the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Being slow to get angry compares to great understanding as being quick-tempered compares to stupidity (Proverbs 14:29).
One of the tasks given me at the prison (in Orofino) is teaching anger management classes to inmates. At the beginning of each new course of instruction I tell the participants that I understand by experience what they are dealing with. Indeed, studies routinely show that a large percentage of men consider anger to be a problem in their lives. This does not mean most men are beset by uncontrolled rage but that a majority of men find that anger is disruptive to their life in some way.
It is common to suggest that anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, ire only raises its ugly head upon the heels of other emotions. Feelings of frustration, inferiority, fear, sorrow and so on, quickly turn to anger as a means of compensating for the unwelcome emotions. This is not to say there must always be a primary emotion leading up to anger. Sometimes anger is coupled with other feelings yet with each emotion experienced independently. This is often the case with “righteous anger.” For instance, [Jesus] entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward." Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him (Mark 3:1-6). This passage tells us that anger is not always wrong and one way to recognize righteous anger is when it is paired with concern for others. In this case we see Jesus' concern for the man and, most importantly, his concern for the glory of God. He was angry and grieved because the Jewish leaders refused to soften their hearts toward the heavenly Father.
Anger becomes a problem in our lives because we are naturally self-centered beings. We become angry because we are personally offended not because of the mistreatment of another person or disrespect shown to God. Many of us learned at an early age that we might rectify an offense to our person through the display of anger. Left unchecked this new found tool becomes our common reaction to any perceived slight until we are chagrined to discover that people with bad tempers are always in trouble, and they need help over and over again (Proverbs 19:19).
Yet, we convince ourselves that anger really isn't a problem unless we fly into a violent rage. Nevertheless, the Bible says a person with a quick temper stirs up arguments and commits a lot of sins and losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall (Proverbs 25:28, 29:22). In other words thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought and using anger to protect our self-image are earmarks of unrighteous anger and leave us open to a whole host of sins.
Next week: a Biblical guide to control anger.