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Ephesians 4:31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice
Many believe that anger is a part of the wickedness of man, but it is not. Anger or righteous indignation is just, and it is simply a reaction to injustice. God himself gets angry over injustices. “And Jehovah passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Ex 34:6) We see here that God is slow to anger, which means that he does get angry at times. However, his other qualities, like love, justice, power, wisdom, and so on are just as effective, in that his anger or righteous indignation does not appear unless justified. The prophet Joel says, “and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to Jehovah your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:13)
The prophet Jonah prayed to Jehovah and said, “Please Jehovah, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2) Notice to the words of the prophet Nahum, “Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power, and Jehovah will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:3)
Some Christians mistakenly believe that anger is bad, and if they are a good Christian, they should not be getting angry. Another misconception is that anger only involves blowing up to the point of screaming hitting and throwing things. They also wrongly believe that to control unrighteous anger, they just need to conceal it, shove it down inside. Some wrongly believe that they have a right to anger if they have been treated unjustly, or that someone did not do what they should have done, or behave as they should have behaved.
ANGER in itself is not evil. The anger of Jehovah is the justifiable reaction of the wholly righteous God against sin, wickedness and all forms of unrighteousness. “Because of the aforesaid things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” God’s wrath is completely under the control of his attributes of justice, wisdom, love, and power. “Jehovah is slow to anger”—this the prophets Nahum, Joel, and Jonah affirm. The psalmist says: “Jehovah is gracious and merciful, slow to anger.” And Jehovah himself gives this description at Exodus 34:6: “Jehovah went passing by before [Moses’] face and declaring: ‘Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.’” Thus, Jehovah sets the example in being slow about wrath. (Eph. 5:6; Nah. 1:3; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2, AS; Ps. 145:8)
James 1:20 Updated American Standard Version (ESV)
20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Verse 19 gives us the command to “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” The anger and wrath that James speaks of here is not a flash of anger (although that can be wrong as well), but more along the lines of one, who boils slowly inside, stewing on his feelings (internal dialogue), as he progressively becomes hostile to those around him.
Our having an angry disposition will only soak up our energy, energy that could have been given to God. Those who deal with anger issues know this all too well. We can get a good night of sleep, wake feeling refreshed, ready to have a great day. Then, a few things go wrong before we even leave the house. We allow these things to turn into a rageful spirit, by our irrational thinking: “I can’t take this!” “Why do these things always happen to me!” “Life is so unfair!” With our irrational thinking, we feed the furnace of our anger, until it becomes a rage.
Anger can come at all levels, from the person who hits his finger with a hammer, mild anger, to a person that physically assaults another, extreme anger. Most are not aware that anger is an emotion that results from another emotion. Yes, something or someone hurts (first emotion) our feelings, which results in anger. When a husband thinks he is funny, by making fun of his wife in front of friends, this hurts, resulting in mild to moderate anger. Another might be an experience of fear, which leads to anger. Our teenage child is a few hours late coming home, which results in fear of something being wrong, but anger as being put through this fear.
Just how angry are you?
Novaco Anger Inventory
The items on this scale describe situations that are related to anger arousal. For each of the items, please rate the degree to which the incident described would anger or provoke you by marking the appropriate degree of annoyance. Try to imagine the incident happening to you, and then indicate the extent to which it would have made you angry.
In the actual situations, the degree of anger that you would experience would depend on other factors that are not specified in the items (such as what kind of situation, how the act occurred, etc.). This scale is concerned with your general reactions, and so the details of the particular situations have been omitted. Please do your best to rate your responses in this general fashion.
