Think about your recent experiences of anger: were they justified? Are there certain common things that tend to make you angry? On a scale of 1-10, how much do you struggle with anger?
“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Anger is not always wrong …
“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.” (David Seamands)
Jesus, on occasion, expressed anger. For example, he once cleared the temple of those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices (John 2.13-22). So anger is a God-given emotion, but we must learn to express it in healthy ways. Ephesians 4.26-27 says, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.”
“Only the anger of a humble person has the moral force that can rightly be labeled ‘righteous indignation. … There is a call to be angry, but the call is kept in balance: Be angry and sin not.” (Dunnam & Resiman)
Someone once asked Mother Teresa, “Don’t you ever become angry at the causes of social injustice that you see in India or in any of the places in which you work?” Her response was, “Why should I expend energy in anger that I can expend in love?”
Learning to overcome our battle with anger …
>> Examine your anger.
Blazing (Powder Keg) vs. Brooding (Crock Pot): Some people’s anger explodes at every little thing, while others keep everything inside until it explodes, usually to the surprise of all those around them.
“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.” (Will Rogers)
A lady once came to Billy Sunday and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper. I blow up, and then it’s all over.” Sunday said, “So does a shotgun! And look at the damage it leaves behind!”
>> Control your anger; don’t let your anger control you.
James offers some great advice: “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight” (1.19-21). Mastering the art of listening, of taking a moment, stepping back, before reacting, makes a huge difference in how we handle our anger.
There are also some great words on controlling anger in Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
>> Avoid angry people.
“Keep away from angry, short-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Proverbs 22.24-25)
>> Don’t seek revenge; instead forgive!
“Wanting revenge is an expression of anger.” (Dunnam & Resiman)
This is tough advice. But it’s the way Scripture instructs us to handle anger and those who consider us their enemies. Romans 12.19-21 puts it this way: “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Anger, while a God-given emotion, must be expressed in healthy ways, or else it can be very destructive!
“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” (Frederick Buechner)
Lord, thank you for turning your anger away from us, even when we deserved it most, and for showing us your incredible love and grace! Help us to follow your example, and even more importantly, to let Jesus live through us so that others may sense your love, rather than our anger. Help us not to keep lists and to hang on to grudges, but to forgive, as Jesus modeled for us. Amen.