Episode 1. Overcoming Anger
It seems that these days, so many people are so angry. Maybe we’re working too hard. Maybe the pressure’s getting to us. Whatever it is – people’s anger has this habit of bubbling to the …
Anger. We all get angry sometimes. But for some people (and I used to be one of them) it’s a chronic problem. It’s a sin that robs them of the joy of meaningful relationships. So … how do you overcome the sin of anger?
Don’t do this! Don’t do that! We had that when we were kids didn’t we? Don’t slurp your soup. Don’t talk in class. Don’t run in the house. Don’t talk back to your mother. Don’t….. And so by the time we grow up we’re so sick of all the ‘don’t’s’.
Now we know that there have to be some rules but who needs anymore than we have to have? So religion, well there you go. Just another bunch of rules and truly, who needs that in their lives? More rules. That’s what I spent most of my adult life thinking to myself. God. Religion. Church. The Bible. Bunch of rules, who needs them?
Here’s the thing that surprised me though. When I started to scratch below the surface, what I discovered was that actually there are a very few things that God says don’t do. And the only things about which He says don’t do are the things, if we’re honest with ourselves, the things that are going to hurt us.
Anger. Dissention. Greed. Theft. Hatred. In fact, as I began to hunt through the Bible I couldn’t find a single thing where He was saying don’t do this, to me, that didn’t make sense.
Truth be known, many a person is addicted to one or more sins. Anger or low self-esteem or selfishness or sexual immorality. Whatever their particular thing is, they’re addicted to it and it’s ruining their lives. If only we could get rid of those sins!
Last week on the program we began a series called Overcoming Stubborn Sin Once and For All. A really practical ‘how to’. How to overcome stubborn sin. If we stop and think about it for just a moment we know that we shouldn’t be flying off the handle or getting angry all the time or whatever our particular sin happens to be. We know we shouldn’t but the question is, how? How do we overcome it?
And so this week on the program we’re going to take a look at a few of the most common sins that people are addicted to and discover, from Gods word, how to overcome them once and for all. Today, today we’re going to kick off with anger because anger is actually a big issue in this world today.
It seems we’re all so busy all doing the things we have to do and racing around and taking the kids to school and getting off to work. And at work these days the pressures on. Make more. Achieve more. Deliver more. It used to be, in the good old days, the pace was much slower. You had to wait for the mail to arrive and when you sent a letter out it took a couple of days to get it correct through the typing pool.
But these days, even when people are on holidays with their families, they’re answering emails on their mobile phones. We’re so connected. So in demand. So busy like battery hens that the slightest little thing can make us snap.
Some people have more of a problem with anger than others. The more ‘achievement’ oriented and ‘outcome’ focused a personality we have, the more we’re going to be prone to anger.
That was my biggie when I first became a Christian – anger. Nothing was ever good enough or fast enough for me. And as I looked at that the whole ‘anger’ thing was based on a self centeredness, a sense of self-importance. The world was here to serve me and to fit in with my plans and if you didn’t play the game by my rules buddy and deliver what I wanted, well watch out.
It’s a way of living and of thinking and of behaving that robs us of relationships and tenderness and joy. It’s awful. But how can we change that? Well here’s how. Psalm 145, verse 8 says this.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
What that’s saying is that Gods grace and His mercy and His steadfast love make Him slow to get angry. God does get angry sometimes and that’s a fearsome thing but not at the drop of a hat. He doesn’t have a temper that’s on a hare trigger. Why? Because He’s abounding in steadfast love. In other words He’s more focused on loving us for who we are than what we do or don’t do.
Imagine if this awesome and mighty God became angry with you and me every time we didn’t fit in with His plans. Imagine if He had a bad temper. We wouldn’t last very long would we?
For me, learning to break the pattern of anger and angry behaviour began with loving the people I was dealing with. Like God, valuing them for who they were. Understanding their hurts and their inadequacy’s, the things that happen to them in their lives that made them behave the way they did.
And you know something, the more I did that the less angry I started to feel. In fact, what I began to do was prepare myself for people. As I said I’m one of these outcome focussed type of people who moves quickly, sets goals, achieves them and it’s easy when you have that sort of personality type just to roll over the top of other people.
And then, then you have to work with somebody who just wants to have fun. You know those sorts of people, they just want to enjoy the moment and I just want to get on with it. But without them to help me enjoy the moment, well I’d miss out on the moment.
‘So I started to prepare myself. I have to work with him today. Right, okay. I understand him. He’s not going to be like I am. That’s okay.’ Almost forgiving them, if you like, before they walk in the room.
Now it took me a while to figure it out but that’s what Gods like. That’s what this verse in the Psalm is all about. Psalm 145, verse 8.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, (He’s) slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
And actually, that ‘slow to anger’ thing has a lot to be said for it. Here are a couple of verses from Proverbs that really helped me with this. Proverbs 12, verse 16.
“Fools show their anger at once but the prudent ignore an insult.”
In other words, the moment someone says something that triggers anger in me, that insults me. Well I’ve learned to let it pass me by, more often than not, these days. No, I don’t have to win every battle anymore. I don’t have to have the last say. I don’t have to be right all the time. ‘Only fools show their anger at once, the prudent ignore the insult.’
And this verse, Proverbs chapter 15, verse 1, is a pearler.
“A soft answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This is like being a shock absorber. When someone does something to stir up anger and dissent, how wonderful is it to respond with gentleness and wisdom? Calming the situation. Instead of throwing fuel on the fire with a harsh word.
Ignore the insult. Respond with gentleness, with a soft answer.
Can I tell you? Once I decided to start loving the people around me, these two things took a bit of practice but after a while they became a habit. Because they are a much, much better way of living. These days I have so much more peace in my heart. So much more joy in my life.
Instead of always having my day ruined by other people’s failures to fit into my plans, I’ve discovered the joy of fitting in with their plans sometimes too. And the biggest thing, the biggest thing with letting the anger go is that it sets me free to enjoy the beauty and the creativity and the incredible specialness of each person I come into contact with. It’s like a whole new world just opened up.
Do I still get angry sometimes? Of course I do. So do you. It’s what I do with that anger, when it happens, that makes all the difference. This ‘anger’ thing was a stubborn, stubborn sin in my life. It was one that looked like it would never ever go away.
But when I took Gods Word, those few simple scriptures we just talked about, and started living them, applying them to my life. Well God did the rest. He set me free from a sin that would have ruined the rest of my life.