Mark (M) the degree to which you would feel angry or annoyed in the following situations (please Mark only one anger rating for each situation):
|Situation||Very Little||Little||Moderate Amount||Much||Very Much|
|You unpack an appliance you have just bought, plug it in, and discover that it doesn’t work|
|Being overcharged by a repair person who has you over a barrel|
|Being singled out for a correction, while the actions of others go unnoticed|
|Getting your car stuck in the mud or sand|
|You are talking to someone and they don’t answer you|
|Someone pretends to be something they are not|
|While you are struggling to carry four cups of coffee to your table at a cafeteria, someone bumps into you, spilling the coffee|
|You have hung up your clothes, but someone knocks them to the floor and fails to pick them up|
|You are hounded by a salesperson from the moment you walk into the store|
|You have made arrangements to go somewhere with a person who backs off at the last minute and leaves you dangling|
|Being joked about or teased|
|Your car is stalled at a traffic light, and the person behind you keeps blowing his horn|
|You accidentally make the wrong kind of turn in a car park. As you get out of your car someone yells at you, “where did you learn to drive?”|
|Someone makes a mistake and blames it on you|
|You are trying to concentrate, but a person near you is tapping their foot|
|You lend someone an important book or tool, and they fail to return it|
|You have had a busy day, and the person you live with starts to complain about how you forgot to do something you agreed to|
|You are trying to discuss something important with your spouse who isn’t giving you a chance to express your feelings|
|You are in a discussion with someone who persists in arguing about a topic they know very little about|
|Someone sticks his or her nose into an argument between you and someone else|
|You need to get somewhere quickly, but the car in front of you is going 40 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, and you can’t pass|
|Stepping on a lump of chewing gum|
|Being mocked by a small group of people as you pass them|
|In a hurry to get somewhere, you tear a good pair of trousers / skirt on a sharp object|
|You are on a very important phone call, but you are disconnected before you finish|
Answer Given Score
- Very Little 0
- Little 1
- Moderate Amount 2
- Much 3
- Very Much 4
0-45: The amount of anger and annoyance that you feel is remarkably low. Only a few percent of the population will score this low on the test.
46-55: You are substantially more peaceful than the average person is.
56-75: You respond to life’s annoyances with an average amount of anger.
76-85: You frequently react in an angry way to life’s many annoyances. You are substantially more irritable than the average person is.
86-100: You are a very angry person, and you are plagued by frequent intense furious reactions that do not quickly disappear. You probably harbor negative feelings long after the initial insult has passed. You may have the reputation of a hothead among people you know. You may experience frequent tension headaches and elevated blood pressure. Your anger may often get out of control and lead to impulsive hostile outbursts, which at times get you into trouble. Only a few percent of the adult population react as intensely as you do.
The righteousness that God expects from his servants are “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (Jam 3:17) If we “frequently react in an angry way to life’s many annoyances, if we are substantially more irritable than the average person is,” we cannot have the godly qualities of being “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits.” Proverbs 29:22 warns us “an angry man stirs up strife, and a wrathful man abounds in transgression.” This means that Christians, who suffer from anger issues, will want to get control over their vessel.
Yes, God desires that his servants also be slow about anger and wrath. Our anger is brought on by our perception of the situation. For example, if you spill coffee on your work shirt while driving to work, or your car is stuck in the mud, making you late for work, or you lose an important business call when your cellphone drops the call, and on and on. This means that our anger over the situation is brought about without justifiable cause. Our view of the situation is distorted, biased, or simply mistaken. We can distort a situation by making a molehill into a mountain as the say goes. We may say things to ourselves, like “life is just against me!” “These kinds of things only happen to me!” It can be biased, in that we consider only one side of the matter while ignoring other aspects of it. This could be the case with when we get all red lights on the way to driving to work, and we blame the city for not setting the lights so that we can catch more green lights. What we do not do is consider the fact that we procrastinated at home, which made us run late; otherwise, the red lights would not have mattered.
Christians are likely well aware that they have an anger issue, or they wouldn’t have bought this book. It is likely our greatest desire to overcome the anger issues, to be slow to anger as we are very concerned about our relationship with God, as well as family and friends. We know that God is righteous in everything that he does, so any anger on his part would be completely justified. Our anger though, it is generally unjustified, which means that we live in a world of regretful comments and actions because we are quick to anger. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.” (Pro.14:17) Because of this, we have taken the first step, by investing the time, in covering material that will help us overcome our quickness to anger because we are distraught over our hurting others.
It should be understood that anger is not a sin or sinful if it is unselfish, righteous indignation. This righteous anger is a controlled reaction to the injustices within this fallen world. Jesus had an encounter with the Jewish religious leaders in the Synagogue over a man with a withered hand, “he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” (Mark 3:1-5) In addition, we find the following situation in the Gospel of John.
John 2:14-17 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting there.15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Jesus had righteous anger over the injustices he saw, but he also controlled that anger. In the account in John, Jesus could rightly take it to the level he did because he was in his Father’s house, and he needed to make certain points that would be recorded for generations to come. This does not mean that we can overturn some tables at a restaurant because the management mistreated us. Therefore, righteous indignation for us is going to be different from some of the actions Jesus took. We have to deal with imperfections that he did not understand. We do not know the thinking of others while he did. We do not know the heart condition of others while he did. We tend to misunderstand, while Jesus did not. Our perception of the situation can be distorted, biased, or mistaken while his was not. Jesus’ anger was always based on truth and righteousness. Here is an account from Mark where Jesus was anointed at Bethany, and human imperfection contributed to unrighteous indignation.
Mark 14:3-9 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
The imperfect humans were indignant by their perception of the situation, as well as by their selfishness, because the money from selling the ointment would have gone in their money box for them. Jesus stops them and explains why their indignation was unrighteous anger.
Mark 14:7-9 English Standard Version (ESV)
7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
We are imperfect and cannot perceive situations, as Jesus can. Therefore, we need to dismiss any irrational thinking, until all the facts are in, and fully understood. This way we can make a rational decision.
Ephesians 2:3 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Colossians 3:8 English Standard Version (ESV)
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Putting on the New Self
Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us that we are to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Colossians 3:9-10 informs us that we are to “put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
4:24 of Ephesians means that we allow our new Christian person to lead us in all that we do in our lives. In other words, whether we are at a Christian meeting, at work, at home, in school, or at recreation, we are to start living the life that follows in Christ Jesus’ steps, as he set an example for us. (1 Pet 2:21) This putting on the new person is not some miraculous switch that is flipped on and the old person is immediately removed. No, the new person in Christ is developed over time as we mature in our Christian walk.
We are “renewed in knowledge” by ‘getting to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom had sent.’ (John 17:3) Yes, as one starts their study of and application of God’s Word, they will begin to develop a relationship with the Father and the Son. The former worldly desires, as well as anger issues, speaking ill of others, will fade away, and the new spiritual desires, long-suffering personality, building up of others, will emerge.
Yes, again, it is a correct knowledge of the whole of Scripture, which gives us our new person, our being renewed. This is not some fake self, placed over an inner self that has not changed. No, the mind needs to be renewed by the Spirit of God. There is no hypocrisy, deceit, or duplicity associated with the “new self.” We are sincerely to be a new person, not some masquerade.
1 Corinthians 2:16 informs us that we cannot ‘know the mind of the Lord …” But we have the mind of Christ. But we have the mind of Christ.’
The Christian mind is influenced by the Spirit, in that they accept the Word of God as “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16), enabling him to take on the mind of Christ.
In other words, the thought processes of the Christian mind are Jesus’ thoughts; their view of life is through his eyes. If the Christian has a correct mental grasp of scripture, they are not a victim of fleshly wisdom, which only leads to destruction. Those who truly reflect the Word of God in what they say, in deed, or in mind or heart attitude, will not be led astray by fleshly reasoning.
