JESUS TOOK ANGER SERIOUSLY
“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to the judgment. Again, he who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fires of hell.” Matt. 5:21-22
One of the most universal struggles of Christian men is with our tempers. We know that our anger causes us to wound our wives and drive our kids away from us—but we sometimes feel powerless to overcome this foe. The first step towards defeating anger is understanding it.
UNDERSTANDING ANGER AND ITS SOURCE
Fundamentally, anger is a response to pain. It is a secondary emotion, always a reaction to some form of pain. In fact, you could say that anger is deflected pain. Pain comes in and our self-protective instincts put up a shield of armor and that pain is reflected back out as anger.
This response to pain that we call anger is usually an emotion of hostility towards others. It is true that Jesus got angry, God gets angry, and at times Christians ought to get a lot more angry. But most of the time our anger is selfish anger that directs feelings of hostility, even if only momentarily, towards others.
Many sources of pain can generate anger. When her husband is late for dinner for the fourth time that week, the dinner gets cold and the wife gets hot. What is the cause of her anger? It is the pain of disappointment, combined with the pain of feeling like she isn’t as important to her husband as work.
Three forms of pain seem to generate the most anger: 1) the pain of frustration, being blocked in reaching our goal, 2) the pain of injustice, having our rights violated, and 3) the pain of having our self-esteem attacked. Our masculine make up is such that we regularly experience these three types of pain, so it should not surprise us that men struggle with anger. Let’s look more closely at these three.
1. The pain of frustration. Men are by nature task oriented. We want to accomplish our mission and move on to the next task. That is why my 11 year old doesn’t like shopping with his sisters. “When it comes to shopping you girls are gatherers—you want to spend all afternoon looking. But I am a hunter. I go in the store, get what I need and want to come home.” If it is in our masculine hard-wiring to be task oriented, it follows that we will experience a lot of frustration, which is, by definition, the pain of obstacles preventing us from reaching our goals. That pain often leads to anger.
2. The pain of injustice. Because men are assigned the task of working outside the home, men usually see the home as the place they come to rest, refresh, and relax. Because most of us work very hard to bring home the bacon it is easy to feel like we have earned the right to a little peace and quiet, and a little rest, not to mention the right to control the remote. When these rights are violated, we get angry.
3. The pain of having our self-esteem attacked. The most intense anger is usually generated by an attack on our self-esteem. When we feel put down, we usually lash back instinctively. The home front is a place where men have a great need to be admired and respected. Paul sums up his profound teaching about the roles of husband and wife, by singling out the wife’s need for love and the husbands need for respect. Eph. 5:32 “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Most men feel more respected at work than at home. Most men feel like they can’t figure out how to please their wives, and that their wives know the needs of the kids much better than they do. When their kids defy their authority, their instinctive response is anger. When men feel put down by their wives or their self esteem is wounded by a lack of responsiveness to their sexual advances, men can react by hardening their hearts in anger, and withdrawing emotionally.
THE DESTRUCTIVE PATHS ANGER CAN TAKE
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are stillangry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph. 4:26-27
1. Venting it. Most of the time anger is expressed through hostility towards another. Cain became angry and murdered Abel. In Matt. 5:21-22, the angry person sends a barrage of verbal bullets that tear into the tender self-esteem of another person. Angry words have deeply wounded the spirits of many wives and children.
2. Ignoring it. This can be a deadly response because the anger is suppressed, but will still float around in our souls until it is dealt with. It can lead to bitterness, revenge, future explosions of pent up anger, the hardening of the heart towards a mate. Paul saw the destructive potential of ignoring anger, when he commanded us not go to bed angry lest we expose ourselves to further temptations, which simmering anger will expose us to.
THE ABC'S OF OVERCOIMING ANGER
Click here for an PDF of 5 steps to overcome anger.
Click here to download Men's Bible Study on Anger