When we think of anger or an angry person, we tend to focus on the explosive moment. There’s a picture in our heads of someone screaming in rage and breaking things and all the other stuff that happens in a knock-down-drag-out-moment. But what about the other ways anger affects us? There are some very real long-term effects that happen to someone who operates out of a place of anger. Sometimes you can even be acting out of anger without even realizing it! Then, before you know it, you are walking around with a very short and very flammable fuse – ready to go off at any moment at anyone. The anger in you has taken root and born the fruit of destruction in your life. Does this sound familiar? Keep reading to find out what advice God has for handling the anger in your heart.
I once knew a very angry kid, who lived in a very angry house. His mother was angry. His brother and sister were angry. His dad was so angry he left that house; and now everyone was even angrier. So, all day, they walked around angry at everything. My friend was angry at his xbox for not working right so he threw his controller. His sister was angry that the loud noise woke her baby up, so she dumped the baby on her mom to deal with. Her mom was angry too so she ignored the screaming child and put her headphones on. The screaming and crying woke up the oldest brother, who had to work nights, so he went off to work angry, slamming the door behind him, and carrying that anger all the way to work to spread it around some more. And around and around this cycle went.
That’s how anger works. It’s a parasite that jumps from one person to another, growing bigger and bigger each time. It can start from something so small and become amazingly powerful. Perhaps you saw the material from Seeds and learned a little more about how this cycle gets started. Anger is a sneaky little sucker that seems to cozy up to you and make itself right at home. It’s so tricky that you don’t even realize it’s there until it’s unpacked it’s suitcase, redecorated the place, and is bossing you around like it owns your home!
What I’m talking about is our hearts and the way that we interact with anger and let it affect us. When I found out what my friend’s home life was like, I saw a sad little puppy who needed to be cared for and I jumped right in to help. The problem was that he didn’t necessarily want help; and I wasn’t paying attention to my own heart and how to stay healthy when helping others. So I found myself about 6 months down the road and no longer talking to that friend because we had, of course, had an explosive argument, which was followed by more explosive and destructive events and finally the breaking of our relationship. But I didn’t walk away scot free.
When I spoke to other people I seemed always either to be attacking them or defending myself. When I walked my dog I would yank on his leash and dump him back in the yard early because he was driving me crazy. When I drove places, I spent the entire time flipping people off, swerving, and yelling at them. I don’t know when it started, but I found myself walking around as a very angry person! Things in my life seemed to be falling apart more and more every day as my anger bore its fruit of destruction.
One word I consistently use to describe my anger and the state of my heart is “Pervasive.” It means “spread throughout.” Like a network of roots, anger had planted itself in my heart and wriggled and squirmed its way into every crack, loose board, and opening it could find. It was shocking actually to open my eyes and see how nearly every action, every thought, every word that came out of my mouth was under the influence of my anger.
I’m still working on it every day – which mainly consists of a lot of prayer, apologizing, and relearning how to express myself. It takes time to extract every single piece of those roots from your heart. The first thing you have to do though is recognize that it’s there in the first place! People often say the first step to fixing anything is admitting you have a problem. I think that comes second. You can’t admit anything if you don’t know it yourself! So what do you think? Are you angry?
Maybe you aren’t sure if you are angry. Maybe what you do seems reasonable or even necessary to your wellbeing. All I can say is that Jesus understood and experienced anger and angry people. He instructs us to take the other path when we are in those places. He shows us that there is another way to handle our lives. So if you want to check and see if your heart is healthy or angry, look at these words written by the apostle Paul and notice how there are very clear distinctions regarding what a God-serving heart produces and what fruits anger bears.
I do want to follow you and I don’t want to be so angry anymore. I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time! I want to stop but I don’t always know what that means. So please show me. Make your words in Scripture make sense and have real practical application to all the crap I deal with every day. I want to believe that you have a different, a better way, of doing things because I see how my anger has taken root in my heart. I see the sort of fruits it bears, and I really hope life has more to offer me than that. Please help me. Give me hope and peace, clarity and wisdom. Show me how to heal and be a true follower of you, Jesus.
Take a look at the history (etymology) of the word rage. You’ve probably experienced rage at some point in your life, particularly if anger is a big struggle for you. It tends to happen more and more and get stronger and stronger if you don’t actively fight against it.
c.1300, "madness, insanity; fit of frenzy; anger, wrath; fierceness in battle; violence of storm, fire, etc.," from Old French rage, raige "spirit, passion, rage, fury, madness" (11c.), from Medieval Latin rabia, from Latin rabies "madness, rage, fury," related to rabere "be mad, rave" (cf. rabies, which originally had this sense), from PIE *rebh- "violent, impetuous" (cf. Old English rabbian "to rage").
Did you notice how much of the origin of rage had to do with being out of your mind? It takes control of us and seems to almost act on its own. Is anger really something you want making the decisions in your life and shaping your future? Next time you feel rage asking for control, strive instead to allow the Lord to lead you. After all, he is the only one who perfectly, completely loves you and desires for you to be healthy, joyful, fulfilled, and purposeful. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”
Each day this week, challenge yourself to read 1-2 chapters from Proverbs. There is a lot said in there about anger and the other elements that play into it - like jealousy, bad friends, wisdom, etc. After reading, spend 10-15 minutes processing what you read in whatever way works best for you. This can be anything from talking to a friend about it, to journaling, or laying in the grass and thinking, drawing a picture, or even rereading it and circling, underlining, and highlighting sections that stand out to you. Through it all strive to keep your heart open to what the Lord has to say and listen for his promptings. Keep in mind 1 Corinthians 1:25 “For what seems to be God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God's weakness is stronger than human strength.”
Try taking this quiz to assess your anger management. While mindtools.com isn’t a Christian website, there is still good, valid advice there for how to handle moments of anger and improve your anger management. Consider sharing your results with a trusted youth leader, pastor, or parent and getting their input on what God would advise you to do when you get angry.
Proverbs 14:29-30 - If you stay calm, you are wise, but if you have a hot temper, you only show how stupid you are. Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer.
James 1:19-21 - Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God's righteous purpose. Get rid of filthy habit and wicked conduct. Submit to God. Accept his word.
Proverbs 22:24-25 - Don't make friends with people who have hot, violent tempers. You might learn their habits and not be able to change.
Ephesians 4:26-32 - If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Don't give the Devil a chance.
Proverbs 3:27-32 - Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.
Hebrews 12:14-15 - Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it.
This is a clip from Glory showing the fruits of destruction anger can bring:
This video is from the movie Seabiscuit. As you watch, consider times in your life that you feel overwhelmed by rage and react with only thoughts of getting even. What are you do mad at? What’s the root to this fruit of destruction?
Here’s a clip from Paul Blart: Mall Cop for you to giggle at: