How to Manage Anger-God’s Way
RUMC August 23, 2015
There is this peculiar story of a boy who was about to sell a worn out lawn mower to a local minister. Before the pastor was about to hand over the cash, he decided he better pull on the rope, just to make sure that the mower would start, but nothing happened. Not even a spit or a sputter.
Then the boy told the minister that all he would have to do was, kick the mower and say a few swear words before the mower would crank. The minister said, “Son, I can’t do that. It’s been years since I said a swear word.” But the boy replied, “Just keep pulling and it will come back to you.”
Though, this is a funny story, our faith involves more than belief in God and going to church, and doing nice things for people. But it is how we are to live, what we say and how we say it. My scripture text comes from Ephesians 4:25-30 and in this passage, Paul the Apostle gives us timely advice about this very thing:
25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,[a] as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God
This morning, what I would like to focus on is verse 26 which says, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” When it comes to anger, there can be extremes. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction:
For example, did you know that every year in the United States, at least 2 people die from vending machine accidents? This is because of anger and frustration. It starts when the candy, the chips, the drink or the change does not come out of the machine and just as the warning sticker tells you what not to do, the consumer will begin to shake the machine and each year, a couple of those machines will fall over and kill someone. So the next time you see a vending machine, look for the sticker on the top upper right.
Some people believe it is okay to kick or swear or smack something, when you get mad. Here is another extreme situation. You can’t make this stuff up:
In September 1999, Gary Boos, age 37 of Wisconsin was so frustrated that his washer machine would no longer work, that he disconnected it, pushed it out the door, and threw it down a flight of stairs. But he wasn’t done. He took out his pistol and fired three shots into the machine. When the neighbors heard the gun fire, they thought there was robbery or a homicide and called the police. Mr. Boos was arrested for recklessly discharging a firearm.
When anger or frustration crosses that imaginary line, it can become dangerous, whether it is vending machine rage, appliance rage, road rage or something else. And as believers in the Lord Jesus, part of our Christian testimony is for us to manage our anger or frustration in a godly way.
If there was ever a Bible verse that we should commit to memory, it is verse 26 which says Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Whenever I conduct a wedding, I will beforehand in my pre-marriage sessions, talk to the couple about the importance of resolving conflict before they go to bed.
Remember, anger is a normal emotion and if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t be human. Even Jesus showed anger, when he confronted the corrupt money changers in the temple. But when our anger crosses into that area where we become filled with rage, bitterness or use violence that is how we get into trouble.
On the other hand, if we were to manage our anger correctly, it can be an asset and not a liability. Although we can’t always avoid situations that make us angry, we can learn to control it to the glory of God.
I do recall in my army days that I forgot to do something and the chaplain Colonel was very angry and spoke to me in a voice louder than a whisper. He got his point across loud and clear. It was very effective and I never wanted to appear before him in his office again.
I do try to practice techniques of anger control, but I can’t say I have arrived–there is always room for improvement. For example, when I read the word of God, when I have devotions and attend worship, it does have a calming effect on my emotions and helps me put everything into proper perspective.
Another wonderful help is when I talk with someone–either my spouse, a ministerial colleague or someone who can keep confidences–they will help me see things from a different perspective. When I am able to do that, I tend to think and react about the situation more objectively.
In church council or committee meetings, I have learned over the years that if there is an important decision that has to be made, we need to separate the facts from the emotions. And it is important that we acknowledge that both exist, then we can have a good discussion and no one walks away upset or frustrated.
For example, this is a common one in churches. There is a proposal that we will take out the pews and replace them with cushioned chairs. As you can imagine, this can be a sensitive discussion. Facts: Cushioned chairs can be configured to provide intimacy and warmth; there can be a flexibility for certain type of worship services. The emotional aspects would be that the pews were donated in memory of certain loved ones, or that we have always had pews. So to have an effective conversation, is to acknowledge the facts, but also what people are feeling….and to talk about them.
Let me bring to your attention some passages from the Book of Proverbs.
Proverbs 15:18 “A hot tempered man stirs up dissentions, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” How many times have you seen that?
Proverbs 22:24 “Do not make friends with a hot tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” We all know people like this and this verse is like the flashing red warning reflectors in our care, to be careful.
Proverbs 29:22 “An Angry man stirs up dissention, and a hot tempered one commits many sins.” We have all seen examples of this. Whenever I sit down and read Proverbs, I am thinking, yes that is true. I agree with that as well.
Then there are certain people who are like unexploded bombs or land mines. We know who they are, and I try to avoid them. With anger buried deep in their emotions, any little thing can set them off.
Then there is another type of anger that when it is internalized, it carries unpleasant side effects. For example, Rose Kennedy, the mother of President John Kennedy wrote about the positive and negative aspects of anger.
She said “I was a spoiled young bride of a strong willed man, who attended every social function possible. As we were expecting our first child, we were elated at the prospect. Then the day came when our child was born. She was a beautiful child. But it wasn’t long until we realized that there was something terribly wrong with her. We took her to the doctor, who confirmed our fears. She was mentally handicapped and nothing could be done.”
Rose said, “Anger grew within my heart and I asked God how he could do such a thing to this child and to me. Then I turned my back on God and everyone else and became a recluse. Then one of the maids who gently said to me, ‘Please excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy, but I have been watching you the last few weeks. I love you very much and I hate to see this destroy your love. Mrs. Kennedy, you will never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ child may be born.’”
When Mrs. Kennedy heard those words, she fired the maid on the spot. But that night she couldn’t sleep as she remembered the maid’s words. She could not forget that lovely face, the joy in her spirit and especially her words. Rose knew she loved Christ all of her life and tried to be a good Catholic, but “now I knelt beside my bed and prayed. Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ child may be born.”
Then she felt a fresh new divine entry into my life and there was a born a love for retarded children. There is a picture of Rose and her brother John when they were children. And oh, by the way, she rehired the lovely maid who was with the Kennedy family until her death.
Now when it comes to anger, I think we need to do the same. That is to receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord and become born from above. For Rose Kennedy and her maid, they used the term, “make your heart for a manger for Christ.” So whether we accept Christ or make a manger, it will help us a lot better with our stress and problems.
Here are some quotations that you might find helpful.
Thomas Jefferson: “When angry, count to ten before you speak, if very angry, one hundred.”
Mrs. Fulton Oursler, wife of the author who wrote “The Greatest Story Ever Told” her secret was to repeat these 10 words over and over: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
Lawrence Peter: “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Will Rogers: “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”
Anonymous: “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Mark Twain: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
James 1:19 “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
When it comes to the church, it is hard for new people to understand that on some rare days there will be conflict. With enough stress in their lives, the new people often leave — all the more important for us to disagree without becoming disagreeable. My image of this church comes from the opening line of Hymn #334 “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place….”
Let me close with some techniques to help us manage our anger and frustration.
- Accept Christ as our Lord and Savior or make a manger in your heart.
- Have a quiet time of spiritual devotions.
- Attend worship on a regular basis.
- Speak to someone in confidence.
- Count to 10.
- Count to 100.
- Recite the first ten words of the Lord’s Prayer.
- Go for a walk or exercise.