Moderate Anger | Letters To My Son
Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.—Aristotle
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.—Ephesians 4:26-27
Prone To Anger?
So many men I know, are prone to anger. And you will be too. Understanding how to respond in these moments are critical as these are moments men are made and revealed for who they are. Understanding what anger is, how you exhibit anger, and the triggers that give way to your anger will be critical for you as you mature. Many men take too long to mature in this area and let their anger lead them with devastating consequences on teams, in relationships, and within the workplace.
Several men of the Bible, in the act of rage, have inflicted grave injury on others. Moses is a prime example. In passion, he stepped up when he saw the mistreatment of his fellow Hebrews—which was a good impulse. However, his untamed anger turned into a physical act of violence that resulted in murder. And later in Moses' life, we again see him respond poorly in rage. As he was leading the people toward the promised land, he was instructed by God to "speak to a rock," and God would open a river of water for the thirsty and obstinate nation. However, Moses "struck the rock" in anger, which was a willing act of disobedience over the complaints of the people. Moses was right to be frustrated but was wrong not to manage his holy frustration, which resulted in rebellion to God. Because of that one moment of defiance, God prevented Moses from leading the people into the promised land. Now that's a bummer all brought about by anger.
So what valuable lessons do you need to learn about managing your anger? Here are a few I have learned the hard way. And I do mean the hard way.
Valuable Lessons About Anger
One | Anger is not wrong
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.—The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:26-27
It's clear from many biblical texts that anger is not wrong. We know that God expressed anger and revealed his anger through many Old Testament prophets. At times there were significant consequences for angering God—case in point; Sodom and Gomorrah. Or consider the perpetual evil of humanity which resulted in God's just anger that resulted in a worldwide flood wiping out corruption except for single faithful family—case in point; Noah the great flood. God justly denounces the perpetuation of evil and shuns immoral behavior, and there is just punishment for it. Therefore we can assume being angry is not wrong, or God would not do it. And we should fear God's just and holy anger.
But as men, we must moderate our anger because we are not like God. Our anger originates most of the time from a place of selfishness and self-centeredness—rarely is it selfless. It's about me not getting what "I want" or what "I feel I deserve," and this is the difference between God's anger and action and our anger and action. God's wrath stems from righteous anger and has a moral result; ours does not.
But, it's not righteous anger that will usually get you into trouble. When the male fuse is lit, it has the potential to become a destructive wildfire that is out of control. It's sparked when a competitor oversteps a boundary. It burns into full-flame when you feel an imminent loss. It rages when a peer takes credit for what you have done. And the problem is that if these moments go unmoderated, our initial anger will burn into full flame with words and actions that seek to inflict harm which will destroy relationships. Hopefully, you see it's the subsequent responses of the emotion of anger that are wrong.
Based on what I read above from Paul exhortation to the Ephesians, there are a few primary responses to anger.
- Sinful anger—anger that results in unrighteousness.
- Unaddressed anger—anger that we suppress or ignore.
- Addressed anger—anger to which we rightly recognize and respond.
The suggested key to managing your anger is to recognize anger as a signal and respond rightly, not letting irritation result in sinful reactions.
Two | Anger is a signal
And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.—Mark 3:5
Anger is an emotional signal that something is wrong. It signals that a personal value has been offended or that you have experienced or witnessed an injustice. Either way, anger indicates that something is amiss, and it needs to be addressed.
Think of anger as an indicator light on the dashboard of your car. When your vehicle is overheating or low on fluids, the lighted panel will tell you that something is wrong with a warning light before something catastrophic happens. Anger is similar—it's an emotional indicator light that God gave you. It's a strong feeling of displeasure. Many ignore this indicator without attempting to understand what this emotion is signaling since diagnosis can be challenging. Or others think expression or suppression of anger is socially acceptable without a need for diagnosing the underlying issue. But the right response to anger is to trace back this signal to the root issue.
