our tongue
- Counting to 10
- Walking away
- Going silent
But none of these get rid of anger. Anger that isn’t gotten rid of resides as rage.
One writer said: "Many men find themselves unable to cope with even minor frustration. They get angry over trivial things, such as a broken pencil lead, an overcooked hamburger or a golf ball in a pond. Their anger erupts and gets out of control. They feel as though they are constantly under attack, that everyone is out to get them, and that nobody understands or cares about them. This feeling of having no control leads to a state of continual frustration and anger. This tendency to react with instant anger can be called rage. Rage is anger that never completely goes away."
Ecc 7:9 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Rage is like the heat that remains in a fireplace when the fire has died down. All it takes is stirring the embers and the flames return.
Prov 26:21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Prov 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.
Prov 30:33 For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife.
How do we defuse ourselves?
Prov 17:14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
Like Bruce Banner, we must learn to recognize when we are turning into the Hulk.
When we feel anger rising up, before we reach for the tongs to stir the fire, we need to stop, back away, turn off the emotions, let it go before the Hulk shows up. How?
Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Asking God for help is asking for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in us with the fruit of His presence. I need the evidence of who I am as a Child of God to rule over me when I’m imitating a person of the world. I yield to Him, not to the angry impulses.
How do you break a habit? You replace it with something better. If you only pray, “God take my anger away,” and don’t ask Him to replace it with something better, it will come back and be worse than at the first.
Luke 11:24-26 When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and thy go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
What do we pray? “I need control.” Which really means: I need God-control. What does God-control look like?
Ps 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
Prov 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Prov 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.
James 1:19-20 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
We say, “We’ll I’m from a family that expresses anger.” Slowing down our anger demonstrates we are of God’s family. We demonstrate God’s character. God uses discretion. He can be angry or not angry. Anger doesn’t control Him. He controls the anger. I am demonstrating discretion when I slow down my anger.
Prov 19:11 A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Discretion: the freedom to decide how to respond to a disappointment. The ability to decide or act according to one's best judgment; the right to choose what to do.
What is the spiritual activity behind discretion? Giving ourselves time to turn the moment over to God, to choose to slow our anger down and choose our controlled response.
A passenger boarded the Los Angeles-to-New York plane with a stop in Dallas. He told the flight attendant to wake him and make sure he got off in Dallas. He woke up just as the plane was landing in New York. Furious, he called the flight attendant and demanded an explanation. The attendant apologized and the man stomped off the plane. "Boy, was he ever mad!" the attendant told another crew member. "If you think he was mad, you should have seen the guy I put off the plane in Dallas!"
- Though there is appropriate anger directed toward evil, most of our anger is unrighteous frustration with life situations.
- There is no one who can control our anger but us.
- God will not control it but will give us self-control to control it ourselves.
- It is our job to slow down the process, giving time to place our frustrations into God’s hands.
- Anger is a selfish activity designed to hurt others when we have become disappointed with a life situation.
- Don’t hold it in. Don’t give it to someone else. Let it go.