If you let anger get the best of you, it will reveal the worst of you.
Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
This week we are going to talk about the truth of anger so that you and your children can be set free from its power. There is a lot of good stuff out there that has been written about God’s design for anger so I will be leaving it to the experts today and sharing a lot of information directly from them. I’m primarily using the Overcoming Emotions That Destroy book by Chip Ingram, chapters 1 & 2, for our study. If you haven’t seen Chip’s book, you can find it here. (In today’s post, anything in quotation marks is from this book, unless otherwise specified.)
In chapter one of his book, Chip Ingram talks about the effects of anger in our lives: “We make a lot of bad decisions when we’re angry. When we get out a sword of anger, we cut people by shutting them out or by knocking them over. Many of the scars we inflicts, whether directly or indirectly are not easily healed.”
“Solomon, an ancient king known for his wisdom, wrote many sayings. “A hot-tempered person commits many sins” (Prov. 29:22), he warned. When angry, we are more apt to do something wrong. We often have wrong reactions and do dumb deeds. We say things that shouldn’t be said, we lash out and hurt people, we do things we abhor, we build up fortresses to keep others out, or we project our anger onto undeserving souls. We generally react in ways that intensify rather than relieve our anger. We end up inviting either self-hatred and shame (internalized anger) or resentment and bitterness (externalized anger) into our hearts.”
Common anger triggers include: feeling categorized, stereotyped, trapped, unfairly treated, blanmed, ignored, misunderstood, insignificant, belittled or put down. We feel entitled to something we don’t get, have unmet expectations, get unsolicited advice, are teased insensitively or criticized. Someone hasn’t respected our limits, gives us ultimatums or threats, or kicks, pushes, slaps or hits us. Our space is invaded. We have insecurity and self-pity and don’t admit our imperfections.
Where are you with anger? Anger is a pervasive problem but there’s hope in learning how to deal with it.
“Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one.” Benjamin Franklin
Anger is a powerful emotion! “Designed by God to allow us to respond to and enjoy our world, emotions also have the influence to get us off track and out of whack, being used in way we never intended. God intended for our feelings to be helpful, positive and a blessing.”
“One of the most potentially damaging emotions is anger, an emotion that both empowers and plagues every one of us. It is a common, unavoidable, inescapable, God-give emotion.”
So why did God create an emotion so volatile and easily misused? I think the answer can be most clearly seen in this quote by J.I. Packer in his book “Knowing God“, who says God accomplishes his purpose in our lives, “Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, but rather by exposing us to all these things so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy and to drive us to cling to him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to insure that we shall learn to hold him fast.” J.I. Packer, “Knowing God”
What is anger? Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility. Don Richmond also says it is “both a divine and human emotion which is aimed at the rectification of wrong and must be wisely expressed and carefully monitored”.
“Anger’s basic goal is to protect and preserve. When we feel threatened, whether emotionally or physically, it activates our survival instincts. Though it can motivate us to preserve and protect what’s right, it is unfortunately often used to preserve and protect us in unhealthy ways that actually keep us from facing the real problem. If you don’t want people near you, get angry – scream at them or shut them out. That works. If you don’t want to be vulnerable, if you don’t want to share the deep issues of your life, if you don’t want to struggle with inner things hat God wants to work out, just shut down or spew out. If that doesn’t work, withdraw, be sullen, pout, be late, procrastinate, jab, be sarcastic, be critical, be faultfinding. It all works.”
Anger is a tool of communication, a morally neutral emotion, and a signal of underlying emotions. Anger is not bad, dangerous or a sin.
Let’s examine some examples of righteous anger in the Bible. First, let’s talk about the story of Moses and the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). For 40 days and 40 nights, Moses had been on the mountain without food or drink, writing the words of God onto the stone tablets. The Lord tells him the people have made a golden calf and have begun to worship it. “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19) Moses felt righteous anger in response to the people’s worship of the idol. In response to that anger, he threw down the tablets. His response had a consequence – he had to go right back up that mountain and spend another 40 days and 40 nights without food or drink to write the words of God again on new stone tablets. But his anger was right and good, it was something God himself was angry about.
Our second Scripture is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). When David comes to the battlelines and hears the taunts of Goliath, he is moved to righteous anger toward the Philistine. David goes to Saul and says “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17: 36-37) Then David marches onto the battlefield and says to Goliath, “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17: 46) David was angry when he heard the Philistine speak against the name of the Lord and in his righteous anger, he vindicated the Lord and the army of Israel.
Finally, we see the righteous anger of Jesus himself in the temple with the moneychangers (Mark 11). He said to them, “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17) Jesus was angry when he saw the people in the temple taking advantage of the poor, charging extravagant prices for animals to be used as sacrifices. In his anger, he overturned their tables and drove the merchants from the temple.
Do you see a common thread here? Each man was angry about something God Himself was angry about. And each man was driven to action.
“You need to get angry. We all need to get angry more. We need to pray, “God make me angry about things that make you angry.” When’s the last time you got made about something that was wrong? When was the last time you did something rather than just complaining about it?”
“Anger can be used positively for emotional and physical protection, to communicate feelings, to motivate and energize others, to maintain social order, and to train young children. It’s okay to be angry. We need to be sure, however, that we get angry about the right things and respond in the right way. Many of us may start off with the right reason and the right motives but end up either with the wrong actions or with a completely overblown response. Though we may be motivated by a good cause, we may still respond in ways that are damaging and painful. Anger can be a powerful and positive motivator, but because it’s such a volatile emotion, it can quickly turn in negative directions and get us in incredible trouble.”
Anger needs to be expressed at the right times, in the right ways, for the right reasons, in the right degree, and for the right length of time. Anger is a problem when it is used in the wrong ways, occurs too frequently, lasts far too long or results in inappropriate behavior.
The bottom line is that we don’t need to get rid of all anger, only the anger that is destructive and harmful.
In our next lesson, we will discuss the volcanic explosions of angry moms and the three masks of anger we typically wear. As always, your comments and feedback make my day!