Making Sense of Anger - Part B
12 March, 2009
7 Steps to Anger Management ... Part B
An Anger Anecdote
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven thirty-seven nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.
He told his father about it, the father rejoiced suggesting that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed by surprisingly swiftly and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. Again the father rejoiced.
However this time the father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, 'You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound will still be there. Remember, a verbal wound can be even harder to heal than a physical one."
Giving angry responses
As clear as a cloudless sky lit by a bright noonday sun is Jesus' teaching on this perennial issue of anger.
It is very healthy to recognise that times of anger will arise in us all. As creatures in God's image this is to be expected for He too feels anger. (eg Ps 95:10)
Correctly, passion and injustice will permeate our spirits and souls at various times, however these are not to be opportunities for sin. (Eph 4:26) In fact the Biblical counsel is that such times are to be a significant catalyst for self reflection rather than self expression towards another that we may well injure.
In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent. Psalm 4:4
The Psalmist advises that anger is to lead to rest and not ranting, self searching and not the character assassination of another. He then finally counsels silence.
Silence is not normally the natural response to a person's indwelling rage. However take the rage to heaven (Mt 11:28-30), do not leave its destructive power on earth. Lying in a rage filled solitude on your bed is actually a wonderful opportunity to release the rage to His Throne of Grace. (see also Soul Snack 8/120 ... Anger Management)
If anger can not be spoken well (it does not normally issue in courteous words) it is helpfully left to either a later date or simply left unspoken and unkept. Release rage to God not man, but do not sin. (Eph 4:26-33)
Retaining anger is really soul destroying for the retainee and venom to any future recipient. Releasing anger to Him feeds a healthy spirit and undamaged relationships.
The steps in anger control -
- Humbly recognise the reaction as anger. This is a most healthy recognition of my weakness. We see ourselves strong and are deceived (Jer 17:9). God tells us we are weak (Roms 6:19) now I know I need to call on Him for strength (see pt 4).
- Refrain from or restrain the anger (until later if need be). Do not allow the anger to drive you to sin.(Ps 4:4) Understand the triggers - this gives both the warning and the opportunity for avoidance.
- Release the anger to Him (or in other healthy ways that are not directed to another and done in private ... Mt 11:28-30).
- Call on the name of Jesus for help, before you sin. His name is above the name 'anger'. (Col 2:10). To call on His name is to enlist His assistance.
- Submit to the Holy Spirit for help (Roms 8:26).
- Receive His righteousness and forgiveness afresh.
- Pursue the steps of Matt 18:15-18
Receiving angry responses
Proverbs has some very helpful advice for dealing with angry people.
- A gentle word turns away anger 15:1, do not respond with harshness it is only inflammatory, and repeat/magnifies evil. Do not be a retaliator of angry responses.
- It is wise to overlook an offence 19:11.
- Stay away from angry people, do not have them as friends. 22:24.
- Do not rescue an angry man because you will have to do it again, in fact he is to learn from his anger 19:19.
- Pray blessing over those who curse you (Lk 6:28, Rms 12:14).
- As far as it depend on you, live at peace with everyone (Rms 12:18, Hebs 12:14).
- Pursue the steps of Matt 18:15-18
Remember that anger is about control of another. It delivers fear that the recipient may acquiesce to the will of the protagonist.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Prov 29:25
Fear of man is never to be a motivator for those who would seek Jesus and live by faith (2 Cor 5:11).
Fear and faith are opposites. When another is angry against you do not allow their anger to lead you to sin either. (Remember too that satan wants to multiply sin, that is his business) To fear man more than God is a snare and leads to danger - even death.
King Saul feared man more than God (1 Sam 15:24) and he desired to be a people pleaser (1 Sam 15:30). As a result he was first stripped of the kingship (1 Sam 15:26), then stripped of Godly counsel from Samuel (1 Sam 15:35). then stripped of the empowering Holy Spirit (1 Sam 16:14), then stripped of his honour (1 Sam 18:6-7), then stripped of his sons (1 Sam 31:2) and then finally his own life (1 Sam 31:3-4).
Do not permit another's anger to manipulate you to please man and not please God first - this is a snare to the righteous. Fear of man is very destructive for those who would claim Christ, it can cost all.
Appreciate too that anger will always be driven by the evil one. He who desires relational breakdown is always behind the insults and the offence taking and giving. (Eph 6:11-12) It can be helpful to see the person yelling as an unwitting tool of the evil one. Ultimately it is an attack by the evil one upon a righteous one. This thought helps the recipient of anger to think more like Jesus. 'Forgive him/her because she does not know what he/she is doing.'
It was an angry Cain, the world's first son, that murdered his brother, the world's second son Abel. (Gen 4:6-8) Murder is the apex of relational breakdown, anger was the fuel for it. Satan was the victor. The world has lost ever since.
Offence is delivered by flesh and blood, but seeded in all anger are the daily spiritual battles which are the hand to hand combat of life.
Postscript ... Anger and Spiritual Leadership
God's intentions are always for righteousness, in this topic righteousness resides in correct restrained verbal and physical behaviour. He makes it very clear that those given to rage are not to be in positions of leadership within His church, Christ's body.
Christianity is THE faith of personal restraint that I may become a new creation. It is not a faith of personal indulgence and the promotion of the 'old me.'
Self-restraint and rage are not bed partners. The New Testament is eminently uncomplicated, those who are angry are not to be shepherds of His flock.
All angry Christian leadership should be brought to repentance (Mt 18:15-17) or removed (1 Tim 3:2-3, Titus 1:7-8). No angry person is ever to be elevated to leadership positions.
God's righteousness is never reflected through angry leadership, nor is Christ's flock ever built up.
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Prov 16:32)