How To Handle Our Anger

When we get angry, the problem we have is that we either get angry at the wrong things, we fail to proceed to make the right change that our anger is inspiring, or we deal harshly with the people we are angry with.  Anger should be our natural impulse when we see the world not line up with what God intended it to be.  It should be our response to sin, but then we need to deal with that anger in the right way.

I put my mom through a lot growing up.  One of the scariest experiences for me, and I am sure for her, was when she was trying to teach me how to drive.  We had an old Ford Taurus, and the great feature about it was that it had a manual transmission. I had enough trouble accelerating, turning, and braking.  Combine that with shifting, and I was one scary driver.  Driving did not come naturally for me.  I remember roaring around corners too fast, but, most of all, I remember accidentally driving through my neighbors yard when we arrived home after our first time out.  Mom could have used those passenger side brakes when she taught me how to drive.  I'm just glad we lived through it. 

Shifting gears is tough, at least for me.  And when we are angry, we need to learn to shift gears.  We might be angry, but we cannot allow that anger to control us.  We should never deal harshly with another when we are angry.  That is allowing our anger to cause us to sin.  We need to allow our anger to highlight the problem, but then shift from being angry to fixing the situation.

Moses had trouble shifting gears.  When he saw the Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he was rightfully upset.  But then he went and killed the Egyptian.  For that, he spent forty years in the wilderness.  His response was not the response God would have him do, although his anger was proper.  (Exodus 2:11-15)

Cain also had trouble shifting gears.  When he and his brother Abel gave an offering to God, God looked favorably on Abel's offering but not on Cain.  So Cain became angry.  God told him, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."  Cain's response was to kill Abel.  He placed his anger on the wrong person; it should have been himself.  His response was completely inappropriate; he should have committed in his heart to give better offerings to God.

Justin John Boudin (you know it's bad when you hear all three names) was waiting at a bus stop when he began to have a disagreement with a 59-year old woman.  He yelled, "Why don't you show me some respect?"  The lady, disturbed by Justin, proceeded to call the police.  Justin then punched her in the face.

At this point, a 63-year man stepped in to protect the lady.  Boudin smacked him with a folder then ran away.  The folder that he left on the ground after using it as a weapon was his homework for an anger management class that he was going to at that time.  At least we know that he was working on his problems.

Paul wrote, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger."

Anger is like our spidey-sense.  When we get angry, it's time for a change.  It might mean we need to step in to stop someone from punching a lady or stop some other form of abusive or oppressive action.  But it might mean, as in the case of Cain, we need to change ourselves.  What is angering us might actually be ourselves, our own preconceived notions, or the breaking of the box we have confined God in.  I've seen people get angry about changes in the church that were implemented to help us reach out, be more welcoming to visitors, or to just function more smoothly.  Some have even left the church over these things.  What they did was miss an opportunity to respond to their anger properly and grow spiritually.  Anger means something needs to change; More often than not, anger should cause a period of self-reflection because that something is often ourselves.

Paul teaches that our anger needs to be dealt with quickly.  The longer we let an issue go unresolved, the more it festers, and we are less likely to ever implement any change.  Have you ever seen a pressure cooker with too much pressure built up inside it.  It can explode, and when it does nothing good happens.  Just a little historical tidbit.  Pressure cookers gained a bad reputation in America after WWII.  After the war, there was great demand for pressure cookers and the manufacturers could not keep up.  New companies began making them that really did not know how to.  With these inferior pressure cookers, explosions were bound to happen.  Now, they claim to make explosion proof pressure cookers.  Although in 2009, there was an exploding pressure cooker death in India.

When we let our anger go unresolved,  let the frustration build up like a pressure cooker, we keep building pressure in our lives.  And we might not ever deal with it.  We might just stop hanging out with certain friends, we might just up and leave a church, or we might just ignore a relative altogether.  If we allow pressure to build up, it will eventually destroy things.  The life God wants us to lead is one where the frustrations in our life are dealt with. 

We like to disguise our anger with nice words like frustration, but semantics will not fix the problem.  What makes a healthy relationship is not a lack of frustration with one another but learning how to deal with one another in constructive ways.  Every relationship will have moments of frustration.  It's how we deal with those moments that shows whether what we are being a new self in Jesus or falling prey to our old self.  It's the difference between life and death.

Remember the words of Paul when dealing with someone that frustrates you.  "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness"(Gal 6:1 ESV).  "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Tim 2:24-26 ESV).  It is never appropriate to stop loving others in our anger.

Remember that "anger" is very close to "danger."