August 1, 2007
As a passenger boarded the Los Angeles-to-New York plane, he told the flight attendant to wake him and make sure he got off in Dallas. The passenger awoke just as the plane was landing in New York. Furious, he called the flight attendant and demanded an explanation. The attendant mumbled an apology and, in a rage, the passenger stomped off the plane.
“Boy, was he ever mad!” another crew member observed to her errant colleague.
Anger is an easy emotion for all of us to tap into. The sources of our anger are varied: A perceived loss of control, factors affecting our values, memories of events and experiences from our past...
Anger, as an emotional state, can range from mild irritation to an intense rage. Often, when we’re angry we change physically: our blood pressure goes up, our adrenaline begins to flow.
The Apostle Paul writes, “Be angry and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:4).
Anger can lead to sinful behavior - actions and attitudes which are destructive to us and to others - which are against the will of God. Will Rogers said, “Whenever you fly into a rage, you seldom make a safe landing.”
A man once tried to rationalize his angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper,” He said. “I blow up, and then it’s all over.”
“So does a shotgun,” came the reply, “and look at the damage it leaves behind!”
The Bible teaches us that there is anger which can lead us to acts of righteousness. Perhaps the most familiar is Jesus driving out those who had made the Temple into a place of shady business rather than a place of prayer (Mark 11:15-17). Strange as it may seem, God has blessed us with the ability to be angry.
However, seldom, when I am warming up to a good fit of anger, do I think about the differences between “destructive” and “righteous” anger.
Perhaps the best proactive approach to anger is retroactive. Trying to understand what it is that we are angry about and why.
Spending time away from the intensity of the moment - even physically removing ourselves from the situation - gives us the opportunity to see our emotion and its source with greater clarity. Sometimes this may mean talking through things with someone who can give us an objective perspective on what we’re feeling. It is really helpful to understand “what” taps into our reservoir of anger so that we can take control of the emotion before it takes control of us.
One of the most helpful things I have found in dealing with anger is to take my introspection to God in prayer. I have found that God desires to help me understand the source of my anger and how best to deal with situations which lead me to an angry response.
My prayers can go something like this, “ God, I’m really ticked and I don’t know why. Help me to understand what’s going on.” “God, help me to calm down and to understand how you want me to respond.” Or, this really tough prayer, “God, what is it that this anger is showing me about myself that you want to deal with?” Sometimes a simple, “HELP!” is also effective in getting me into a place where I am looking to God to do His work in my life.
Placing our lives and situations in God’s hands means that He can use our anger to help us grow closer to Him, to eliminate destructive behavior, to stand up to injustice, and even to serve Him. With God, we do not need to be bound by anger but we can grow through it.
The next time you feel angry take that anger to God and see what He does with it.