Some in the world have a measure of success in dealing with our imperfections, by the use of behavioral-cognitive therapy. However, the secular counselors are not as effective, as the Christian counselors are. The secular do not value or accept the spiritual aspect. They do not see the applying of the Bible as beneficial, for them, it is just the word of man. They do not understand the power of God’s Spirit. While the world can affect personality changes, God can remove the old person, and replace it with a new person. However, like anything else, God expects us to apply the things that he teaches us, so we must take the wisdom of God, and apply it in our life, because that wisdom has become our wisdom.
We may have been living with our anger for so long, it seems that it just is part of us, and we have come to believe change is impossible. Let us look at Ephesians 4:31 again, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” We should not that Paul makes no exceptions for any Christian. We all are able to overcome our anger issues by means of the Holy Spirit, and the application of Scripture. Millions of Christians have removed character flaws from themselves. Therefore, you too can be slow about anger. God’s Word does not speak of the impossibility of change, but of change as a fact.
Walk By Spirit and Truth
John 4:24 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
24 God is spirit, and the ones who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
What does it mean to worship in spirit? In spirit is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, but more of an attitude, mental disposition, a way of thinking, or mindset. We worship in “spirit” when we follow our hearts, which are filled with faith and love. We worship in “spirit” when the inspired Word of God, trains our Christian conscience, the inner law that helps us to determine what is right, and leads us to recognize what is wrong. We worship in “spirit” when our worship is pure, based on accurate knowledge of God’s Word, having grateful hearts. We worship in “spirit” when we apply God’s Word in our lives, having our spirit; mental disposition in harmony with the Holy Spirit’s leading.
What does it mean to worship in truth? It means honestly, biblically, centered on the Word of God. In other words, we study the Word of God, having biblical truths revealed to us through the study, and then we worship according to that truth. In addition, it means that we are to be obedient to the truths revealed. This would include “truth of the gospel,” which focuses on Jesus Christ and his efforts in the vindication of the sovereignty of his Father. (Galatians 2:14) God will allow a strong delusion to fall on those that “refuse to love the truth,” ‘condemning those who do not believe the truth.’ (2 Thess. 2:9-12) Therefore, salvation only belongs to those, who upon hearing the Gospel, accept it as truth, and begin to walk in that truth.–2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Ephesians 1:13, 14
All true Christians should strive to be “fellow workers for the truth.” They would certainly want to follow in the steps of John and Gaius as they defend the truth (Jude 1:3; 1 Pet 3:15), and like “children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3-8) They are doing so by going out into the community, proclaiming the Gospel, bringing people into the truth. They were to stay committed to the Gospel that they had heard at the beginning when they were first brought into the truth.
Be Aware of Spiritual Needs
We need to strengthen ourselves spiritually, recognizing his spiritual needs. Our spiritual strength needs to grow stronger each day, because if we can be steadfast in the small trial, we will endure the more difficult that may lie in his path.
Imagine the faith it must have required for those Israelites, who celebrated the first Passover and then take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses. (Exodus 12:1-28) Even after their firstborn sons surviving that night, many lost their faith shortly thereafter, when the Pharaoh’s army was closing in on them at the Red Sea. (Exodus 14:9-12) However, after they walked the night through on the dry seabed to the other side of the Red Sea, then they look back as the 80 feet walls of water fell in on the Egyptian army, killing them all. “Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.” (Psa. 106:12) Yes, once again, they had faith. These Israelites were truly unsure about their relationship with God, whether he was with them or not, which caused them to be unstable. Certainly, they could not have any peace of mind, as in one moment; they would have a surge of hope, and in the next, a moment of despair.
After they had regained their faith at the Red Sea, it was not but a short time later in the wilderness that we find them complaining about the lack of water and food, as well as the leadership of Moses. The modern-day Christian needs to realize that to feed spiritually, becoming strong spiritually, means that we must have a regular intake of spiritual food. This means that we should have our own personal Bible study, a family study if applicable, regular meeting attendance, and a share in evangelizing our community.
Overcoming Should Statements
We need to come to the realization that nothing or no one is responsible for our anger issues. It is we and we alone. It is common by those that suffer from unrighteous anger to believe; it is the conditions, which cause the outbursts. The truth is nothing can cause us to get angry. However, the events or situations can contribute to our getting angry if we feed them with irrational thinking. When an unpleasant situation falls upon us, we can feel the physical effects of a racing heart, tension in our muscles, the grinding of our teeth, and so on. These physical signs mean that we are dialoguing with ourselves either consciously or subconsciously. Yes, these thoughts can be present in the mind without our awareness of it. It is the physical signs that must wake us up to hidden thoughts.
If you are aware of what you are thinking, because you are saying it aloud, even if it is mumbling under your breath, or you have hidden comments that you are unaware of, you have signs to let you know. You need to be the one to reverse course. You must ask yourself, “What am I saying.” Get a grasp of the thoughts that are racing through your mind. Maybe the events are with your spouse. First, we set ourselves up for failure, because the dating stage of a relationship is unrealistic. During this stage, both parties do their best to present nothing but the best side of themselves. After the honeymoon, a few months down the road, both begin to get comfortable and letdown, and show their flawed qualities. It could be a rude awakening, even more so if either of the spouses felt that the marriage was going to be some perfect storybook life, with a happy ending.
If he says she should be like this, or he should be like that, this is another unrealistic aspect. We will get angry if we are caught up in the syndrome of should. A Christian marriage should be this way. Life should be like this, or like that. We must realize that we can even do this with ourselves as well. “I should do this, or I should do that.” When someone or we do not live up to our expectations, this can contribute to frustration. “I should have been paying closer attention.” “He should have been more considerate.” Generally, we are making these should statement before we are even aware of all of the facts.
This should syndrome will affect our lives far more than we may ever imagine, contributing to a life of tumult. When we go around setting standards of perfection for others, and ourselves (meaning mistake-free), when humankind is imperfect, we are just setting ourselves up for a life of disappointment. We are going to fall short of our own standards that we have set, every day, as an imperfect person. Everyone is going to fall short of our standard-setting of what we believe he or she should be like. We expect them to act a certain way in certain circumstances. We expect them to talk a certain way, drive a certain way, react a certain way, live a certain way, believe a certain way, and so on.
When we do not live up to our should standards of being mistake free, falling short daily, our statements of “I should” are going to contribute to an intense dislike of self, unworthiness and embarrassment, faultfinding, and frustration. When the rest of humanity does not live up to our should standards of them, namely being mistake-free, we will become hostile toward them, have a self-righteous attitude that they should have done better. Imagine, we are only addressing one word, which possesses so much power, and by changing it, we can free ourselves of constant letdowns.
Christians, sad to say, are more susceptible to these should statements. Because we are involved in a biblical worldview that revolves around the moral values of God, we tend to begin thinking more of ourselves than we ought to, when we become more successful at our spiritual lives. When we take a pause to notice our should statements, we will see that the vast majority revolve around morality, standards of conduct that are generally accepted as right or wrong. “He should have done a better job in mowing the lawn because I pay him more than enough!” The rational side of that is that there are no rules that the lawn company has to go above the standards for us; he need not take extra pride in his work, just because we think he should. It is perfectly fine to do a standard job, as long as it is not substandard. Another should stamen might be, “He should have thought to call if he knew he was going to be late because it is the decent thing to do!” He probably feels that he should have remembered as well, but he is imperfect, and so is his memory, especially when he is deeply involved in his job.
Our should statements assume that we are entitled to error-free people, including ourselves. If we have been “wronged” because of human imperfection, make allowances, forgive them as God forgives us every day. If we have been wronged because of substandard behavior, take care of it in a rational manner. If we deal with it through anger, we will not get the desired outcome. Rather we will only end up with a defensive person, be it a family member, friend, or another, who may not have had bad intentions to start with, but now he is being pushed into a corner. Think of the folly of this statement, “I was nice to the people at that table, being a good waitress; they should have given me a tip.” We cannot be over someone else’s free will, their right to live life the way they believe to be correct. As much as we may desire that they live by our standards, our wanting it will not bring it about.
