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WHY ARE WE SO ANGRY?
A man was pushing a trolley around the supermarket with his little boy sitting on the seat in the front of it. The boy was screaming and crying because he wanted some junk food. The man kept repeating, “Don’t get excited, Albert. Don’t scream Albert. Don’t yell Albert. Don’t lose your cool Albert.” A lady standing next to him said, “You’re to be commended for trying to pacify your son, Albert.” The man replied, “Madam, I’m Albert.”
Anger is something we all feel at times and we all have different ways of dealing with it.
It is not wrong to get angry. In fact, the Bible says here “Be angry, but when you get angry, don’t express it in evil, destructive ways.”
Dr David Seamands says, “Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our desire for justice, it is designed to be used for constructive, spiritual purposes. The person who does not feel angry at evil is a person who won’t feel enthusiastic about what is good. If you cannot hate what is wrong, you will probably not love what is right.”
Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and saw a man with a crippled hand. He knew that the religious leaders were watching to see what he would do, and he felt angry that they were only there to discredit Him. They did not care a scrap for the disabled man, nor did they want to see the power and love of God reach out to him.
Jesus showed anger again when the disciples tried to send away the mothers and their children (Mark 10:13-16). He was annoyed that the disciples treated children as unimportant.
He showed anger when he drove “out those who sold and bought in the temple” (Mark 11:15-17). He was angry that the people who came to worship God were being exploited and robbed by the religious leaders and that God was being denied genuine worship.
Being angry at evil and injustice is healthy and it’s right, righteous anger. But to be angry for selfish and sinful reasons is definitely not healthy its unrighteous anger.
This morning I want to look at where anger expresses itself in evil and destructive ways, in other words where anger leads to sin or wrong behaviour and how we can deal with it in a healthy way.
In our communities today there are so many angry people about and so much aggressive, negative, destructive anger being expressed. We see it constantly on our TVs. It is being expressed in homes where NZ has one of the highest incidents of domestic abuse in the developed world. Partners are attacking each other verbally and physically, parents unleashing their anger and frustration on their children verbally and physically and the children, in turn, becoming angry, abusive and violent. We are seeing a notable increase in things like road rage. Even things like vandalism are destructive expressions of anger.
We were in the Supermarket car park a while back and a driver was beginning to back out of a parking space and another driver was passing. The passing driver blew her horn and then let out this angry obscene language. It just seems that the smallest things trigger so much anger today.
THE CHARACTER OF ANGER
In the New Testament, there are two words used for anger, “thumos” and “orge”.
- Thumos which means to rush, and describes explosive anger that erupts in temper, in verbal, emotional or physical outbursts. When some people get angry they literally explode and resort to yelling or violence. When this happens the person may feel some relief but later they feel guilty because of the effect it has had on others.
A woman was speaking to a Pastor and tried to justify her angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper,” she said. “I explode, get it off my chest and then it’s all over.” “Just like a shotgun,” the pastor replied, “and look at the damage it leaves behind!”
- Orge describes the anger that goes inward in the form of resentment and bitterness. Instead of erupting outwardly we depress it and stuff it. A lot of depression is actually depressed anger.
Now when the scripture says, “Be angry but do not sin,” it means do not erupt and start abusing others and do not allow it to turn inward and become resentful and bitter towards others. That is sinful…. “Resolve the anger before the sun goes down…… So that you don’t give a foothold to the Devil.” Unresolved anger becomes material Satan uses for his evil purposes.
THE CAUSES AND CORRECTION OF DESTRUCTIVE ANGER
When we get angry at someone or something, we can either focus on the person or incident and say, “They made me angry” No one can make us angry. Anger is the way we choose to react to that person or situation.
Or we can focus on our reaction and honestly ask ourselves “What is it in me that is reacting? Has this incident brought to the surface some unresolved hurt in me? Is this where the reaction is coming from?” Look at your reaction before you react.
Some of the main causes of anger:
- BLOCKED GOALS.
Cause: When someone or something prevents me from getting what I want. This was seen in the little boy in the shopping trolley. His goal was junk food. His dad was the one blocking his goal and so he got angry with Dad. I’ve seen kids throw themselves on the floor and scream and yell, even attack their parents physically. Some adults react even worse.
Correction: When something or someone prevents me from getting my own way, instead of venting my anger at the person or situation I need to ask myself, “Is the real cause of my anger that person, that thing or my selfishness? Is this something that I really need? Do I really have to have it? Is it really what God wants for me or am I simply determined to get my own way? Am I willing to sacrifice it for the sake of Christ and others?” Turn your anger on your selfishness and give it a blast….denying it the right to get its own way.
