Episode 1. Anger Management
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Anger and bitterness are things we don’t like to talk about much – little wonder! But they’re things that we encounter every now and then. So what are they all about and how do we deal with …
Christmas is just around the corner, can you believe it? But the sad reality is that domestic violence will again spike sharply over the Christmas period. Can you believe that? Well, too often, anger spills over during the holidays, so I thought that this week, we’d share in a timely word on anger management.
The Root Produces the Fruit
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but when a seed falls to the ground and dies, ultimately it sprouts and takes root.
And if it was the seed of a plum tree – we can be pretty certain that the thing that’s growing there is going to one day produce – not apricots, not apples, not pears…..we all know, it’s going to produce plums.
Because it’s a plum tree that’s taken root. In fact, the root produces the fruit.
It’s just one of those basic facts of life that actually we don’t have to think about. The root determines the fruit.
And it’s a bit like that in our hearts. IF our hearts take root in goodness then we’ll produce good fruit. In bad things and we’ll produce bad fruit.
In sweet things and we’ll produce sweet fruit. In bitter things – and we’ll produce bitter things.
This is not rocket science – right?
This week on the program….Want to take a look at the phenomenon of anger in our society and in our lives.
Anger is a real phenomenon in the hearts of so many people. Pressure building up in life – people explode.
Like a pressure cooker – vent the steam otherwise it blows up. It’s the same with people – so many people venting their anger – epidemic proportions.
- Road rage
- Supermarket rage
- Call centre rage
In fact, this weeks program is prompted by a real-life experience.
Stan the painter. He was doing some work at our little terrace house. Painting a few walls – at the same time, he was doing a big job in one of the wealthiest streets in the country.
Huge mansion – special paint $1,000 a tin – unbelievable – houses in the street worth $15-$25 million – mega wealthy. Lots of people having building work done in that street – narrow street – yet great views, massive mansions…unbelievable
Been working there for a few weeks now – and he was telling me – “You wouldn’t believe the strife between the neighbours – house I’m working on – 70 year old woman – hasn’t talked with her neighbour for 20 years. Argument over some building work.
All the neighbours are fighting… the woman I’m working for – done some work before – but now she’s so mean and nasty and swears.”
Stand back from that – unbelievable… these people have everything in life – nothing they can’t buy or have or own really… everything their heart desires
Yet there’s – well a spirit of anger and bitterness and dissension…
Makes you wonder – what’s going on here. We, like Stan and his brother Douk – two Greek painters, lovely people do a great job. Honest as the day is long – wonderful men.
How can this woman be so nasty to them?
Anger and bitterness has taken root in her heart. That’s why. You let things get to you and get angry with people over and over and over again – like bitterness takes root in your heart. The root produces the fruit.
God actually talks a lot about anger – you know it’s a word that pops up 375 times in the Bible – makes it one of the leading subjects.
Anger is something that we all have to deal with – and it springs up, out of a root of bitterness.
The writer of the book of Hebrews in the NT – puts it like this:
Pursue peace with everyone – and holiness – because without them you won’t get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure that no one misses out on the grace of God, so that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble – because through it, so many will be contaminated
See – there it is – the root produces the fruit.
The root of bitterness takes hold in our hearts… it springs up and causes trouble and contaminates everyone around us.
We all have a problem with anger some days – some more than others… the longer we let it go on, the more it takes hold and produces bitterness – and a bitter root produces bitter fruit.
A root – is something we cultivate and if we don’t want it to keep growing – have to stop feeding it.
Be angry but do not sin – do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the devil. (Ephesians 4:26)
We all get angry from time to time – that’s not the sin – the sin is letting the sun go down on your anger – keeping it in your heart, brooding, planning revenge, going over it and over it and over it and over it…
The right way of handling it is just – get over it. Forgive and move on. Then, then we won’t be cultivating the root of bitterness which – sure as God made little green apples – will produce fruit of bitterness.
Not something we can do on our own though – I believe we need an antidote to this venom… something that heals and cleanses and just gives us a fresh perspective – let’s go back to that earlier quote….
Pursue peace with everyone – and holiness – because without them you won’t get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure that no one misses out on the grace of God, so that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble – because through it, so many will be contaminated.
Dealing with a Hot Temper
Let’s get down to practicalities… dealing with anger, dealing with that rising temper. When someone provokes us – you know they do something and you can feel your blood boiling and you go all red in the face… right at that moment, it’s so easy to spit out something venomous – words that we can’t take back. Words that damage a relationship. People even throw something – do something…
Sometimes, when we’re provoked, we can be a bit quick on the draw when it comes to responding. Let me share a story with you:
I remember once as a consultant – some years back now – used to run an IT consulting group
I was being mucked around by a large and important client of a particular ethnic heritage…..dealing with them for months to try to kick off a project – meant a lot of money – large, global organisation. After months of investing time and effort with the management… they pulled the plug on the project.
Received an e-mail from one of the consultants working with me – info about the client – explaining that the organisation had decided not to go ahead. I blew my stack – sitting in my office reading the e-mail – couldn’t believe that they’d wasted so much of our time and resources – not fair – losing so much revenue.
I had a few choice sentiments that I almost expressed in reply to that e-mail to my fellow consultant – even typed an angry e-mail… just about to send it I thought better of it and sent a benign e-mail instead.
Just as well, I hit the “Reply to All” button and the e-mail ended up with the client as well as my colleague!!! Gulp.
Can you imagine – my thoughts of anger included some pretty vitriolic stuff about their ethnicity too.
Berni – why are you sharing this with us? Simple – we all go through this sort of thing – day by day. People, organisations, circumstances drive us insane and we want to explode.
Just the other day – a neighbour – asked them to turn their loud music down… not so hard.
Simple thing – their music was too loud. Obviously never been taught to take other people into account.
The vitriol – now he just ignores me Berni – just asked him to turn it down.
You know what I wanted to do? Just explode at him! Just tell him what I really thought. Teach him a lesson. Teach him some manners. You know this feeling don’t you? And then – HE ignores ME – he was the one that did the wrong thing.
EXPLODING is never a good thing. Never. But it’s something we all experience. Some more than others. Some – like on a hair-trigger. Anything will set them off. Anger and tantrums are ugly things.
Talking about it on the program this week – Anger Management
Some great, practical input from God’s Word today
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)
Practical – special – God’s solution.
Slow to speak and slow to become angry.
SLOW DOWN – you don’t have to react now this instant and rip someone’s head off.
Maybe this is where that piece of advice came from – “count to ten”.
Nine times throughout the Bible you’ll find these words – or ones very similar
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 103:8)
What a great concept – three parts
- Slow to anger…just hold up for a minute and cut this person some slack for the man who wouldn’t turn his music down.
- Abounding in steadfast love and compassion – pray for the guy.
- Slow to speak – just don’t say anything – don’t defend, or assert, or criticise, or judge, or belittle, or shout or scream or anything – don’t. Instead, be slow to speak.
Not easy. It begins with a change in heart. Begins by deciding that my anger is a problem. Begins by resigning from the position of tin-pot little god and centre of the universe, begins by deciding the world doesn’t owe me…
Being slow to anger and slow to respond….and when we do respond, what should we say
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Wisdom – God’s wisdom – hard some days to bite our lip Hard sometimes to respond in love – each time becomes easier. Each time heals relationships – people notice this and one day, relationship so strong, have the ability to influence this person who hurt us with the love of God.
Leave it to God
Anger is one of those basic facts of life. And in many respects – it’s a natural reaction to a whole range of situations.
Sometimes we think that anger in and of itself is wrong.
Not so – God gets angry – so either God’s a sinner or anger in itself isn’t a sin.
Hmm – makes you think doesn’t it?
I passionately believe that Jesus Christ came and died for my sins and that He was and is utterly perfect – a perfect sacrifice to pay for my sins.
And yet, when He went to the temple in Jerusalem and saw that they’d turned it into a bazaar, He was angry. He made a whip and turned over the tables and drove the traders out of the temple with a whip.
Of course God is a loving God. But God is also a God of anger and ultimately of punishment.
So is anger right or wrong in our lives? And what do we do with anger?
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of anger – basically goes like this:
- I’ve been wronged by someone.
- I, therefore, feel angry.
- They owe me some recompense.
- So – I will respond in anger, to obtain vengeance.
In a sense comes out of our sense of justice
Of course – as we’ve seen on the program this week, we can have quite a distorted sense of justice. We can be touchy and selfish and throw tantrums.
And so even though actually, we haven’t been wronged, they’ve just fallen short of our expectations or we’re just being selfish – we feel wronged, and then the anger, justice, vengeance thing takes hold.
Sometimes, people do things that are clearly wrong – and we are angry.
Question is how we respond? Before the break, read this passage from NT book of:
Ephesians 4:26 – Be angry but do not sin – do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the devil.
In other words – sometimes we are angry – the question is whether we dwell on it and let it fester overnight and tomorrow and over and over and over – making room for the devil to distort our sense of justice and then this root of bitterness takes hold in our lives? Or whether we, like God are
compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. ( Psalm 103:8)
See anger in itself isn’t a sin. God is angry with those who turn their backs on Him – Judges 2:12-15
They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
And yet the wonder of God is that He is slow to anger – and ready to forgive. But ultimately when we harden our hearts and our ways against Him, we experience His anger.
So how do we make sense of all this? God gets angry but we shouldn’t? Remember – anger has it’s root in our sense of justice. That much we get from God – because we’re made in His image. God is never angry without just cause.
The problem is we can’t say the same thing about us. Our justice gyroscope is so often out of balance. And then when we do experience anger – we want to wallow in it and work it over and over and seek revenge – making room for the devil.
Anger is a natural reaction and in some cases – it’s the right reaction. Problem is when we’re the injured party, our sense of justice is questionable at best and wacky at worst. So what do we do? Romans 12:17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In other words – leave the justice thing to God. His sense of justice so much better than ours – and in any case who knows what He’s up to in that person’s life? Only He does.
Someone hurts us – the initial reaction may be anger… the same anger that God feels when He sees injustice. The thing that’s wrong is repaying that evil with evil.
Don’t take revenge – leave room for God to act. Instead, bless the enemy – God’s grace may kick in through us and bring that person to Christ. We may never see justice… but then that’s why Jesus died for you and me – so unjust – justice meets love on the cross. That’s called grace.
Grace is shown to you and me – a grace He now calls us to show to others. Yes – you and I will experience anger from time to time – not to repay evil with – leave that bit to God – forgive, forget, live life to the full and bless people with the grace that’s been shown to us….not a bad plan when you think about it.