In fact, if we react inappropriately to what we believe they should or should not do, it will only create bitterness in our stomach, and distance them from us. We certainly detest the idea of anyone taking control of the way we do things, and this is the case with all free-willed people. Once we realize that there is no such thing as absolute fairness among imperfect humanity, as it is relative to the one carrying out the actions. What we see as fair biblically, the world sees as unfair. There is absolute fairness with God, as well as his Word the Bible, but at present, the world of mankind alienated from God do not live by that fairness. Being that Christians live among 41,000 different denominations of other Christians, who believe differently, it might be best not to assume the same fairness with Christians we meet.
Spend each day, watch for the word should. The moment we are aware of something, we will notice it far more often. Pick out a type of car or truck, watch for them on the road over the next week. They will be everywhere, as will our should statements.
Small negative things, events, happen to each of us every day, but these are amplified to unrealistic measures by our overactive thinking, which leads to frustration, followed by an angry outburst eventually. This section is self-explanatory. If we are wronged or we perceive that we are wronged, to amplify the situation will only contribute to more frustration, as well as holding onto the negative emotions for far longer. Suppose that we are going for an interview, or some test, for a company that we want to hire us, and we enter it thinking, “This is impossible, I can’t do this!” Well, that is certainly an overreaction, an amplification of the situation. This will only bring about a self-prophecy. We see interviews or tests as ending negatively, so we end up fulfilling our own negative thinking.
We make judgments about others, irrationalizing their behavior. We assume that someone is thinking badly of us or talking badly about us without any evidence. We assume that bad things just always happen to us, which leads to frustration, followed by an angry outburst eventually. In this, we tell ourselves what we want to hear, and we could care less if it is rational or not, because we know it must be true. If we were to just stop for a moment and listen to ourselves, we would discover that our thinking is mistaken.
An example of this is, when someone commits a perceived wrong against us, so we use judgment calls (labeling) about him or her, “He is just a hothead.” “She is dumb.” These kids are evil.” “She is one-sided.” A person is never to be evaluated by to be verb, like “is,” and “are.” When we say someone “is” something, this means that she is 100 percent whatever label we gave her, it is who she is, her essence. If we say, “She is a bad mother,” this means that she is a bad mother 100 percent of the time. No one is that bad of a mother.
When we generate irrational beliefs because of misjudging intentions, like “he loves that television more than me,” or “he loves his friends more than me,” are not only misdiagnosing the problem, but we create an atmosphere that will build up inside you until they reach explosive proportions. If we entertain these irrational thoughts, they will look worse than they are. If the spouse has done or is doing something that is distressing, do not overreact with condemnation of labeling them as “unloving,” or foolish.” It is best to approach them with a question than a statement. The wife might ask, “I do not understand, can you please explain …” As they explain, we need to listen, with understanding, trying to wrap or mind around how they view things. Take notice the warning of Proverbs 18:13: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” No one likes to be labeled, judged, or evaluated unfairly. Therefore, instead of reacting too quickly to irrational thoughts, we should take a moment to gather ourselves with prayer. Then, we need to attempt to determine the thinking, purpose or motive behind the situation. We do well to follow the counsel of Proverbs 20:5, “Counsel in a man’s heart is deep water; but a man of understanding draws it out.”
We have already discussed that anger is not a sin and that there is righteous anger and unrighteous anger. Moreover, we can use our anger to our benefit under the right circumstances. We need to learn how to determine when our anger is beneficial and when it is harmful.
Proverbs 14:29 English Standard Version (ESV)
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Proverbs 29:11 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
If we are one, who has real issues with anger and rage, our first line of defense is to flee the area that has contributed to an oncoming episode. This is for those that verbally or even physically abuse others when angry. At the beginning of dealing with your anger, you will want to remove yourself from the situation the very moment that you feel the onset of anger. Beforehand, you need to set the spouse or child down, whoever is the victim of your anger, tell them that you love them, and you are working on your anger. Tell them that the beginning stages are to leave the scene before you hurt the ones you love. This is not a solution, just protection for the victims.
