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 (Mt. 5:21-22). 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 (1 Cor. 11:28). 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 (Eph. 4:31), 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 (1 Cor. 9:26-27). 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…” (Eph. 4:26). 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 Eph. 4:31 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 Rom. 12:19). 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 (Rev. 1:5). And I don’t have to be an angry black man because I am more accurately a free, forgiven, and guiltless child of God.