Answering Anger

Before my conversion I was a very angry young man. After my conversion I sort of expected the anger issue to be settled. However, I found that anger was such a deeply rooted sin in my heart that it wasn't going to be pulled out easily. At first I worked on the fruit sins, the symptoms of my problem. I learned to hold my tongue (at least some of the time), but anger continued to burn inside of me. I was only able to lay the gospel axe to the roots of this poisonous tree as God gave me clarity in three areas. If you struggle with anger, I hope these principles will help you answer the anger in your own heart.

Know Your Anger

It's not enough to recognize that you are angry, you have to know why you are angry. Where it is coming from is more important than what's triggering it, so you will have to dig deep. Perhaps this is an easy process for some, but for me it took time, prayer, Scripture, and words from brothers and sisters in the church. In the end  this is what I came to see.

My anger was not really about the errors or incompetence of others, nor the broad corruption of the world. My anger was about me more than it was about anyone or anything else. It's so obvious now I have a hard time understanding why I couldn't see it before. I was angry because I was more about myself than God or others, especially in certain smaller parts of life. I was angry when things interrupted my plans, did not meet my expectations, or followed a path I did not choose. Such interruptions would allow reality to push against my worldview--I am the center of the universe--and I would bark or balk in response. My anger was really the fruit of self-centeredness and pride which meant I couldn't deal with anger until I first dealt with pride.

Know Your Place

The danger of self-centeredness is false doctrine. Pride will create a heart-environment where a kind of heresy develops that deifies self. This wasn't something I ever articulated, but it was something I embraced. I was angry because on some deep level I believed I shouldn't be inconvenienced, delayed, or humbled. This is no small thing. Me-firstology breaks the two "Great" commandments. It does not allow waiting on the Lord, but insists that God follows our suggestions (if not orders).

To begin dealing with the root sin of pride and the fruit sin of anger I had to re-learn my place in life, especially in those smaller parts of life that make up the bulk of my days. This meant I had to think carefully and practically about the sovereignty of God and the dependancy of man. I had to apply the purposes of God in the world and in my life to every circumstances I was moving through. I was only able to begin relaxing and letting go of anger as I began to see, and agree, that in any given situation there are many other more important factors involved than just me. My place is in the hand and sovereign plan of God which means his glory and my good is the end of every interruption and obstacle I face.

Know Your Lesson

Pride kills teachability. As long as I was giving way to anger I was not in a posture to learn. And yet, overcoming anger is largely dependent on one's ability to learn from God. This is why it was so important for me to first understand the nature of my sin, and my place before God in this world. Then it was easier to preach to myself in the midst of one of those situations: "Okay, God is doing something, are you paying attention? He is teaching you, are you listening?"

Though the world and the devil seemed to conspire against me, to elicit from me the unrighteous response of anger, I began to see that rather than barking or balking I needed to bend the knee. To stop, submit myself to God and his plan, and look to him and his word for counsel. To ask him for the patience I lack, for the grace I need, that I could learn to walk with him through anything. Sure this is much harder than popping off, but it yields the fruit of peace, joy, and perseverance.

I wouldn't want to imply that I no longer struggle with anger, but I believe I can say that I am no longer an angry man. The key has been abiding in the word, knowing the truth. By this I have been set free.