Proverbs 17:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
Each of us are responsible for what we do when a case of anger or rage sets in, and we do harm to others, or property. It is our thinking that leads to the outburst.
Psalm 37:8 English Standard Version (ESV)
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Proverbs 15:1 English Standard Version (ESV)
1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 29:22 English Standard Version (ESV)
22 A man of wrath stirs up strife,
and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Righteous anger is toward anyone who has set out to hurt us willfully and purposely, deliberately, and needlessly. We have to contemplate how we are going to deal with anger when we are not in the throes of our rage. When we feel that we have been treated unjustly, no matter how slight, our moral emotions can consume us if we are not prepared. What we want to do is start with the small things, because we are at a low level of anger. Here we are looking at times when someone cuts us off in traffic, someone cuts in front of us at the checkout line at the store, a waitress fails to care for our needs, someone makes fun of us in public; we are on the phone with customer service and she can barely speak English, and the like. Our goal is to get control over the internal dialogue in our head as we feel the onset of anger. Below, follow the progress from A – D.
|(A) SITUATION (Outside your control): A waitress fails to serve you as she should have, and was distant toward you||(B) YOUR THINKING (inside your control): “What!” “You stupid fool!” “What an idiot!” “She is a … jerk!” “What a loser!”|
|(C) BEHAVIOR: You tell her off, and do not leave a tip. On the other hand, you daydream about telling her off. You very loudly tell the cashier when you pay as you head out.||(D) EMOTIONS: frustration, anger, even guilt over your thoughts|
On your way out to the car, you run the situation through your mind, as though it were a movie, repeatedly. You go through how it happened, what you did, or what you would have like to have said and did. Each time you play it through, you get even angrier. You slam your car door, drive recklessly out of the parking lot, and speed back to work, going through it over and over again. You get to work, and tell your coworkers or anyone who will listen. It has warped you and has stolen your desire and energy, which means you have a bad day. Once you are home, you take it out on your wife, as you loudly tell the story again, and explain how this waitress ruined your day. Throughout the night, you are rude and disrespectful with your wife and children, as you will not let go of the mood.
Here is the irony; you have done the same thing to other people, including your family, throughout your day, which you felt the waitress had done to you. Moreover, you were not aware of why the waitress failed to do a good job in serving you, and was distant toward you. She has to work because every penny counts, but she has a husband who verbally or physically abuses her, or maybe her teenager ran away again, or she found drugs in their room, or the electricity is about to get shut off, or she can’t afford to go to the doctor, and is in serious pain. Anyone of these or other reasons could be why she was distant. Most self-righteous people would say, “Well, she should not have taken her problems to work with her!” First, there is that should statement again. Moreover, what did you do? You took one tiny incident in your day back to work and home to your family. Is a distant waitress who affected you so badly anywhere near the problems she may have been having?
Change the Internal Dialogue
You may or may not have noticed, but I started this chapter with first-person plural pronouns or first-person plural possessive adjectives (we, us, our), and I am now moving to second-person pronouns (you), because I want to speak to you the reader directly. Your anger is built up like in the above, because of the conscious or subconscious dialogue going on in your head. It results from the things that you are telling yourself. If you are going to overcome this, you must dialogue back, and put out the fire. First, whether people deserve it or not, you need to make allowances for them, as God makes allowances for you each and every day.
Romans 5:10 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, by much more, having been reconciled, we will be saved by his life.
Since the sinful rebellion of Adam, we have all inherited sin and death, meaning that no father can pass on perfection, everlasting life, to their child. (1 Tim. 6:19) When Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden of Eden, we immediately lost our status as sons and daughters of God. This created a rift in our relationship with our loving heavenly Father. (Deut. 32:5) From the moment that the first human couple was expelled from Eden, the human family that was to come would be outsiders to the created family of Jehovah God, which included spirit persons as well. We, by way of our forefather, Adam, placed ourselves in an alienated position with our heavenly Father.
