What does anger mean to you?
I’m sure for all of us anger can mean many different things. It’s not often seen in a good light is it? That’s because it’s a very passionate and hostile emotion. Sadly, we often regret things that we say or do in the heat of the moment when we are frustrated or angry. While anger is a God-given emotion, and can be used for good, too often anger wants to be the boss of us and take control. Anger in itself is not a bad emotion, it’s what we do with our anger that really matters.
The TV programme ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’ really exposes this issue, especially when people are put under pressure. In a recent episode it was evident that some recruits were unable to control their anger and aggression. When they were in a situation where they needed to use their anger in a controlled manner, they were unable to do so. Anger became the boss of them, and they lost control. In the Special Forces or military world, uncontrolled anger is an incredibly dangerous thing. It can result in wrong decisions being made and lives lost. Harnessed in the right way, however, it can be a force for good. In everyday life, the same can be true. Amazingly, we find similar wisdom in the Bible.
James, the brother of Jesus who wrote in the first century, has a lot to say about anger. His advice is clear: ‘everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). How easy is it to do the opposite when we are frustrated or angry? James goes on to expose the dangers of uncontrolled or unmanaged anger:
‘What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures’. (James 4:1-3)
James identifies the risks of anger. He sees that it can lead to fights, quarrels and even killing. This may seem extreme but we only need to look at news headlines to realise it can be true. Sadly, during this Coronavirus pandemic we have seen horrific statistics about the rise in domestic violence. James recognises that anger needs to be controlled. He even identifies a common cause of this behaviour; that people don’t get what they want. The Message paraphrase of the Bible puts it like this: ‘You want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves’. This excellently captures the internal battle we can experience with anger.
So what can we do about our anger? How can we stop anger being the boss of us?
There are three practical things we can do:
- Recognise the Warning Signs. If uncontrollable anger is building up inside you, see this as a red flag and don’t ignore it.
- Avoid Acting in the Moment. If you are able, take yourself away from the situation. Avoid saying or doing anything you will later regret.
- Understanding. This the most important part, especially in the heat of the moment. If you are able to understand yourself and the situation, then you will be in a much better position to be able to do something about it.
I think we have considerable motivation to do something about our anger don’t we? That’s because it’s so easy to hurt someone when we are angry or make a wrong decision. If we are able to follow the basic steps above, then we may also be able to consider what James is suggesting; that part of the reason we are angry maybe because we aren’t getting what we want.
James’s ultimate advice for his readers is simply to submit to God, and not to your emotions; ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you’. (James 4:7-8)
You may think that’s easier said than done, and you would be right! But as with all things in life, we are on journey, and it’s all about taking steps in the right direction. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. You can ask God to help you.
So what might your Next Step be in response to all of this?
Connect Group Questions:
- What is your experience of anger?
- How can anger be used for good?
- How can anger be used for bad?
- What do you think of James’s view of anger?
- Do you think that people not getting what they want is a common cause of anger?
- What steps do you want to take in response?
Listen to the full talk on our podcast below…