Anger can be an addictive drug. Read through the internet’s comment section if you don’t believe me, outrage has always been more potent than any illicit substance. Sinful anger though, is the worst kind of beast. That furious, hot-blooded surge of emotion thrives on pride and self-indulgence the way a wildfire thrives on dead grass. If we’re not careful, it can devour our minds.
I wish I could say Christians put up a strong defense against sinful anger, but experience has taught me we’re often the worst offenders. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that our feelings are righteous, that we’re merely reacting to sin and injustice the way Christ would, but as Jon Bloom indicated in a recent post for Desiring God, sinful anger bears no spiritual fruits. He writes,
“But sinful anger does not bear redemptive fruit. Rather, it leaves us with a grey, burned-over barrenness of exasperated frustration. It produces a sour feeling in the pit of our gut. Sinful anger alienates us from God. It does not move us toward acts of faith and love and true justice, but rather toward acts of selfishness like sullen withdrawal, irritability, rudeness, obstinacy, and bitterness. Sinful anger is characterized by the self-oriented grief of self-pity, not godly grief over evil. And it produces the cancer of cynicism that eats away at faith, eroding our desire to pray.”
If I could recycle my fire metaphor from a moment ago, righteous anger is a flame used with purpose. It burns away old creepers which are strangling a young tree, or it provides warmth for those who are cold. It spurns us to action for the sake of our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37), and embraces grief as a part of love (Mark 3:5). Sinful anger can only destroy. If left unchecked, it will lay waste to our compassion, empathy, and understanding.
So how do we fight back? Dr. David B. Hawkins, a longtime member of the Marriage Recovery Center, has plenty of experience dealing with anger. Apart from spending more time in prayer and reflection, Hawkins believes individuals with serious anger issues should consider these five steps,
- First, be honest with yourself about your anger. This is an opportunity to be very honest with yourself about your anger. Have you minimized its impact? Do you tend to downplay the impact your anger has on your mate and others near you? Be honest and acknowledge the impact of your anger or the anger of your mate.
- Second, have an honest discussion with your mate, or others, about how you and they express anger. Be candid about how anger is expressed and the impact it has on others. Be specific. Does your mate’s anger cause fear? Do people tiptoe around you or your mate?
- Third, make a decision about what level of intervention is needed to address the problem. Typically hoping and wishing things will change is fruitless. Wishing, hoping and complaining are usually without clout. Too often we complain and complain about a particular behavior, and nothing changes. It’s time for an intervention.
- Fourth, understand that a little action leads to little results. Be willing to take big steps. Expect all that you need so that emotional stability returns to your home. Again, this bears back to the fact that anger in the home is like a fan blowing emotions all around.
- Finally, follow through with healthy boundaries. Remember that you are not doing something harmful by having healthy boundaries, but rather taking action that will lead to emotional sobriety. A home with balanced emotions is a home filled with peace and predictability.
Scripture tells us the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). There is no room in Christ’s message for petty anger or personal grudges. Instead, let us stand on the knowledge that our Heavenly Father has shown us grace when we deserved none, and let this encourage us to pursue justice, mercy, and humility in all we do.
**Ryan Duncan is the Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com