10.28.15

Anger Management

I’m angry, and I don’t really care what they say
(I don’t really care what they say)
I’m angry, nobody better get in my way
(nobody better get in my way)

– “Anger Management” by Lecrae

I grew up around angry men. My father, my uncles, my brothers all at some time or another demonstrated what is commonly known as the “angry black man” syndrome. Some were seemingly able to control it and didn’t get in to too much trouble. Others however (too many in fact), tragically hurt others and themselves out of anger. I have known my own share.

I recall (not so fondly) a few years ago having an argument with my wife over something frivolous. While I was busy making my point and demanding my rightness, she looked at me and said the words I have never forgotten, “Honey you are right, but why do you get so angry?” I have never forgotten those words. They cut me to the core. It was as if the Lord himself spoke them to me. And in one sense, he had. I pledged on that day to fight that sin head on.

Anger kills (). Few things sap your spiritual vitality and eat at your ability to live in obedience to God than anger. Anger can undermine your faithfulness, sideline you, and make you and your testimony of none effect. Anger is a disabler. It disables our ability to live in the grace we have received from God. It disables our ability to extend that grace to others.

As a black man, I have often been excused from dealing with my anger because after all in America, “All black men are angry.”  First of all, that’s not true. Secondly, to whatever extent you and I might think it is true does not justify my anger, nor make it right.

As a Christian I am called to examine myself (). I am called to look honestly at my heart and motives and acknowledge and confess the sin that is there. Admittedly, when examined, I have too often found anger unchecked. Thankfully, in dealing with my anger, I have found the following principles personally helpful and encouraging.  I share them with you, not to insist you proceed along these lines, but to offer some encouragement in dealing with an insidious sin that is crippling too many men I know.

1. Admit that anger is a problem. Until you see your anger as a problem and consequently call it what it is—sin to be put away (), you will continue to justify it. You will continue to allow it to eat at your spirit and corrode your relationships. Be willing to listen to others if you can’t seem to listen to yourself. And when they speak, consider it may be the voice of God to you.

2. Understand the root of it. Anger comes from within. It is a heart problem. And like many bad heart conditions, it can be hereditary. If your mother or father struggled with anger, or your grandfather or grandmother had issues with anger, it is likely that you witnessed it, experience it, and even were the brunt of it. This can negatively affect you and the way you use anger as well. Therefore, your anger may be the result of the past influences more than the present situations. It helps to fight it when you know you have a propensity for it.

3. Identify the stimuli. What is it that makes you angry? It is important to know this. Realized, even if you don’t know, your enemy, the devil, does know and will quickly entrap you. Identifying those things or situations that stimulate emotionally angry responses can help us avoid those things or situations. And if they are unavoidable, honest identification allows us to see them coming and to devise a plan to resist and escape the temptation. Remember, being tempted to anger is not a sin. A sinful response to the temptation is.

4. Reserve your anger for your anger. Ever since that day my wife asked me that heart-piercing question, “Why do you get so angry,” I have been asking myself the same question. When I see anger arising I try to ask myself in that moment, “why?” The question helps to channel the anger away from another person, and begin to channel it toward itself. The primary battle with anger is an intramural one (). The better I understand this, the more articulate I am in talking myself out of getting angry.

5. Pray for forgiveness. The Bible says, “In your anger, do not sin…” (). Contrary to what some may suggest, this is not a command to get angry, but rather an admonition to control our anger. In fact, in we are commanded to put away anger along with malice, bitterness, slander, and wrath. Instead we are to learn to forgive even as Christ has forgiven us (4:32). Forgiveness is primary means of anger management. It is the forgiveness we have received in Christ. When I get angry, I must recall that I have been forgiven and thus I must be willing to extend such forgiveness as well. Bottom line: my anger should cause me to pray for forgiveness for forgetting that I have been forgiven.

Anger often demonstrates a lack of confidence in the Lord (see ). I get angry because I don’t like the situation and don’t believe right now that God can or will handle the problem. Consequently, thus I will take matters into my own hands. Most anger therefore is a lack of confidence in God and over-confidence in self.

When I am willing to repent of my anger, not only is its power over me broken, but once again I am reminded that Jesus has paid the price to free me from all my sin (). And I don’t have to be an angry black man because I am more accurately a free, forgiven, and guiltless child of God.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESV)

28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (ESV)

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (ESV)

26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV)

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (ESV)

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (ESV)

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (ESV)

and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (ESV)

Tony Carter
Tony Carter serves as the Lead Pastor of East Point Church. Tony is married to his beloved, Adriane Carter, and their marriage has bore the fruit of five wonderful children. Holler at him on Twitter: @eastpc
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C’mon Up!

  • Louis Love

    Hey Carter:
    This was indeed a timely and convicting article. Wives and children most often are the voices of God addressing vices we would like to ignore and justify.

    Last week in Indy, at dinner we were discussing some of my child reading ways and one that was prominent was my anger. 20 years later it can be laughed at, but at the time I’m sure it was anything but funny.

    Your bible laced wisdom is nourishment to a brother that still wrestles with anger. Thanks for this, my brother.

    • Tony Carter

      True that Lou! This is a conversation I have with myself all the time. Preaching Christ to myself is the only way. Thanks friend.

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  • Trey

    This was a good read and write.

    Frankly, I’m angry a lot. I’ve been praying for years for God to rescue me from this nagging, joy sapping, sin. I’ve submitted myself to the advise and mentoring of an elder and yet the struggle remains. I feel hopeless about it sometimes and am ashamed when the episodes are over. Thankfully I don’t direct it at my wife or son anymore (and it was never of the physical variety) but it still has too much stake in my life I believe.

    Keep choppin’ brothers. We’re being helped down here in central Texas.

    Grace and peace

    • Tony Carter

      Thanks for sharing your heart and struggle brother. I know exactly where you are coming from and also the trust we must have to overcome it. Keep looking to Christ and the inexplicable forgiveness he gives to us. And may that continue to move us to respond in kind. Let’s keep choppin’ it up together!

  • http://writetheology.com Ian Turner

    Pastor Carter. I love how you say keep it intramural. Be angry at your anger. This perspective runs against our “venting” culture. “Oh, man, I was just venting.” Psychologists have found that, “venting” actually leads to increased aggression over time.

    One researcher “debunks the idea of redirecting your anger into exercise or something similar. He says it will only maintain your state or increase your arousal level, and afterward you may be even more aggressive than if you had cooled off.” Source: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/08/11/catharsis/

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