“Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” – Dr. David Banner
The other day I was driving. I pulled up to a stop light. It didn’t take long to notice the person in the car next to me. He was alone but talking so loudly I could hear the faint sounds of his voice through his window and mine. I thought at first he was singing. But the tone was clearly not something musical. This guy was mad! He flailed his arms around, beat on the steering wheel and made symbolic gestures to no one in particular.
From where I sat it was pretty funny.
We’ve all been there. Someone pushes us so hard we feel like we’re going to explode! There’s only a handful of ways to deal with this kind of frustration. While firearms and napalm may sound satisfying they leave a terrible mess, not to mention the unpleasant social, legal and moral issues. Is it really possible to learn anger management?
Let’s narrow our focus. Anger isn’t really the problem. It’s the symptom. You’ve heard people say, “I got so mad I lost control.” It may have been you. That confession reveals the truth. Anger is one natural expression of a lack of self control.
We get angry for three reasons.
- Unsatisfied Needs
- Unmet Expectations
- Unrighteous Actions
We use these three reasons as an excuse to Hulk-out on people, fly off the handle and completely lose control. We let anger wash over us and give in to it’s unbridled lust for justice, revenge or satisfaction. Anger management isn’t about figuring out how to stay calm, cool and collected. Anger management is about learning self control.
Scripture teaches there’s an appropriate time and appropriate way to be angry. When we lose control, we lose an effective tool for dealing with certain unrighteous acts. There’s nothing more frightening than righteous anger, deliberately applied to an injustice in the world. It’s Liam Neesan’s calm but menacing voice on the other end of the phone as his daughter is being kidnapped in the movie Taken, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If it’s money, I haven’t got any, but what I do have is a particular set of skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. So, you can let her go right now and that’ll be the end of it. Otherwise, I will hunt you down. I will find you. And I will kill you.”
Righteous anger applied. I can’t think of anything quit so persuasive or quite so frightening. But we don’t typically use anger. We allow anger to use us.
The principles that help us learn self control are not complicated, but they are often hard to practice. We know they aren’t complicated because they sound so cliche. But, the fact that something is simple doesn’t make it easy to apply. Here they are in a nutshell.
- Pray – when I can’t control me or someone else, I can always talk to the one who can.
- Decide Beforehand – Make a list based on Scripture. What’s worth the time, effort and risk of your anger? If it’s not on the list, don’t waste the energy.
- Persistent Practice – Musicians practice in order to make beautiful music. Practice is messy. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t. With every rehearsal they refine their notes and rhythms till the song that comes out is the one they intend and the one you’re willing to pay to hear over and over again. Self control works this way. PRACTICE. You may not always get it right, but you can make it better. You can refine your response, prepare your heart and mind and place yourself in a position where self control comes more easily this time than the time before.
Ephesians 4:26, 31-32 says,
“…don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil…Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)
Don’t let anger define you. Learn self control and master the anger within.