- INJURED PRIDE.
Cause: When I see criticism, correction or advice as a personal attack. I tell myself, “If I accept this correction I will feel humiliated, stripped of my pride and exposed and so I react in anger because underneath is the belief that the worst thing that can ever happen to me is to be humiliated or lose face. So whenever I feel I am going to be humiliated or have my pride injured I become angry.
Correction: The truth is that our pride is our greatest internal enemy and it is so destructive to relationships. As long as we hang onto our pride we will never accept the truth about ourselves. We will never admit our faults, failings, and weaknesses and therefore never come to Christ for forgiveness and the power to overcome them. We will never develop healthy, mature character and relationships will be marked by pride, defensiveness, and resentment.
When we refuse to humble ourselves, accept correction and admit our faults, we actually turn the Lord against us. “God opposes the proud.” James 4:6. There are many people who have caused God to work against them because they will not swallow their pride and humble themselves before Him and others.
The big lie that Satan has sold us is that if we humble ourselves and admit our faults, ask for forgiveness we will lose face, we will be exposed, humiliated and completely stripped of everything. That lie carries with it real fear.
The truth is that the only thing that will be wounded is our pride, that destructive enemy inside that is always working against us. When we humble ourselves before God and others we gain so much more…respect from others, restored relationships, it helps others work through their hurt, it brings amazing release into our own lives because pride is a very heavy burden to carry, and it opens us up to God and all His resources. “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up in due time.”
Press through that fear, humble yourself, admit you were wrong, say you are sorry, thank the person for their courage in pointing out your fault and you will discover that it’s not the end of the world, in fact, its an opportunity to learn and grow. Turn the anger on your pride…that is your real enemy. Swallow your pride, it’s not fattening.
- UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
Cause: A Lot of our anger comes because we expect far too much from ourselves, others and things. Too often we set unrealistically high standards for ourselves and others. We often expect everything in this world to function perfectly. And when they don’t, we get angry. We beat ourselves up, we explode at others or silently resent them because they let us down and we are constantly frustrated and angry with things that break down or don’t function the way we feel they should.
In fact, if you are a perfectionist, you will find that you tend to get angry a lot more than other people. Perfectionists can be very difficult to live with and they find it difficult living with themselves. Why? Because they have unrealistic expectations of others and the world in general.
Illustration: A white sheet with black mark on it. All a perfectionist sees is the black mark!
Because those unrealistic expectations are not being met, perfectionists tend to become negative, intolerant, critical and angry either venting the anger outwards or turning it inwards to discouragement and depression.
Correction: We have got to become realists if we are to relieve the pressure we put on ourselves and others. Nothing and no one will be perfect this side of heaven and we have got to accept that and allow ourselves to fail and allow others to make mistakes and remind ourselves every time something breaks down that we live in a fallen, imperfect world and this is reality.
Wake up and get out of that fantasy world where everything is perfect….it doesn’t exist yet. The perfect has not yet come. 1Corinthians 13:9. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
- FALSE ASSUMPTIONS.
Cause: If we have been badly hurt in the past we often read into what people do and say things that were never intended. We get easily offended and angry not at what they did or said, but at what we believe they did or said.
Joan worked as a receptionist/secretary and was asked by her boss if she would mind if Sue could take over answering the phone because of the increased workload. Joan reluctantly agreed for Sue to take over the phone, but she felt deeply hurt and resentful towards her boss because she believed there was more to it than just the increased workload. She believed that the boss was unhappy with her phone manner. The truth was that the workload had increased and the boss needed Joan to give more time to the paperwork. But it went deeper than that. Joan had been criticized in the past for being insensitive and blunt at times and she just assumed that the same thing was happening now.
This happens time and time again.
Correction: If we get hurt and angry with what someone said or did, we need to ask ourselves three questions:
- Does it remind me of something unpleasant from my past?
- Is my past experience affecting the way I am perceiving this?
- Could I be reading into this something that was never intended?
If you still are unsure, ask the person, “I could be wrong, but did you mean this when you said or did that? This is how I read it or how it came across to me…” Give them the opportunity to explain what they meant.
When I hold onto hurts, resentment, and bitterness it is anger turned inwards. And for some reason, I believe that by not forgiving them I am punishing the person who offended me. Sadly the only person being punished is me.
By holding onto resentment, we suffer the most. Remember this, if the person did wrong and has not apologized, it is God’s place to punish them, not yours. Ask God to help you come to that place where you can forgive. Forgiveness releases you from the destructive power of resentment and anger. Deal with it before the sun goes down or you give a foothold to the devil. Forgiveness removes the foothold Satan has in your life. We are called to forgive, trust needs to be earned.
- LACK OF ASSERTIVENESS.
Cause: When I allow others to control, dominate, use or take advantage of me.
When I started out as a Pastor I wanted to be Mr. Nice Guy and please everybody because I thought that was the Christian thing to do and there were controlling people in my churches who put pressure on me, pushed me around and came on strong with me. And because I wanted them to like me I allowed them to do it and would not show my annoyance.
But when I came away from sessions with these people, I felt depressed and I couldn’t work out why. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered that some of my depression was depressed anger. Although outwardly I appeared to be gracious and in agreement, inwardly I resented these domineering people coming on strong and trying to control me.
There are many of us peacekeepers and people pleasers who have allowed others to push us around us and walk all over us just to get their own way and we think it is Christian to be like that. But we wonder why we are so angry inside or depressed.
Correction: In His ministry, Jesus did not allow people to push Him around or walk all over Him. He stood up to those who wrongfully criticized Him and He confronted people with their sins. Only at the cross, He chose to be wrongfully treated by men so that He could fulfill the greater purpose of God. But even there He was in complete control of His life….No one can take my life from me, I lay it down of my own free will.
I know it is very hard when we want people to like us but we have got to let people know in a gentle, but firm way when they are being too pushy or offensive…their behaviour is unacceptable. We have got to set some boundaries so they know how far they can go with us.
Young people in relationships. “O but I don’t want to lose him.” If he doesn’t respect your boundaries and your values, he’s not worth hanging on to.
- LYING FEELINGS.
So many of us have allowed ourselves to be defined by other people and past experiences. What we believe about ourselves has been shaped by significant people in our lives and unpleasant experiences.
When I was 4 years old my parents split up and I was put into a Catholic orphanage. This was a very traumatic experience for a 4-year-old child and I assumed that my parents had put me there because they didn’t want me. There must have been something wrong with me for my parents to abandon me.
Later I went to live with my father who was a very controlling and critical man who constantly put me down and belittled me.
Because of that experience, I believed that I was a reject, a second class citizen and I felt no one wanted me or liked me and I didn’t like myself. I became so sensitive to the way people related to me and believed their words and actions were aimed at criticizing me and rejecting me.
I became an angry and resentful young person and battled with depression and suicidal thoughts.
In time I came to realize that I had allowed people like my father and the painful experiences of the past to define who I was and it was all lies.
I needed to do what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take captive every lying thought and hand it over to Christ and replace it with God’s truth. I had to remind myself that my feelings are unreliable guides and not allow them to control me.
Let’s look at some of those lying feelings that we allow to define who we are and our situations and see how we can replace them with the truth.
Fear of Failure…..I may fail but it doesn’t mean I am a failure. Failure is not the end; it can be a real learning experience, an opportunity to grow.
Feeling rejected….Assume everyone likes me unless they tell me otherwise.
Being used……I don’t have to be a doormat if I don’t choose to. I am not helping that person deal with their internal problems by allowing them to take advantage of me. [Turn the other cheek is to do with revenge, not with building healthy loving relationships.]
Humiliated…..it’s only my stinking pride that is getting upset.
Feeling powerless…no one can have power over me unless I give them that right.
Feeling misjudged…….God knows my heart and He will establish my innocence.
Feeling abandoned……..Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me.
Feeling inadequate….I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION.
Cause: When our emotional reserves are so low due to sickness, stress, overwork, lack of sleep, undisciplined children we can become angry and lose it.
Correction: Re-organise things and get some rest. Check your diet. May not sound very spiritual but that is how God dealt with Elijah when he was suffering from emotional exhaustion.
Is anger a problem in your life?
Sometimes it’s easier just to blame the people present or the circumstances for our bad reactions and expect them to change. Let’s have the courage to look first of all in here and ask God to show us why we are reacting so badly.
Someone put it this way, “When a pot is boiling on the stove you can either lift the lid so that the steam can get out or you can turn the element off.” When we angrily explode or react resentfully towards others and our circumstances we are simply lifting the lid but the pot keeps boiling because the cause is not being addressed.
When we address where this stuff is really coming from and deal with it we are turning the element off.
It may be this morning as I have been speaking that the Lord has shown you the cause of some of your anger and He challenged you to take some of these very practical steps to deal with it. By doing this you will be removing the need to get angry as well as removing the foothold for Satan.