The three response to the signal
Anger should warn you to do three things. First, you need to stop and address a problem—which is often relational. This implies metaphorically we need to "stop and pull the car over." When you get angry you will need time to realize that you are mad—sometimes during the adrenaline rush, you may bypass the recognition of this. Remember it is fine to be angry, but that it's not fine to act upon anger in the wrong way. So let yourself experience the irritation. Second, anger signals that you need to look "under the hood of the car and identify the issue." When you get angry, it's essential to find the source of the anger. Often the cause of aggravation comes from fear, pain, or frustration. At this point, you need to be honest with yourself about the origin of your perceived injustice. Was it something for which you are responsible, or was it something done to you? Identify your responsibility, and the other party as this will be important for taking the next and final step. Third, you need to address the relational issue that is unresolved for you. Usually, this means sitting down face to face with another person—which is hard for some, but it's the right thing to do. This is where we locate and "repair the issue under the hood."
The challenge is all this happens very quickly when we experience the emotion of anger. Getting this process to slow down is helpful. Then as you become more proficient, you will be able to speed it up, becoming more effective at understanding your signals—your unique anger.
Three | Know your anger
But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."—Mark 10:14
Your anger is going to be different than anyone else's. You need to know yourself and how you respond. Psychologists will tell you there are two typical responses: fight or flight. Some people love a good fight others flee from it, but there are plenty of people in between these two extremes. Only you know you. So get to know how you experience anger and either how you express it or how you suppress it. If I were you, I would spend some time thinking about what happens when you get angry. Note your physiological responses like sweating, blushing, and increased heart rate—these are signals. Note other reactions like insomnia, anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, even depression—these are consequential signals. Note your language such as sarcasm, joking, sharp statements, and tones—the are reactionary signals. Note the effects you have on others when you are angry such a tension, confusion, alienation, and frustration—these are relational signals. It might do you well to start noticing the patterns and address them to keep your anger from adversely impacting your relationships with others. In life, we don't need more opponents, but instead real friends, alliances, brothers, and life-long allies. The way we build these is by responding appropriately and governing our anger because anger can have devastating consequences on relationships.
Four | The consequences of anger
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.—Ephesians 4:31
In this scripture, you will see there are many manifestations of things related to anger. So many that Paul feels inclined to be exhaustive of the consequences on our fellow man. His list is as follows:
- Bitterness—hatred toward another person.
- Wrath—a temper that is disorderly and selfish.
- Anger—passion against an individual.
- Clamor—wild, rough, condescending yelling.
- Slander—speaking evil and being judgemental toward another.
- Malice—developed hatred for another human.
Over your lifetime, you will experience these "emotions and actions" either perpetrated by you or by someone else. Everyone one of them has devastating consequences on relationships. They mark actions that cannot be retrieved and leave a permanent mark on us as individuals. Even today, I can recall hurtful words spoken by another human about me (directly and indirectly). I, too, have perpetuated the same. These words and behaviors become scars that are not easy to remove. Be careful son. Remember the wounds inflicted on you by others and do not inflict them on others. This is poison for humanity and a deadly virus to relationships with friends, teammates, and your own family.
Five | Forgiveness is power against anger
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.—Ephesians 4:32
Given these consequences, forgiveness is a powerful healing agent. Learning to forgive others, be forgiven, and live in active forgiveness when it is not deserved is powerful ointment to the burns and scars of anger. Forgiveness addresses deep wounds inflicted. It releases us from unspoken bondage of unforgivable actions. It relieves our mind, soul, and heart of anxiety and stress when we say "forgive me" or "I forgive you," and we genuinely mean it.
Forgiveness is the basis of our relationship with Christ—in that Christ forgave you and me. Learning to practice forgiveness is the healing salve for your underlying issues that resurrect your anger. It requires far more strength as a man to forgive than it does to live in perpetual anger and replaying the injustice you have unfairly suffered. You are at no point more like Christ than when you forgive someone else of the suffering they have projected onto you.
Sadly, we live in a fallen world. And because of this, we are going to suffer unfairly through evil actions perpetrated by the anger of another. As men, we have a choice—we can contribute and add fuel to the flame of evil and suffering, or we can quench the fire of sin with the spring of forgiveness. Develop the strength to forgive. To forgive others, to forgive self, and to be forgiven by God—be free the bondage of anger.
I love you, son—Dad.