Identity Self-Management

Angry Me *@!&#

I exploded again! What is going on with me? 99.5% of the time I’m this quiet, stable, calm guy, but certain things trigger an explosion in me. “Whoa! Back off from David right now.” Really?

Anger isn’t the Issue

Ever seen someone in a public line get agitated over some delay in things moving forward?  Traffic delays at the border crossing. Long, slow lines at the arena for the big game. TSA lines crawling at a snail’s pace while your flight departure gets closer and closer. You get the picture.  The guy who is making a ruckus and getting security involved, his anger in that situation is not the real issue. Nor is it when you get angry over other things that trip your trigger.

Through a wise counselor I know, I learned that anger is a secondary emotion that points to a primary one going on inside the person. In fact, there are four causes of anger.

Four Causes of Anger

1. Hurt.  Someone said something that hurt your feelings. “I resent what you just said to me!” Beneath hurt is a lack of respect. Perhaps, in the past, there were situations where people degraded you. Called you every name in the book. Imbecile. Moron, Trash. Worse.  Respect is a reflection of God’s image in us. He wired us to have dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we get hurt and angry.

2. Frustration. Your well-laid-out plans just got curtailed. You factored in every possible scenario except for Murphy’s Law. You know, the event was set, food organized, invitations sent, people RSVP’ed, weather was excellent, but…  No one knew or checked if the road to the event was closed for construction. In fact, the bridge was out!  Slam the table, kick the chair, (don’t kick the dog!), and yell out a few expletives, as if that will magically fix the bridge-out problem. Recent supply chain issues are probably more common to most than a bridge out. You finally make it to IKEA, and pick out the chair you want, only to find out it is not just temporarily unavailable but is discontinued. What?!  I drove 400 miles round trip and this is what happens?  Frustration is when your agenda and expectations go arye.  You want to be in control of every detail and you find out you are not. God gave us a sense of order and purpose. That is not the issue. It’s when we are not running the show; when we think life is all about my agenda and not God’s that frustration and anger flair up.

3. Fear and Insecurities. You thought that new group of friends you met would be a good influence. You soon realize that their definition of a ‘good time” includes some sketchy and sometimes illegal choices. Way too much alcohol. What’s that smoky smell on the deck? It doesn’t smell like cigars. I recall an incident in college when my roommate came home with a friend late one night. Both were drunk. Carrying a bottle of wine, they wanted to force me to drink the entire bottle and get drunk with them. Needless to say, I was fearful. Afterward, I was angry with myself for being in a compromising situation. Safety and comfort are values God places in us. We want such and should seek it out. When we feel unsafe, we can get angry. Angry at those we are with, angry with ourselves for feeling trapped. 

4. Injustice. You see a kid getting beat up by a bully at school. You watch as the professor shows bias towards a good-looking girl in class while ignoring your raised hand to discuss the question he just asked the class. You get overlooked for a job promotion even though you are far more qualified than your peers. You watch as government officials exempt themselves from the very laws they place on you. We all have seen injustice and to be honest, we’ve probably been the instigators of injustice. NOT FAIR! God created us to be fair. Justice, right and wrong. They are innate in being made into the image of God. So when we see injustice, we get angry.

Not all Anger is Sin

That is one concept that confused me growing up. I thought all anger was sin. There are two key verses in the Bible that help me sort through this.

Angry Behavior

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20 ESV

My anger has a behavioral component to it. I knew a man who was under tremendous financial pressure. His anger was was strong he threw a chair across the room and it shattered into pieces. There is righteous anger. It is rooted in the ways of God. In treating people with dignity and respect while addressing things like injustice or frustration or hurt or fear and insecurities.  The passage goes on to say…

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21 ESV

Unrighteous anger comes when I am filled with worldly filth and wickedness. I’m letting my wounds get the best of me. Rather, as I walk humbly with God, his Word can shift how I display anger. Unrighteous anger will dissipate while righteous anger will be more clearly seen in me.

Angry Emotions

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

 and give no opportunity to the devil.  Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV

Paul tells us to be angry, but don’t sin in our anger. Time is also a factor. If you let anger seethe in you, it gives the Enemy opportunity to take advantage of you. Angry emotions that linger are a problem. If someone said something very disrespectful to you, you should feel emotions. You should feel angry. BUT, that anger needs to be given to the Lord and not transferred to angry behavior towards the offender. “I’m fine.” isn’t really the best way to handle anger.  Rather, “What you said to me hurt me. It’s made me emotionally angry. I want you to know that. But, I am not going to retaliate. I choose to show Christ to you. I will entrust my anger to him.” Granted, emotions come from the limbic part of our brain, not our pre-frontal cortex where logic and reason preside. Emotions are scary to most guys, but they are not to be ignored. We express our humanity, our manhood in both our logic and emotions. 

So, next time you get angry, ask God to direct you to which of the four primary causes of anger are affecting you at the moment.  Give God both your emotions and behavior. He will help you sort through the right responses to anger.  As you ask, he will help you redirect anger turning what the Enemy meant for evil into good.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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