The main memories I have of my biological mother (God gifted me with a wonderful grandmother and step mother) is her incredible ability to go from zero to passionately angry in 2.5 seconds. In fact, she was pretty well known for this. It didn’t take much, and before you could escape, the head would tilt, the forehead vein would pop out, the face would turn red, and the shrill sound of her soprano voice would fill the air. What often made these scenarios humorous was her famous line, “I DO NOT LIKE SCREAMING!!!!” Though, if you knew her, you surely doubted the sincerity of that statement. Anger was her spiritual gift. It sprouted in her life on the daily. And before you hate on me for mentioning her, or fee sympathy for me for living with her, hear this: I’m so thankful for that screaming, angry woman now as I look back.
God surely used that unstable and crazy environment to help shape my temperament into what it is today. It takes so much to make me mad. In fact, its near impossible to tip that anger scale for me. But when it has happened, I’ve had to evaluate where it started and how it sprouted. And with a deeper understanding of what anger is, and where it comes from in my life, it has given me a deeper understanding of where others, even my mother, are coming from when they have an anger episode. The deeper my understanding, the deeper my reservoir of mercy.
God continues chiseling away at Tommy, and all of a sudden he hits a deep one.
“Anger, I created the emotion but you use it in the wrong way.”
If mercy is a well we must draw from, anger is a volcano, springing up, that we must flee from. Anger always reveals what is going on in the heart of the matter. And the HEART of the matter is always the heart of the matter. I used to joke that I wished my mother had a red warning light that would start flashing 30 seconds before her “click” moment. While that light might not be visible to anyone else, did you know that unrighteous anger does have some “warning lights” that begin to flash, indicating a malfunction in our spiritual drive?
Before we dive in, let me answer the question that YES, there is righteous anger. The emotion you feel when you witness cruelty, injustice, or sin. Righteous anger does have a role in the Christian’s life, but that will be a discussion for a whole other day, since that’s not the area that we need some chiseling in.
Ed Chinn writes, “Burning or prolonged anger is a warning light that something is out of balance in life. Anger is closely tied to feeling threatened. A sense of threat, real or imagined, usually arises out of a perception of oppression, humiliation, injustice, physical danger or just a lack of control over our environment and circumstances.
Guilt can also trigger anger. For example, if we know or feel that we've violated the law (biblical, moral, or civic), we may live under a cloud that God or the IRS or the sheriff is about to get us. That lack of control over our circumstances can make us angry.”
Ultimately, the hot lava of anger erupts when our pride is damaged, our control is taken, or our conscience is convicted. Anger quickly becomes a sin that is the fruit of a deeper rooted sin. God created anger as an emotional drive toward action because angry people tend to become active people. But, so many of us misuse it. We have so much sin, bitterness, and pride in our hearts that our actions are ill intentioned. So what are the warning lights for this destrictive anger? How can we avoid the sin?
1. LISTEN FIRST – talk last. Don’t speak until you’ve listened. Ignorance is often a most passionate communicator.
James 1:19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
2. LET GO. Anger ferments into bitterness and boils into foolishness.
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
3. LEVERAGE KINDNESS. When there is gap between what we expect and what we experience, we get to choose what we fill the void with. Trust or distrust. What we fill the gap with reveals our depth of spirituality. Love believes all things…it gives the benefit of the doubt. Proverbs 19:11: "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." In other words, balance gives a sense of discretion in life. And, it is the mark of wisdom to be able to overlook perceived transgressions.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
God, please give me strength to listen before I speak.
Lord, I am not you, so holding on to anger only damages me and other’s image of you when they see me. Help me to let go of my frustrations and reject my irritations in the moment.
Father, you’ve been so kind to me. Help me extend that benefit of the doubt to someone else today. Let them see you in me.