Overcoming Anger - Slow Down and Consider the Source

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 24, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Within the last month, we have seen two stories that have come out of the National Football League and have dominated the news media, including those beyond the world of sports. Unfortunately, these two stories have brought nothing but negative attention to the NFL and its participants. I’m of course talking about the recent incidents of violence involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and current Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. While we certainly don’t know all the facts of each case, many have seen the video posted all over the place that shows Mr. Rice punching his now-wife and knocking her out cold in a hotel elevator, and Adrian Peterson has reportedly admitted to using physical discipline on his four-year-old son that resulted in severe bruising and cuts on the boy’s body. In each case, I can’t help but think of one question: What if they had taken just a few minutes to stop, slow down their minds and emotions, and consider the source of their feelings before acting?

Without a doubt, every single one of you who is reading this has experienced a moment of intense anger in your life. In that moment, you desperately feel like doing whatever it is you do to make yourself feel better, be it crying, yelling, screaming, cursing, or even hitting something or someone. I believe this is why James’ words about anger to the early Christians are so practical yet profound. “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” (James 1:19-20). It’s like that teacher or your parent used to say when you were little and were talking and not listening: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Basically, listening should be something that happens immediately and shouldn’t require a lot of thought. But when your gut instinct is to start speaking or to get angry, that’s when you need to slow things down. For all of us, the flesh wants to self-preserve and defend, so what James is talking about requires a true reversal of what feels natural.

But what happens AFTER you have slowed down or even stopped yourself from doing what feels right but you know is wrong? As you all know, doing nothing will cause you to sit and stew and possibly just get more angry. If you only think about how you can appease your anger, it will continue to control you. That is when the second half of James’ words I quoted above comes into play. He declares that MAN’S anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. In other words, it accomplishes nothing. James is writing his letter to believers and assumes that anyone who wants to follow Jesus is actually concerned with bringing about righteousness in his own life and the lives of others, rather than just appeasing the flesh. With that assumption, he explains that the goal will NOT be attained through man’s anger.

At this point, some of you may be wondering about “righteous anger” and how that fits into the equation. Well, I can tell you with certainty that the moniker “righteous anger” has been used to justify one’s actions when angry many more times than it actually applied. We often hear that Jesus got angry and that means that righteous anger is possible. However, we must remember that Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). His anger was always righteous because HE was always righteous. You and I, however, are sinners saved by grace who still battle the flesh. So, just because we might think our anger is righteous or justified based on the actions of others doesn’t mean it’s true. You have to consider the source of your anger.

The best way to determine whether your anger is righteous or not is to consider whether it would make Jesus angry or not. For example, you may not want to hear this, but any anger you have toward someone else because of some way that they hurt you is NOT righteous. How did Jesus handle his hurt caused by others? He asked the Father, as he was hanging on the cross, to forgive those who harmed him because they didn’t know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). When people rejected him, he moved on and didn’t dwell on it. When he was betrayed and even knew it was going to happen, he still treated his betrayer as a friend. If you want to know what angers Jesus and his Holy Spirit, you have to get to know them. Read the Word and seek their guidance. I will simply tell you that what really seemed to irritate him was anytime those who claimed to be “righteous” based on their works treated others as less than themselves and judged them as unrighteous. So my advice would be to make sure you don’t get too high on your own righteousness.

I can personally testify to all the problems that are caused by not stopping, slowing down, and considering the source when I’m angry. There have been many times in my life when I just acted as though I had a right to be angry and said or did whatever came to my mind. There have been times that I have been wronged, but my overreaction completely overshadowed whatever was done to me and the Lord has shown me that I have no right to be angry when someone hurts me if I want to consider myself a disciple of him. We are called to a different standard. The closer I get to the Holy Spirit and the more I get to know him, the more I am transformed so that what angers me is ONLY what angers him. I can’t say I’m even close to righteous on this, but I know he is transforming me and he can transform you too. Even if you have been held captive by anger and bitterness for a long time in your life, the process is the same. Take time to stop and think about whether your anger is from the Spirit or based on your flesh and your desire to preserve yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to be angry about. And consider what your goal or purpose is with your anger. Is it about you, or is it about bringing the righteous life that God desires in others? These are questions that only you can answer for yourself and I pray you will take time to reflect on them so that the Holy Spirit can bring you freedom from anger and bitterness and redirect you to that which righteously angers him.