Anger is a huge problem in our society.
Bullying at school or in the workplace, cyberbullying, vengeance, threats, road rage, putting people down, gossiping, stealing, destroying objects as in vandalism, harming animals, child abuse, reckless driving, substance abuse, violence, including sexual abuse and rape, verbal abuse, biased or vulgar jokes, are just some examples of how anger can be negatively expressed.
In his autobiography, Number 1, Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend. Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him. When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt.
“I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!” Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, “We can’t do that!” But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted.
When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too. “What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, “We’ll show him! I just killed two of his cows!
Anger… can be dangerously contagious. As Proverbs puts it, Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Proverbs 22:24-25).
Let’s look at the life issue of anger. We need to get control of our anger and channel it into productive instead of destructive ways. It is important to understand our anger.
What is it that causes us to get angry? We feel that we have our rights and no one had better take away our rights. If someone gets in my space they’re in trouble. We all experience anger. Most of us battle daily with the temptation to lose our cool. It could be something as little as not being able to get a lawn mower started. It could be frustration with a co-worker, boss or one of our children. It could even be deep-seated anger at a parent or a spouse.
God knows our tendency to struggle with anger. His Word gives us some instruction in this matter. Let’s honor God in all things – even in our anger. Proverb 14:17a “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly”
On April 28, 1993, a Serbian basketball player named Slobodon Jankovic was playing in a Greek professional league playoff game. It was the semi-finals and toward the end of a closely contested game.
Jankovic drove toward the basket and scored. The referee called him for a charging foul wiping away his basket and also giving him his fifth foul which meant he was out of the game. Out of anger at the referee, Jankovic walked under the basket and slammed his head against the thinly padded goal post. He slammed his head so hard that he slumped to floor unable to get up.
Jankovic permanently damaged his spinal cord and was unable to walk for the rest of his life. After using a wheelchair for the final 13 years of his life, Janković gained a large amount of weight, which exerted too much stress on his heart. He eventually died of heart failure at the age of 42, on June 28, 2006 while on a holiday cruise on the Greek island of Rhodes.
There are several ways we can deal with anger. You can suppress it. Don’t admit that you are angry. Hide your anger. It is hard for some people to hid their anger when their face turns beat red. Internal anger is a powerful force that may express itself in physical symptoms such as intense headaches, chest pains, and ulcers. It can also produce psychological problems – self-pity, thoughts of revenge, or even suicide.
Or you can be proud of your anger. In our hard-driving American society, anger is sometimes viewed as a virtue. We will be nice and friendly until someone crosses us, or we’re calm and controlled until something doesn’t go our way and then we have the right to be angry.
Another way to deal with anger is acting out. Aggression, violence, slander, gossip, and abusing alcohol or drugs are all inappropriate ways to deal with anger.
A lot of time, we don’t want to let go of our anger. Instead we want to wallow in it, because we think that we deserve to be angry. But be very careful. Anger that brews on the inside can lead us into sin.
Anger, in and of itself is not sinful. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:26 said “Be angry and do not sin.” He didn’t say, “don’t get angry.” He said, “do not sin.’ Ps. 4:4 agrees, “In your anger do not sin.” There is a righteous anger and an unrighteous anger. We can be angry and not sin.
Righteous anger is upset over sin and injustice. It’s okay to be angry when you see the evil work of terrorists and people suffering from their violence. It’s okay to be angry when you hear about a child being abused or a woman being raped.
So how does the Bible say that we’re to deal with our anger? How can we keep it from getting the best of us? First, you don’t hold on to it. Jesus says to settle matters quickly.
Don’t let your anger boil up inside like a volcano that explodes and reigns down destruction. Handle things quickly but handle them appropriately. Jesus says that we shouldn’t let our anger go unaddressed. Admit your anger and then do the necessary things to fix the situation.
Eph. 4:26-27 – “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. If we hold on to our anger, we’re giving the devil a place to claim control over this area of our lives.
Jesus says we should watch our emotions. Matt. 5:38-39 – You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
When someone does something like that to you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? What do you want to instinctively do? You feel like striking back. Why must we watch our emotions? Because they can’t be trusted in all circumstances and occasions. Don’t let your emotions control you.
As Christians, we’re supposed to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Rom. 8:5-8. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Martin Luther wrote, “Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving. My guide is the Holy Spirit of God, none else is worth believing.
Jesus says to us about dealing appropriately with our anger is to pray about it. Matt. 5:43-45a – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
If you’re angry with someone, give it up to God. Talk to him about it instead of retaliating or holding a grudge. When we get angry, how many of us stop to pray about it? We are in the heat of the moment and we’re so focused on our anger and the person who made us angry that we don’t think of giving it to God. We don’t think of going to him and saying, “God, I’m angry but help me to address this anger properly. Help me to do what is pleasing in your sight.”
Before you retaliate, or get bent out of shape, or say something that you’ll later regret, pray about it. Let the peace of God come into your life through prayer. Then you’ll be able to put things in perspective.
Jesus had a lot of people who lashed out at him but never once did he retaliate. Never once did he lose control. The Bible says that when people hurled insults at him, he did not hate them or get back at them. Instead, he combatted their anger with love.
Lord, help us to be like Jesus.