However, we as imperfect humans can be accredited a righteous standing before God, being accepted back into the family of God. He makes allowances for our imperfection.
Psalm 103:9-12 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
9 He does not dispute continually,
nor keep his anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor repaid us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so his loyal love prevails over those who fear him.
12 As far as east is from west,
so he has removed far from us the guilt of our transgressions.
Isaiah 38:17 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
17 Look! Bitterness was bitter to me for peace.
And you were the one who loved my life from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
Micah 7:18-19 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
18 Who is a God like you, forgiving sin
and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
for he delights in loyal love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will trample our iniquities.
And you will hurl all their sins
in the depths of the sea.
You will notice in Psalm 103:12, that God removes the sins of the repentant one as far as the east is from the west. The picture being painted is, to the human mind that is the farthest you can remove something, as there is no greater distance. In Isaiah 38, we are given another visual, God throwing our sins behind his back, meaning he can no longer see them as they are out of sight, thus out of mind. In Micah, our last example, we see that God hurls all of the sins of a repentant person into the depths of the sea. In the setting of the ancient person, this meant that retrieving them was literally impossible. In other words, God has removed them, never to be retrieved or brought to mind ever again. This was the viewpoint that he had before Jesus ever even offered himself as a ransom sacrifice.
Now, your first step in internally dialoguing with yourself is to make allowances for the things that are happening. Just like the reasons of why the waitress in the above may have been distant, you need to make allowances of what might be why. You need to remove the alleged or real injustice to you, as far as the east is from the west, by placing them behind your back (out of sight), or throwing them in the sea (incapable of recovery). You say these things to yourself. Remind yourself that God forgives you daily, all day for your transgression in just this way.
- you immediately make various allowances as to why the events are the way they are,
- you remind yourself of how God views your transgressions (say a short prayer of thanks),
- you tell yourself the repercussions of what anger will do (result of anger),
- you take notice of the should thoughts that would have come to you, and
- you revise those should thoughts.
Someone commits a transgression against you, and you feel your jaw tightening, as well as your body getting warm, so (1) you tell yourself she or he is this way because … (2) You tell yourself that God has overlooked my transgressions, setting them aside because he is making allowances for my imperfection. You now feel less tense, but (3) you still tell yourself that if I had gotten angry, I would have ruined the rest of my day, been in a foul mood, would have taken it out on all who I met, as well as my loved ones. I would have normally said something like, (4) “I treated him well; he should have treated me good as well. This is a should statement, an unrealistic expectation.” Rather, (5) “the reality is, it would be great if he treated me well, but it is not realistic that all people will do so. Sometimes, things are affecting them.
This may seem like a lot initially, but this can be said internally, within just a couple minutes. At first, you may want to make a laminated card that has the above 1 – 5 on it, to carry it with you wherever you go, until you have memorized the steps. You learned the key to alter your way of thinking earlier in this publication. It is worth repeating. Every single thought, whether it is conscious or subconscious makes an electrical path through the white matter of our brain, with a record of the thought and event. This holds true for our actions as well. If it is a repeated way of thinking or acting, it has no need to form a new path; it only digs a deeper, ingrained, established path. This would explain how a factory worker who has been on the job for some time, gives little thought as they perform their repetitive functions each day, it becomes unthinking, automatic, mechanical. These repeated actions become habitual. There is yet another facet to considered; the habits, repeated thoughts, and actions become simple and effortless to repeat. Any new thoughts and actions are more difficult to perform, as there need to be new pathways opened up. These five steps to a new way of thinking will have to be practiced daily until they become your new way of thinking.
 A quotation from Isaiah 40:13, “Who has directed the Spirit of Jehovah, or being his counselor has taught him?” (ASV)
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