I’ve struggled with anger most of my life and have been encouraged to have made some recent discoveries that have been very helpful. While many people’s anger is toward other people, i.e. frustration, retaliation, and revenge, mine is typically directed at inanimate objects. I drop a plate and it breaks; I get angry. I throw an interception in my Madden video game; I get angry (my friends from college are nodding here). My computer runs slow or does something unexpected; I get angry.
I was raised to not say swear words. I remember I had said two my entire life, up until around 15 months ago or so. That being when Lexi was a newborn… and like all newborns, she decided sleeping was optional and crying in the middle of the night was much preferred. Which did wonders on my self-restraint…or lack thereof. I never once got mad at Lexi, but I can’t say the same for the snaps on her little outfits that never cooperated, or the diapers that gave me fits, or the who knows what else that would fall off from where it was supposed to be as I stumbled around at three in the morning. And the swearing began.
This translated into flipping off my computer. Often. Which translated to flipping off and swearing at my computer. Often. Whenever it would run slow or do something stupid. It started with using two fingers on the same hand, but giving the same emotional response, and recently has become the bird straight up. Some might think this is funny and no big deal, while others may be jumping out of their seat to judge and condemn me. For me, the trend of this getting worse and uncontrollable is what is disturbing.
I think anger splinters many families and I think it is one of those chronic sins that gets left untreated in the church. Meanwhile spouses move further apart because of anger issues, and children splinter away from parents because of parents’ anger issues. (Yes, I know the Bible says “in your anger, do not sin”, and Jesus demonstrated righteous anger. Anger is not a sin in and of itself, but I am talking about the anger that overtakes us and the “fits of rage” that the Bible speaks of often)
Anger feels so physiological. So biological. It feels like a simple rush of uncontrollable chemicals that burn inside of us. This is the way I am. Meanwhile, we look like fools to the innocent third parties observing our behavior.
So the question I began asking myself, and asking God, is a simple one: Why do I get angry the way that I do? We all get angry in different ways, with different triggers, and with different people or objects bearing the brunt of it. But we can each ask and answer this question as it relates to our unique life.
My answer: I get angry at things that slow me down. Because I have a lot of important things to do. (My answer to this was different when Madden interceptions and dropping plates were my main anger habit, which they are not anymore. My answer then was that I got angry because these things made me look stupid and/or showed I wasn’t perfect.)
Either one of these answers reveals so much about my heart. The exciting opportunity now is that I can deal with my heart, which is where the disease itself lives, rather than simply dealing with the symptoms. Memorizing Bible verses, telling yourself not to get angry, biting your tongue…these are all helpful to a point, but they are simply working on the symptoms, not the disease. They are like shooting BB’s at a tank; I’d rather learn how to dismantle the tank.
As I look at my heart and how I get angry at the things that slow me down, I take this to God. I ask God to reprogram me (and show me how to do this). I am more and more convinced that the solution to overcoming our besetting sins is to identify how our wiring has gone haywire from God’s design, then ask God to show us how to rewire our heart to how He designed us. This is the basis of my book, Embracing Reality, on finding freedom from relational and sexual fantasy.
When I ask God how I need to be reprogrammed with my anger, the answer He gives me is very clear:
- God does not need me.
- God is not in a hurry.
I get angry because I feel like the things on my to do list are so important that if I don’t get them all done, the world will end. And God must really be depending on me to get these things done. So I get mad when something slows me down; like a slow computer. So now when I get start to get angry, instead of just slapping myself for it, I tell myself God does not need me; God is not in a hurry. And immediately I feel the peace of God flow over me, reminding me of truth, truth I’m learning to reprogram myself to, with as real of a feeling of relief as the hot rush the anger brought me.
You may get angry out of an insecurity of your manhood or womanhood. After being insulted, you get angry at others to prove to them you truly are a man (or a woman), that their insult is incorrect. As if they are the authoritative judge of your life. As if what they think of you actually matters in the scheme of things. You need to compensate for what they claimed about you. Prove to others, them, and yourself that they are wrong.
You may get angry when life shows you are not perfect. So you get angry to show that your error is not acceptable, that you will improve. You can’t show yourself grace.
You may get angry because you can’t handle other people’s imperfections. You can’t show others grace.
Examine your heart. Ask God and ask yourself, Why do I get angry? If you can’t pinpoint an answer, ask a trusted friend, or go see a professional counselor and ask them. The answer to this question will be the beginning of your path to reprogram your heart to the way it was always meant to operate. God will reveal what is lacking and will show you how he can fill in those gaps, so your anger no longer has a reason for being there.
And yes, you look silly when you get angry: