HAVE VICTORY OVER ANGER
by Rev. Dr. Jerry Schmoyer, Christian Training Organization © 1999
A sequence of articles on anger taken from a series at Main Street Baptist Church, Doylestown, Pa, in September and October, 1999.
Various forms anger takes, from godly to anger to passive-aggressiveness, and the damage it does physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially.
Ways parents contribute to their child’s anger and how children and teens are responsible for their own anger
Conquering disrespect and manipulation, how to discipline anger in a child
Different expressions of and various reasons for male anger – and what to do about it
What makes a woman angry– and what to do about it
Practical Biblical advice about how to get to the heart of anger and have victory over it
1. THE COST OF SINFUL ANGER ⇑
September 14, 1999, Mark Coppenger was fired as president of Midwestern (Southern Baptist) Seminary by a vote of the trustees. Despite four outstanding years of great progress and fine leadership, the decision was made because repeated “expressions of anger had irreparably damaged his ability to lead the seminary.” The dismissal was effective immediately.
There was no criminal conduct, no sexual misconduct, just anger not under control that ended his fine career, embarrassed his family and seminary, and caused untold hurt to many others. All because of anger.
Do you ever get angry? If so, this series or articles is for YOU. It will help you better understand the causes of cure for anger.
I. THE CURSE OF ANGER
Ungodly anger is clearly condemned in the Bible. The Bible says that anger is as bad as murder and is deserving of hell. Matt 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘ Raca ,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. See also Job 5:2; 19:2 and Proverbs 19:19 and 25:18.
II. THE COST OF ANGER
There is a high cost of anger, both to the one who is angry as well as to those around the person. Let’s see how costly anger is.
A. PHYSICAL COST
Experts say that 60% to 90% of all illness is caused by our emotions, and anger is one of the strongest. When a rattlesnake gets cornered it gets so frenzied that it often bites and kills itself. That is what an angry person does to himself. The fire of anger kindled toward another often burns you more than the one you are angry at. It’s like a boomerang, it comes back and harms you by affecting your physical health. Anger brings a flow of adrenaline, but too much and too constant adrenaline in a system will wear away at it, causing anything from headaches to heart problems. This form of stress can be a real killer.
B. SOCIAL COST
An angry person is disliked by others (Proverbs 22:24). No one wants to be around an angry person. The anger may not last long, but, like a shotgun blast, much damage gets done quickly. A Chinese proverb says that if you are patient in one moment of anger you will escape 100 days of sorrow. Yes, anger has a high social cost.
C. EMOTIONAL COST
Anger that isn’t handled properly drains all your emotional energy. Instead of having emotional energy to handle the problems and demands of daily life, it is all used to suppress and hold back anger so there is nothing left for legitimate needs. It’s like having a constant drain on your car battery – the energy won’t be there when you need it for other things. When emotions can’t be handled correctly, we lose our rational control and let our feelings and moods control things. That can be disastrous. An angry person is, in a measure, an insane person, for it causes one to lose his reasoning powers.
D. SPIRITUAL COST
Despite how costly unrighteous anger is physically, socially and emotionally, it’s greatest cost is in the spiritual area. It is a work of the flesh and thus plays right into Satan’s hands. It opens one to demonic influence (Eph 4:26-27) for it is like a prayer for revenge, a decision to hang onto hate and feed it. Satan always answers those desires!
Anger grieves the Holy Spirit and prevents Him from providing the fruit of the Spirit which we so desperately need and which is the opposite of anger. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22-23
When we are filled with anger we can express or experience love, God’s or anyone else’s. When you give someone a piece of your mind, you have no peace of mind left!
Thus it’s obvious to see that anger is very costly. In fact it is dangerous. Just add the letter “D” to anger and you have “DANGER.”
It’s most dangerous when we don’t recognize it but call it by another name and feel it isn’t that bad. Then we don’t even recognize the danger our anger can be!
III. CLASSES OF ANGER
Just what is anger anyway? Anger can be defined as an emotional reaction of hostility. This can be shown in many different ways. We communicate by words, tone of voice (“a soft answer turns away wrath”), and body language. Anger can be expressed in any or all of these. Anger isn’t just a blow-up, screaming and kicking out of control response. The following are all forms of anger. We must see them a such so we can correctly deal with them as what they are – anger.
SARCASM is anger verbally expressed
JEALOUSY is rooted in anger (Prov 6:34) and comes from hate. The Bible is full of examples of jealousy based on anger: Pharaoh of Moses, prodigal son of his brother, and Saul of David.
ENVY is a form of jealousy but can be extra dangerous because it is hidden inside and not admitted to. Esau envied Jacob’s getting the blessing.
REVENGE is anger acting out to hurt another back. We must leave that to God (Heb 10:30). Cain tried to get revenge on Abel and the disciples on the Jews who rejected them.
SEDITION is causing others to get angry by aggravating, needling or frustrating them.
CLAMOR refers to noisy complaints or demands.
CRITICISM of another is nothing but revenge caused by jealousy or hurt.
BITTERNESS is an advanced form of anger
INTOLERANCE results from being threatened by those who are different, not having love for others, like Nebuchadnezzar to the 3 Jews or Darius to Daniel.
RESENTMENT is composed hatred and jealousy, as Jonah felt about Ninevah .
UNFORGIVENESS is from anger. Grudges, like babies, grow larger when we nurse them.
GOSSIP is a subtle form of anger and jealousy. God considers it as bad as murder.
ATTACK comes from insisting on ones own way. It is a self-centered win at any cost attitude seen in King Asa (II Chronicles 16) when he attacked a prophet for bringing God’s message.
MALICE desires harm to come to another.
HATE is a gun that bursts and kills the gunman. When you hate someone, they control you. Ahab hated Naboth for not selling his family vineyard to him, so he had him killed.
WRATH is another form of anger expressed outwardly.
FURY is anger so strong emotional control is lost.
RAGE is a loss of control involving acts of violence.
PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR refers to a negative, albeit unconscious way of getting back at someone. It is suppressed anger coming out in another way: forgetfulness, dawdling, lying, stealing, chronic lateness, poor grades, bedwetting, etc. ( see The Anger Ladder)
All these go back to a common root: anger. Unless that is seen and admitted, they will be allowed to remain and grow. They must be seen for what they are: anger. Until this happens we won’t be able to have victory over it. Victory comes from admitting our anger and discovering the real root behind it.
IV. CAUSES OF ANGER
Anger is a secondary emotion. It always springs from some other emotion under it, usually pain. Still, there are some factors that can influence how prone we are to experiencing sinful anger and handling it inappropriately.
1. TEMPERAMENT TRAITS have an impact on how anger is expressed. Introverts (Melancholy and Phlegmatic) internalize anger by holding it within until it explodes. Extroverts (Sanguine and Cholerics ) are quicker to ventilate and show their anger quickly.
2. CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES like overprotection, being spoiled, etc., can set the groundwork for an anger problem.
3. TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES like abuse, rape, rejection, etc, can cause anger which lingers.
4. NEGATIVE THINKING PATTERNS are another way of having anger increase. A free will choice to look for a wrong, a negative, being over-sensitive, etc. can feel anger.
5. FEAR often comes out as anger for that is easier to handle than fear.
6. SIN in life brings lack of peace and grieves the Holy Spirit, resulting in impatience and anger.
7. LACK OF FAITH in God causes us to want to control things, and we use anger to control.
8. SATANIC INFLUENCE is often behind extreme anger problems. Demonic influence is often tied up with rage.
The basic cause of anger is SELFISHNESS, self-centeredness, focus on self, thinking only of self, pride! It’s the opposite of love. That’s why anger is sin. But not all anger is sin.
V. CATEGORIES OF ANGER
A. SINLESS ANGER
Not all anger is sinful. We are often commanded to be angry. You that love God, hate evil (Psalm 97:10) “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Eph 4:26-27). This verse tells us to be angry but not sin. Thus that is possible.
Anger is a God-given emotion which we are to experience. God Himself gets angry but doesn’t sin. In the Old Testament God’s anger is referred to 375 times. Jesus got angry at hypocrites (Mk 3:1-6), the moneychangers twice (John 2; Mark 11) and the disciples for forbidding children to come to him (Mark 10:13-17) and for not pra ying with Him ( Luke 22). Jesus didn’t get angry when He was insulted, falsely accused, spit on, rejected, mocked, deserted or hurt. He handled the pain as pain.
Anger is created by God to motivate us to act. Like other emotional motivators (guilt, fear, jealousy, etc.) it can be used either for good or evil. It can be sinful or sinless. Godly anger, often referred to as righteous indignation, is a God-created emotion to cause us to act. The action can be to right a wrong or defend ourselves or someone else.
When should we get angry? When God’s Word and will are knowingly disobeyed (God got angry at Solomon when he let his wives lead him into idolatry I Kings 11:9). When God’s enemies assume positions of jurisdiction outside their rights (God at the nations for trying to destroy Israel , Isa 5:22 -23; Saul at God’s enemies (I Sam 11:6). When children or others are taken advantage of or dealt with unfairly (Nehemiah at unjust oppression which results in children being harmed, Elihu at the 3 men who criticized Job, Jonathan at his father Saul for trying to kill David).
B. SINFUL ANGER
Then how can we tell when anger is sinful? The difference between righteous indignation and sinful anger beings with the source – the underlying emotion. WHY are we angry? Anger is sinful and wrong when it is a response to the following:
1. HURT, PAIN. When you hit your finger with a hammer you get angry. Why show anger when you feel pain? Because anger is an easier emotion to deal with. We cover pain with anger to mask the pain. When some Jews rejected the disciples they wanted to have fire consume the people. They were rejected and hurt but instead of recognizing and working through their hurt they responded in anger. Sinful anger is often used to punish others.
2. FRUSTRATED DESIRES, NOT GETTING OWN WAY. When another driver cuts us off or we get passed over for a promotion at work we often respond in anger. Our pride is hurt. We can see this in Cain killing Able because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God but his wasn’t. This was behind the anger of the older brother for the prodigal. Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s friends into the fire because they didn’t worship him. Darius put Daniel in the lion’s den for the same reason, and Harman built a gallows for Mordecai for this reason. That’s why Ahab had Naboth killed. Sinful anger is often used to control others.
3. FEAR, INSECURITY, FEELING THREATENED. When we fail at something, lose our job or have someone show us where we are wrong, we often respond in anger. Saul was insecure because the people liked David more than him so he tried to kill David. Pharaoh was afraid of Moses’ power. Jonah resented Ninevah as a military force which could destroy Israel. Thus we see that sinful anger is often used to protect myself.
Every time you start to get angry, ask yourself which of these are the underlying reason . If none, then consider righteous indignation. This will cause your mind to control you emotions instead of letting your emotions lead the way. It will also alert you to what you should be dealing with: pain, pride, fear, etc.
To make sure you understand this, take the test below. Write behind each example what kind of anger it was. For sinful anger also include the underlying root that caused the anger.
1. Jews try to kill Stephen when he shows they are wrong for killing Jesus.
2. Ahasuerus banishes Vashti because she won’t do an immoral dance for his company.
3. Jeremiah is angry at the Jews for rejecting God and His law.
4. Peter cuts off a servant’s ear when trying to arrest Jesus.
5. Paul condemns evildoers and occultists.
6. Balaam beats his donkey for knocking his foot against a rock.
7. God gets angry at Sodom and Gomorrah.
8. Haman tries to hang Mordecai because he doesn’t bow down to him.
9. Jesus is angry at those who practice false doctrine and distort the gospel (Rev. 2-3).
10. Herod kills all the baby boys in Bethlehem.
11. Job gets upset at his 3 friends for saying his suffering is the result of his sin.
12. Saul gets angry at his son Jonathan for siding with David.
13. Simeon and Levi kill a town of Gentiles after one of them rapes their sister Dinah.
14. Namaan refuses to wash in the muddy Jordan river to be cured from leprosy.
15. Moses hits the rock twice instead of speaking to it when the people demand water.
16. Jonah gets very upset when the gourd providing his shade withers and dies.
17. Herod gets angry at the wise men who don’t return to him but return by another way.
18. God at unbelievers at the final judgment.
19. Moses when he broke the 10 commandment tablets over the Jews’ sin.
20. The Jews who wanted to kill Jesus.
ANSWERS : 1. Sinful #3; 2. Sinful #2; 3. Righteous Indig .; 4. Sinful #3; 5. Righteous Indig .; 6. Sinful #1; 7. Righteous Indig .; 8. Sinful #2; 9. Righteous Indig .; 10. Sinful #3; 11. Righteous Indig .; 12. Sinful #3; 13. Sinful #1; 14. Sinful #2; 15. Sinful #2; 16. Sinful #1 or #2; 17. Sinful #2 or #3; 18. Righteous Indig .; 19. Sinful #1 or Righteous Indig .; 20. Sinful #3.
VI. CURE FOR ANGER
We’ll talk about this in more detail in the last article, but the cure is threefold: 1) Admit your anger; 2) Find out what you’re really angry about, and 3) Come up with a plan of action. I recommend carrying a paper and pencil around for a few weeks so you can write down every time you get angry the reason for it, as you did above with the Bible examples. This will help you see it coming and be able to better handle the root emotion before it turns to anger.
VII. CONTROL OF ANGER
A close relationship with Jesus, daily time with Him in prayer and Bible reading, are essential to have victory over anger – or anything else for that matter. As we allow His Spirit to fill us and empower us we will have His strength and help to be more like Jesus. Then when we do experience righteous indignation it won’t turn to sinful anger for we will have the fruit of self control (like when Jesus, in His anger, stopped to braid a whip before chasing the money changers from the temple (John 2:15).
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
2. THE CAUSE OF CHILDHOOD ANGER ⇑
Ann and Ted had about given up hope. They were frustrated beyond their control by the activities of their 10 year old son Josh. “We can’t control him,” Ann told the counselor. “He is determined to have his own way. We’re embarrassed by how he talks to us. He disrupts the whole class at school. He doesn’t seem to be able to get along with anyone for very long. His teacher suggested medication to control his behavior. We’ve tried disciplining him but he gets so angry that it frightens us. We feel like we have totally failed as parents. Who knows what will happen to him when he gets older?”
What was Josh’s problem? What could his parents do to help him and bring peace to their family? The solution lies in understanding the cause – seeing what the real problem really is. We don’t want to just cover over symptoms but get to the real cause. If not other, worse symptoms will replace the ones we so laboriously worked on.
I. PARENT’S RESPONSIBILITY
A. DON’T WOUND THEIR SPIRIT
The picture of the stairs below shows the development of rebellion in a child. Understanding this progression is important. The cause as well as the cure is found in the first step, not in the others above it. Step 1 = a wounded spirit (hurt). Step 2 = bitterness follows Step 3 = anger Step 4 = stubbornness Step 5 = rebellion.
Hurt and pain is the first step in most rebellion. The only other reason is a free will choice to rebel. As we saw in the first article, PAIN is a major cause of sinful anger. When a child experiences a lot of hurt from his parents, whether it is real or perceived, it will wound his spirit (Prov 18:14). This hurt is the seed that germinates and grows into a root of bitterness (Heb. 12:15).
Unforgiveness then results unless the child forgives (Luke 17:3) or “overlooks” the sin (Prov 19:11; I Pt. 4:8). He rehearses the offense in his mind, reviewing it over and over again. This turns the original hurt into bitterness (Heb. 12:15). Love does not keep a record of wrongs (I Cor 13:5) but bitterness does!
Anger then becomes characteristic of the child’s personality. Parents are told to “not provoke your children to anger” (Eph. 6:4). We are to be careful to not hurt their spirits so this does not happen. This doesn’t mean we don’t discipline them, but we must do it in love.
Resistance (insubordination, ) is the acting out of the inner anger. The Bible says this is sin (I Sam 15:23). The picture is a heifer pushing her front hooves into the ground to counteract her master who is trying to push or pull her forward.
Rebellious behavior is the final step. The bible says rebellion is as bad as witchcraft (I Sam 15:23). Proverbs uses the term “fool” to identify this person and describes him as someone who despises wisdom and instruction (1:7; 17:16), hates knowledge (1:22), grieves his parents (10:1; 17:25), enjoys devising mischief (10:23), is right in his own eyes (12:15), is quick to anger (12:16; 29:11) and makes others angry (18:6), is full of evil (13:19), deceitful (145:8), arrogant and careless (14:16), rejects his parent’s instruction (15:5, 20) and is quarrelsome and contentious (20:3).
An example of this is seen in Dylan Klebold, one of the ones who killed the teens at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado this past April. Many knew him as a loving, caring young man who was kind to younger children. He came from a fine, loving family. What turned him into a killer? Probably several things, but Rev. Marxhausen, who did his funeral, says this: “This is my theory. First part: Rage builds up over the years of being different and outcast and shamed. One of the stories about these two boys took place the year before with a certifiable senior bully. He started throwing ketchup packages at them in the dining hall, and he and his friends would say, ‘Why don’t you fags kiss? You guys are such sweethearts.’ This guy was an all-state wrestler in the heavy-weight division. Second part: These kids had a tremendous capacity to hide their anxiety. Their parents were not privy to it. Number three: Evil occurs incrementally. Fourth part: You get a plan. So you take some rage, some evil, and a plan, and somewhere they crossed over and got lost.” It all started with a deeply wounded spirit.
B. DON’T HAVE A CHILD-CENTERED HOME
The same things was true of Josh, although Ann and Ted, his parents, weren’t aware of it. They were actually contributing to Josh’s anger problem in ways they weren’t aware. You see, they had a child-centered home instead of a God-centered home.
A CHILD-CENTERED HOME revolves around the children. It is one in which a child believes and is allowed to behave as though the entire household, parents, siblings, and even pets exist for one purpose – to please him. In this home children interrupt adults when they are talking. They use manipulation and rebellion to get their own way. They influence family schedules (meal times, bedtimes, etc.). Their needs come before the needs of a spouse. They demand excessive time and attention from parents to the detriment of the other biblical responsibilities of the parents. They often escape the consequences of their sinful and irresponsible behavior. They are entertained and coddled, rather than disciplined, out of a bad mood. In effect, they are the dominate influence in the home.
A GOD-CENTERED HOME, on the other hand, focuses on a husband and wife who are one (Genesis 2:24) and the center of the home. Children are there temporarily and are not the central influence in the family. Children are taught to joyfully serve others and cheerfully obey parents the first time. They are not allowed to interrupt when parents are speaking and they know they will not always get their own way. They have input into family decisions but not necessarily an equal vote. They understand their parents have other responsibilities in addition to meeting their needs. They are allowed to suffer the natural consequences of their sinful and irresponsible behavior. They are taught to not see themselves as more important than everyone else and they have various household responsibilities (chores) to fulfill. They knew they are not to try to manipulate their parents, come between their parents, or turn their parents against each other.
When they understood this, Ann and Ted quickly realized that theirs was a child-centered home. This contributed to the anger in Josh by taking away his security and allowing him to be self-centered. He was learning to use his emotions, especially his anger, to get what he wanted. Ted and Ann learned other ways that they were provoking Josh to anger as well.
C. DON’T PROVOKE YOUR CHILD TO ANGER
Listed below are 25 common ways that parents can contribute to anger in a child by causing pain or hurt in them.
1. Lack of Marital Harmony (Gen 2:24; Heb 12:15) leads to many kinds of family problems, including one parent (usually the mother) using the children to meet her unmet needs for love and attention. When husband and wife don’t et along they take it out on the children or ignore the children. Children tend to think the parent’s problems are their fault. This causes many deep seated problems that can affect them their whole lives.
2. Establishing and Maintaining a Child-Centered Home (Prov 29:15), as stated before, teaches the child to think they come first and they become angry when their desires aren’t met.
3. Modeling Sinful Anger (Prov 22:24-25) teaches children to use anger to control, get back, or get their own way. They don’t learn to communicate well or get along with others.
4. Habitually Disciplining While Angry (Ps 38:1) usually means parents over discipline. Also, love isn’t shown. These can hurt a child. This ends up with more punishment than discipline.
5. Scolding (Eph 4:29; Mark 14:3-5) means talking in a critical, rejecting tone of voice. Things must be said, but in a natural tone of voice. If not the focus gets off the offense itself and onto the child. They feel rejected as a person. That hurt builds anger in them.
6. Being Inconsistent with Discipline (II Cor 1:17-18; Eccl 8:11) confuses and frustrates a child. Often parents have different standards, or one parent will fluctuate from day to day depending on their mood. This can get confusing to children and make them not try.
7. Having Double Standards (Phil 4:9) for yourself and your child can build bitterness and resentment in a child. Different standards between children can encourage anger in one, too.
8. Being Legalistic (Mt 15:8-9) means having rigid, inflexible standards that focus on punishment and fear instead of rewarding with encouragement. The focus is on external conformity, often using fear as a motivator. Sinful inner attitudes fester in their atmosphere.
9. Not Admitting You’re Wrong and Not Asking For Forgiveness (Mt 5:23-24; James 5:16) discourages children from communicating their real feelings with their parents. They feel their parents are too insensitive and proud to admit their mistakes. This unfairness can come out as resentment and anger. Children also lose respect for their parents and imitate their behavior.
10. Constantly Finding Fault (Job 32:2-3) discourages a child and breaks their spirit so they feel incapable of doing anything right. Their self confidence and self image fall. Feeling like a failure, they start acting like failures.
11. Parents Reversing God-Given Roles (Eph 5:22-24) leads to frustration among everyone. Husbands become embittered and lost respect for wives who are not loving and submissive, and wives do the same for husbands who do not manage their homes as God directs. Guilt and faultfinding follow. Children are confused and frustrated. They lack clear gender identity as they grow up, often not wanting to be like their same-sex parent. All this can frustrate children and provoke them to anger.
12. Not Listening to Your Child’s Opinion or Taking His or Her “Side of the Story” Seriously (Prov 18:3, 17) lets them feeling unheard and uncared about. You can’t let them manipulate you or try to deceive, but they must feel things are fair and just. Not listening communicates you aren’t interested in them as people with feelings of their own.
13. Comparing Them to Others (II Cor 10:12), favorably or unfavorably, can make them jealous or proud. Each one is different and individual and they shouldn’t learn to evaluate themselves by others. This hurt can often come out as anger.
14. Not Making Time “Just to Talk” (James 1:19; Eccl 3:7) so communication and understanding can grow and relationships can thrive, leave a child feeling unimportant and rejected. A close relationship with parents motivates them to want to obey and please parents.
15. Not Praising or Encouraging Your Child (Rev 2:2-4) discourages a child. Compliments motivates children to continue to do well. Praise won’t make them proud, just insecure. Withholding praise won’t keep them humble, just discouraged and insecure.
16. Failing to Keep Your Promises (Mt 5:37; Ps 15:4-5; Col 3:9) and commitments hurts children for they feel deceived and unimportant. Parents (and all others) are seen as undependable, unreliable and deceitful. Anger may intensity proportionately.
17. Chastening in Front of Others (Mt 18:15) embarrasses and belittles a child. Instead of learning to do better next time, the hurt of criticism before others can easily turn to anger.
18. Not Allowing Enough Freedom (James 3:17; Luke 12:48) shows distrust and oppression. When freedoms are earned and deserved by faithful and obedient behavior, withholding these justified privileges can bring resentment. Often parents withhold freedoms because of their own fears. This will just build fear or rebellion into a child.
19. Allowing Too Much Freedom (Prov 29:15; Gal 4:1-2) is also a problem. Children must learn responsibility and consequences of sin. Too much freedom, too, can make them insecure. Children need to know boundaries are set. That makes them feel secure.
20. Mocking Your Child (Job 17:1-2) with critical words or in a tone of voice that communicates ridicule defeats and discourages a child. This hurt, too, can easily turn to anger.
21. Abusing Them Physically (I Tim 3:3; Num 22:27-29) or verbally puts much pain into a child, and if not correctly handled this is the seed bed of anger.
22. Ridiculing or Name Calling (Eph 4:29) is ungodly behavior for anyone, especially for a parent whose job is to build up a child. Mature conversation explains what is wrong and how things should be handled. Ridicule just makes the whole child feel rejected and hurt.
23. Unrealistic Expectations (I Cor 13:11) set perfectionistic standards for children. They feel they will never meet them so become discouraged and quit. Bitterness can result. Remember that all children mature at different rates. Growth takes time. Children will fail at times. Since they are sinners their sin nature will sometimes come through. Work to develop inner character, not just outer conformity.
24. Practicing Favoritism (Luke 15:25-30; Joseph) communicates rejection and builds jealousy and anger into a child. All children are different and can’t always be treated exactly the same, but each must know they are being treated fairly and with justice by parents who love them and want what is best for them in the long run.
25. Child Training with Worldly Methodologies Inconsistent with God’s Word (Eph 6:4) will not produce godly results. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4). The world’s ideas and changing philosophies just frustrate and confuse. They don’t meet a child’s needs as God designed them to be met.
D. REPENTING FROM PROVOKING A CHILD TO ANGER
What should you do if you realize you have been doing one or more of these things and therefore contributing to the anger in your child?
1. IDENTIFY the specific ways you have been provoking your child to anger (Eph 6:4)
2. CONFESS these sins to God (I John 1:9)
3. ASK your child’s forgiveness for your sins against him (Acts 24:16)
4. DEVELOP a plan with your child’s assistance to replace those sinful behaviors with their biblical alternatives (Prov 28:13)
5. CONSIDER specific ways you can provoke your children to love and good works (Heb 10:24)
But what about a child’s responsibility? Is it all and always a parent’s fault for anger in a child? What does God say to children and teens about their responsibility?
II. CHILDREN’S & TEEN’S RESPONSIBILITY
Ephesians 6:1- 5 Children , obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”-which is the first commandment with a promise- 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
A. WHEN PARENTS ARE RIGHT
Refers to those under a parent’s authority, including teens/young adults who still live at home.
SONS in Bible times were considered a man at 13 when they had their Bar Mitzva , but were under their parent’s authority until they left home and supported themselves financially.
DAUGHTERS in Bible times were under their parents until married, then under husband.
TEENS are included in this. They, too, are to obey their parents. It’s important to seek God’s wisdom to discern what is sinful rebellion, what is natural and necessary pulling away from parental control, and what is a result of hormonal changes going on. Being sensitive to this makes a big difference in how the behavior is handled. It is important to start treating teens like adults, even if they don’t act like an adult. Treating them like children causes pain and often instant anger outbreaks. They aren’t mature enough to rationally tell a parent how it affects them when we talk to them or treat them like children, they just react in anger. We are the mature ones who must realize and adjust to this.
This is a quote of the 5th commandment (Ex 20:12). It is commanded because it is a free will choice of the child/teen if they will follow this command or not. Just because they have accepted Jesus as Savior doesn’t mean they have submitted to His Lordship over their life. When they are carnal, living to please their flesh instead of living by the indwelling power of God’s Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:4) they won’t want to obey. Anger and rebellion may be their own free will choice, no matter how well the parents raise them. Eventually God will bring them back (Prov. 22:6) but they have as much free will to sin as an adult.
“Obey” is the outer act, but “honor” is the inner attitude that should be behind the obedience. Its the difference between true spirituality and hypocrisy.
3. “THIS IS RIGHT”
God considered this so right that He prescribed the death penalty for youth who broke it. Those who cursed or struck their parents were to be stoned to death (Ex. 21:17; Lev 20:9; Dt. 27:16; Prov 20:20; Mt 11:4). The obstinately disobedient were to be killed, too ( Dt 21:18).
4. “ENJOY A LONG LIFE”
This is the promise, the reward of keeping the above command. Good consequences flow from living life God’s way. He made us and knows what works best! He blesses obedience.
B. WHEN PARENTS SEEM WRONG
First, children and teens must be careful about making any judgments. Maybe they aren’t wrong, but have some insight children and teens aren’t aware of. Teens cannot judge parent’s motives: “They just want to make me miserable!” They don’t like parents judging their motives.
Teens, give your parents the right to be wrong. Don’t expect them to be perfect. You don’t want them to expect you to be perfect. No one is perfect. God is still working on parents as He is still working on children. Parent’s aren’t perfect. It’s a new experience for them, too.
Teens, don’t ever confront your parents in the midst of emotion. Wait until you and they have cooled off. Things said in emotion just make matters worse, not better. When you do talk, avoid accusations. Say, “When you _____ it makes me feel ____ _ .” That is a true statement. Don’t say “You don’t care!” to your parents.
Children and teens can be the first to respond to our parents in love. Be the first to forgive. It takes two to fight. Be more concerned about the relationship than who is right.
Ann and Ted have learned that much of Josh’s anger was caused by other problems in the family which affected him in ways they weren’t aware. They started working on those things in their own lives and marriage. They also worked to eliminate the issues that were causing hurt in Josh in addition to talking about and healing over past hurts. He did have to realize that he had his own free will in letting anger control him and started taking responsibility for that. Because of this, things started improving for Ann, Ted and Josh.
3. THE CURE FOR CHILDHOOD ANGER ⇑
We met Ted and Ann in the last article. They were having major troubles with Josh, whose anger was out of control. They learned to stop behavior on their part which was causing him hurt, for that was coming out as anger. One of their first steps was to learn how to correctly discipline him for his anger outbursts. That is an important part to the cure of childhood anger.
I. WHY TO DISCIPLINE CHILDREN
A. CHILDREN NEED IT
It isn’t uncommon for a strong-willed woman to marry a weak man whom she can control. But then when she does control him she loses respect for him. She’ll fight his every attempt to assert himself, but secretly, inside, she wants and needs to have him be strong enough to control her because she can’t control herself. She feels insecure when she is in control and will only find peace when He gains control. This same principle applies to strong willed children. They will fight their parents all the way, but without really realizing it inside know they need restraint. When they can get away with things or manipulate their parent they loose respect for their parent. They are insecure when they are in control but will respect a parent who consistently disciplines them in love according to Biblical principles.
B. THE BIBLE COMMANDS IT
God Himself commands parents to discipline their children: Titus 1:6; I timothy 3:4-5; Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 29:15; 23:13-14; 29:17.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) This verse outlines a parent’s basic responsibilities.
Do not exasperate was covered in the last article about how we as parents can cause children to become angry.
Bring them up in the TRAINING of the Lord refers to correction when wrong – discipline
Bring them up in the INSTRUCTION of the Lord refers to teaching to show the right way. This is more than just putting the right answers into their minds. It really refers to helping this knowledge become part of their everyday life. It is not just teaching a skill but developing a godly habit. This training builds self-discipline into a child so they can be the mature adult God wants them to be (I Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 5:13-14).
II. HOW TO DISCIPLINE CHILDREN
A. BE FILLED WITH GOD’S SPIRIT
The first rule for teaching a parakeet to talk is that you must have a larger vocabulary than the parakeet. The first rule for disciplining children is that you must have more discipline than the child. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23) It is important to be growing spiritually in our own lives and be filled with God’s Spirit. That’s the only way we can have victory over our own anger and help our children to have victory over theirs.
B. BE FIRM BUT LOVING
As parents we are responsible for training our children. Unfortunately our own weaknesses and past experiences greatly influence how we do this. Disciplining children isn’t as easy as it seemed before we had children!
Parents fall into one of the following categories. Perfectionistic parents communicate to their children that nothing is ever quite good enough, that they fail no matter how well they do. Rejecting parents wish they never had the child and children can pick that up no matter how they try to hide it. The child feels unwanted and insecure. Overprotective parents have a hard time letting go and therefore do too much for their children for too long. Children feel helpless and inadequate on their own, they become dependent on others doing things for them. Overindulgent parents, on the other hand, give too many things to their parents and spoil them so they become selfish and demanding. Overpermissive parents establish a free environment with few rules and expectations. They are often more concerned with having the child love them than with doing what is right for the child. These children grow up insecure, have anger problems because they are used to getting their own way, and have a hard time adapting to others later in life. Severe parents are harsh and excessive in their punishment and build a lot of fear and guilt into their children. They will either rebel or be crushed for the rest of their lives. Inconsistent parents shift from one degree to another with no logical rationale. This confuses children, who learn to manipulate to get the easier rules. Loving and firm parents have clearly defined rules, limits and standards for living. They show unconditional love no matter what. Their discipline is healthy, balanced and consistent. This is the family where children mature into healthy adults. These children learn proper ways of handling their anger. This is the goal for all godly parents.
Ted and Ann found the parenting style that best described themselves, then came up with the steps they needed to take to become more consistent but loving in their discipline.
C. DON’T BE MANIPULATED
Children can become master manipulators of their parents. Josh manipulated his parents with the treat of extreme anger. Using that he could get them to back off or give in whenever he wanted. Ann and Ted had to learn what he was doing and why, and then to make sure he didn’t manipulate them. There are many ways in which a child can manipulate his parents, and most parents aren’t aware of them.
D. DISCIPLINE, DON’T PUNISH
There is a major difference between discipline and punishment. When Ted and Ann realized that they were really trying to punish Josh for the misery he was causing them instead of disciplining him to help him mature, things started to change. They were able to stop causing more and more hurt in him (which came out in anger) when they stopped punishing. The chart below shows the difference between punishment and discipline.
|SINLESS ANGER(RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION)||SINFUL ANGER(CARNAL HOSTILITY)||Heb 12:10; Isa 13:11|
|Direction||Toward sin itself||Toward anything or anyone that upsets us||Ps 7:11 Gal 5:19 -21|
|Purpose||To right a wrong, change in future, bring maturity||To gain revenge, protect self, inflict a penalty||Rom 12:17-21|
|Attitude||Love and concern for child||Anger, hostility, frustration||I Cor 13:4-7 Lam 3:33|
|Method||Slow and controlled||Rapid and impulsive||Ja 1:19-21 Prov 16:32|
|Physical||Controlled Spanking on the buttocks done in love, ages 2 to preadolescence||Abuse: hit, kick, slap, done with violence and anger to any age child||Prov 13:24 ; 22:15 ; 29:15; 23:13-14|
|Result||Increased respect for parent, security & love||Increased hostility to parent; fear, guilt and anger||Prov 15:1 Eph 6:4|
|Result in parent||Satisfaction for Christian concern||Relief from releasing hostility, then guilt over losing temper|
E. USE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES
Use of natural consequences is the way God usually deals with His children, and therefore is a good way for us to deal with ours. If we neglect our health, break a law of government, or go against God’s moral principles, there are consequences to pay. This is a major detriment to breaking these rules. Letting children suffer the natural consequences of their actions (or lack of action) is a good way of having them learn. It certainly is better than nagging, bribing, threatening . Life won’t nag, bribe, threaten or bail your child out when he is grown. Get them used to that now. As parents, we want to spare them pain and we don’t want to feel we are not doing a good job as parents, so we protect them from the natural consequences of their actions.
If a child doesn’t save money don’t lend him any for a special need. If they aren’t treating others nicely separate them where they are alone. If they break or lose something they must pay for it. If they don’t come home on time, next time they aren’t allowed out. If they don’t do their chores or school work, they shouldn’t eat until done. God Himself sets up this principle in II Thessalonians 3:10: For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
F. “WHAT WOULD GOD DO?”
Never withhold love as discipline, for that is just punishment. It communicates conditional love to a child, makes them insecure and fearful, and lets them think God is that way, too. A parent must be like God in how they treat their child, for they are building a trust or distrust of God into their children as they grow. Parents are in the role of God when a child is young. They are all-powerful, all-knowing, in sovereign control and the child is totally dependent on them. As they grow older they will see God in the same light. We are teaching them what God is like by how we treat them when young. That’s why consistent, loving discipline is so important – that’s how God is.
Remember, discipline shows love. God says His love for us is proven in that He disciplines us. We, too, must show this aspect of God’s character by disciplining our children in the same way. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:7-11)
Remember, too, that while God disciplines His children He promises us that He will never punish us (Romans 8:1) for Jesus took our punishment on the cross.
F. GET TO THE ROOT, DON’T TREAT SYMPTOMS
Ted and Ann learned they had to get to the root of Josh’s problem and not just try to deal with the expressions of anger. This is true of any form of anger, but especially true when a child shows that aggression in a passive way.
What if you think you are dealing with passive aggressive behavior? How is a parent to handle that? First, make sure if it is really passive aggressive behavior. Look for the reason behind what the child does.
Passive aggressive behavior does not make sense. A smart child gets poor grades. An older child starts wetting the bed at night. Despite everything a parent does, a child’s room seems to get more and more of a mess. A child is always late, always forgetting things, seemingly unknowingly doing little things that have major consequences for others, etc. If you suspect passive aggressive behavior as yourself if this could be the child’s way of getting back at others because of hurt inside. If pain can’t come out any other way, a child will release it in anger that seems to be ‘covered over’ so he won’t get in trouble for being angry. Does this child talk about his inner hurts? Is he free to share his anger verbally when he feels angry? If the answer is no to either or both of these, he could be keeping his anger inside and getting back at the world in other ways.
A child must be allowed to feel and experience his inner anger to get out of passive aggression. Allow, even encourage them to express their hurt and anger verbally. As the Anger Ladder shows, even acts of violence are preferable to passive aggressive behavior for they at least allow the anger out where it can be recognized and dealt with.
Make sure your child’s emotional love tank is always full of unconditional love so they feel secure and important. Set an example of a mature way to handle your anger and emotions. Don’t make them afraid to express anger verbally or in behavior. Don’t force them to bottle it up inside. Allow them an outlet for it. Physical activity every day can be very helpful for this, too. The goal is not suppression of anger but Spirit control over that anger.
G. BE CONSISTENT
Inconsistency in discipline confuses and angers a child. One form of inconsistency is when parents differ, or a parent changes from day to day. These have been discussed already. Another form of inconsistency is when parents treat various children within a family differently.
Often there is a difference in how boys and girls are treated in the same family. Read the following carefully, seeing if any of it may apply to you.
Many mothers feel uncomfortable with sons, anticipating problems because of past experiences in relationships with men. Others favor boys because they don’t feel competitive with them and hope they will fulfill their dreams. Its not unusual for mothers to identify with their daughters because they are more like themselves.
Dads may prefer daughters and be more lenient with them because they feel free to be more affectionate with them than with their sons. Men sometimes have a hard time dealing with replicas of themselves as their sons age. Others find it easier to get close to a son because they empathize more easily with a male. Then, too, they may count on his achievements to provide them with more satisfaction than they derived from their own.
Studies show that most families favor boys over girls. Male children are often taken more seriously and their success assumes more importance than that of his sister’s.
III. WHEN TO DISCIPLINE CHILDREN
Knowing what to expect from a child is important. Often parents are harder on first born children because they tend to expect more. Ted and Ann never knew if they were expecting too much from Josh, and that made it easier for them to let him get away with things. Following are some guidelines for discipline at various ages:
Birth to 7 months: No direct discipline is necessary for this age, regardless of the child’s behavior. They can’t make a free-will decision to rebel in disobedience. Fear of pain can’t stop their negative behavior, either. They just need love, security and having their physical needs met. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything for them as soon as they demand it. that will create a fussy, self-centered baby.
8 to 14 months: At this age they start testing their parent’s authority, so be consistent and firm but loving. Use firm persistence, not punishment or spanking.
15 to 24 months: By this time they will fully realize their own age and have their own opinion. They will exercise their free will to rebel against some things, so be firm and loving but consistent and persistent in removing objects from their grasp, giving their hand a tap/slap and teaching them the meaning of “no.”
2 to 3 years: The “terrible two” bring full-blown rebellion as a child realizes he doesn’t have to do what he is told but instead can try and do what he wants. He realizes that satisfying his flesh is more fun than using self discipline to obey. Don’t get angry or get in a power struggle with them. Stay in control. Be firm, loving and consistent. Use sitting in the chair, standing in a corner, etc. Use spanking for overt, willful rebellion, but don’t spank in anger. Don’t spank for childish irresponsibility. Let them suffer the negative consequences of their actions first.
4 to 8 years: By this time they must start learning right attitudes and motives as well as correct outer actions. For some children this is simple and easy, for others more difficult or even almost impossible. Again, only use physical spanking for willful, overt rebellion.
9 to 12 years: Children should be having more freedom and less rules at this time. They need to work toward total independence when they are grown. Untie the apron strings!
TEEN YEARS: For detailed information on these years read my series of articles “Raising Godly Teenagers.”
Now Ted and Ann are on the way back to restoring peace and order in their home. They still have a lot of work to do, but they have turned the corner and can see progress. They are discovering that childhood anger can be cured.
4. THE CRUSH OF MALE ANGER ⇑
The quiet Saturday morning sounded like any other. The TV was on in the living room and a couple of lawnmowers could be heard in the neighbor’s yards. All of a sudden several gunshots sounded in the back yard. Running to the back door, a wife saw her husband standing over his smoking lawnmower, rifle in hand, firing every bullet it had into their new, expensive lawnmower. What was wrong? What caused such an outburst from a seemingly quiet, steady, self-controlled man? What would happen next?
Has this ever happened to you? Oh, maybe it wasn’t shooting a lawnmower. It could have been kicking a hole in a wall, putting a fist through a car windshield, a verbal attack on a loved one way out of proportion to what happened, or an uncharacteristically violent outburst out of the clear blue. Unfortunately, we can all identify with such an event. But what causes these things? What can we do to prevent them from happening again?
We’ve all seen the news reports of the quiet, withdrawn man who one day goes berserk and kills his family or fellow employees. We wonder, “What could cause a man to do something like that?” Yet at the same time we know, we most men have that hidden black beast of anger hidden down deep inside. Most of the time we can keep it hidden where no one sees it, but every once in a while it escapes and runs free — and it’s not a pretty sight to behold! What is it with men and anger? What is it with men and any kind of emotion?
Male anger. What is it? What causes it? What controls it? Why is it more prevalent today? We see the outward obvious forms of it: wife-beating, child abuse, sexual violence, rape, beatings, gang violence, etc. We also see a rise in displaced anger in men in compulsive/addictive behavior: increasing use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling and sex. The most difficult to recognize and identify, though, is suppressed and internalized anger. Most men stuff their anger inside and it implodes, devastating the man and his family — as well as his lawnmower! Until it explodes there is a slow but steady leak of the poison onto those around us: sarcasm, gossip, criticism, withdrawal, not reaching out in love, pointing out failures in another, keeping a mental record of other’s failures, etc.
I. CATEGORIES OF MALE ANGER
A. SINFUL ANGER
Men, as well as women, have various ways of handling anger. Most of the ways aren’t healthy. They usually include one of two extremes:
– BLOW UP – EXPLOSION – ventilation
– CLAM UP – IMPLOSION – Internalization
Many men today wish they could go back and remove the damage done but an outburst of the demon of anger. While often men have trouble with all emotions, especially compared to how comfortable and natural women are in expressing their emotions, it seems anger is the most troublesome. Some men allow it all out, shouting and raging, controlling others by making them afraid of their anger. Most men, though, are afraid of anger both in themselves and in others and so try to avoid it at all costs. As little boys we learned to hide anger, for it only brought greater anger and/or feelings of rejection from out mothers. We probably didn’t have a father who showed us a good, mature example of how to handle anger either. It always got us in trouble so we learned to stuff it.
Stuffing it, though, is like trying to deal with a live hand grenade by hiding it under your coat. Suppressed anger doesn’t go away. It simmers, then boils, and finally implodes, often devastating the man and his family. Emotional and/or physical health are ruined. Much of the physical ills and stress men deal with today is from hidden, unresolved, often unadmitted anger.
Hidden anger will come out. It will build to a blow up, or it will come out in a slow, steady stream of sarcasm, criticism and withdrawal. It may show itself in compulsive behavior such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, sex, overwork, etc. When you bury anger you don’t bury it dead, you bury it alive and it ferments and grows!
Examples abound of those who clamed up until eventually they blew up. Cain was the first. He kept his anger (really jealousy) at Able hidden until it blew up in a murder. Moses hid his anger , but it blew up when he struck the rock and couldn’t enter the land. Absalom let his hurt from his father turn into bitterness and then anger. He hid it until it exploded in a civil war which resulted in his death.
B. SINLESS ANGER
Of course, male anger can be a good thing when it is godly (righteous indignation). It can be a positive motivator (Eph 4:26a) to do what is necessary to protect and care for his family. Perhaps that is why God made anger to be such a powerful thing in a man – so he can use it to protect his family from danger. Unfortunately many men don’t have the emotional maturity necessary to control their anger and use it only to help, not hurt their families.
II. COST OF MALE ANGER
A. TO A MAN’S FAMILY
Male anger can be an awful thing – blow up or clam up, either way can be devastating to others in the family. Male anger can really hurt a wife and children. A woman needs to feel protected by her man, and male anger really threatens a woman’s physical and/or emotional security. Women are great responders, so an angry man brings out a negative response in her: anger or fear. Men have a hard time handling rejection, criticism, or any kind of emotional pain. Their natural response is to hurt back (blow up explosion or clam up withdrawal). Forty years after the Jews rejected Moses as leader (Acts 7:22-28; Ex 2:13-14) he still held a grudge against them (Ex 4:1). Moses didn’t forget or forgive. Male ego hurts go deep and last long.
Ask yourselves, men: why do you use anger to punish your wife? What form of anger do you usually use to get your own way or to hurt her back? What hurts her the most? How do you feel afterwards: better or worse?
Wives, keep a list of all the instances of your spouse’s angry outbursts and acts that you consider directed at you or the children for whatever reason. Look for root causes inside your husband. A pattern should develop which can help both of you to work toward ending these anger episodes.
B. TO THE MAN HIMSELF
Moses is an example of a man who hurt himself by his anger. He tried to hide his beast his whole life, but in the end it got him! We first see it when Moses killed the Egyptian who was hurting and Egyptian slave (Ex. 2). God put him in a desert for 40 years to learn self control.
When God appeared to him and told him to go lead the Jews out of Egypt Moses obeyed. He gave God’s message to Pharaoh. However we read that he was “furious” with Pharaoh after plague 9 ( Exodus 22). God brought about the Jew’s deliverance from Egypt with the death of the Egyptian firstborn (Ex 12), and then by opening the sea for the Jews to safely escape (Ex 14). The Jews traveled to Mt Sinai, defeating the Amalekites on the way (Ex 17). Through all of this Moses exercised exemplary self control, obeying God despite the criticism and complaining of the people. At Mt Sinai, though, when Moses was getting the 10 Commandments and rest of the law from God, the people built and worshipped a Golden Calf. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw this, the ugly monster of anger raised his head again. Moses broke the 10 Comm. (God made him write them himself the next time).
For the most part Moses was very humble (the most humble man ever – Num 12:3). He grew spiritually and mellowed. When the Jews rebelled and refused to enter the land because of the giants he was faithful. When they tried to kill him he was courageous. When he, too, had to wander for 40 years until the next generation had its chance to enter, he was patient. Finally the time came to enter the land, what Moses had wanted to do 80 years before!
The black beast of anger came out again, though, just before the Jews entered the land. They were out of water and complaining — “singing the desert blues” again. Once again Moses and Aaron took the problem to God who mercifully said He would provide water as Moses spoke to the large rock nearby (Num. 20:2-9). But instead of just speaking, Moses derided the people and took credit for what God was about to do (v. 10). Then he struck the rock twice in anger (v. 11). Publicly God kept His word and provided water, but privately He dealt with Moses and Aaron by telling them they could not enter the Promised Land ( v. 12-13). For God to do this shows that this obviously was no minor, one-time sin. It was the culmination of a life long pattern, 120 years of trying to control his anger but failing. Moses meekly accepts this discipline and only once asks God to remove it (Deut. 3:23-26) but the damage has been done.
III. CAUSE OF MALE ANGER
Men who are angry without knowing why almost always express it in ways that are unhealthy and destructive to themselves and others. This is “free-floating” anger because the anger is just under the surface ready for any excuse to come out. It is really impotent anger because the man is powerless to deal with his anger because he can’t identify its cause. This kind of anger tends to build up in men because they don’t understand it or know how to vent or diffuse it (by talking about it).
Very, very few men today grew up with a male image who knew how to handle anger correctly. Our male role models handled anger in a way that was destructive — either to those around them or to themselves. Thus we learn to either lash out violently or to stuff it and withdraw. As men we don’t have example of how to handle anger, and we become afraid of it. As Christians we think we are never to feel anger so we stuff it down harder. We fear losing control of ourselves if we recognize it. We think we will be rejected for even honestly admitting it. We figure if somehow we were a better father or husband or Christian or employee others wouldn’t do things to make us angry. All this nails the lid tighter and tighter on our anger until it all of a sudden explodes.
Other causes of male anger include:
1. SOCIAL IMMATURITY. Men feel expression of feelings in interpersonal contexts as socially undesirable and haven’t developed social skills to help them relieve the pressure of the anger inside.
2. LACK OF CONTROL. Often he is critical of those in authority over him (boss, pastor, Gov.). He need to be in final control.
3. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. When expect self and others to be perfect get angry at their failure. It is hard to accept ones limitations and the limitations of others.
4. LOW SELF WORTH. Poor self image builds anger inside. When insults or undue criticism or any failure comes he can’t handle it. When men with this problem show inappropriate anger it seem to help for others stop criticizing and he feels justified in his explosion.
5. INCOMPETENCE. Another source of masculine anger is a man’s sense that he is ill-equipped or unable to do what is expected of him. This comes from his failure to live up to the cultural masculine imperatives: strength, success, financial security, sexual prowess, etc. When their wives want them to be more affectionate, talk about feelings, or take the initiative in relationships it increases this.
6. GUILT. When an angry man hurts his wife he feels guilty but his pride won’t let him apologize – he can’t admit to himself or others he failed and is wrong. Men have difficulty forgiving themselves. They act like they don’t care but really do and can’t show it.
7. FEAR. Men are afraid of not measuring up to parental expectations, career requirements, or personal goals. They are afraid others will be in control of their lives. They are afraid of failing in their work, in their marriages, in their sexual function, and in their faith. They are afraid of dying and afraid they won’t be missed once they do.
8. FAILURE. Men feel “If only I would have ____ then I wouldn’t have failed.” They see no reason or grace to allow for failure. Especially hard is sexual failure. Failing at lovemaking is tantamount to failing at life. A dissatisfied or angry woman makes a man feel less than masculine and terrifies him. He has been taught that if his woman is unhappy he isn’t masculine enough. He tries to be even more masculine, and sometimes that means showing more anger than her!
9. ROLE CONFUSION. When woman works, especially when her money is needed, it is hard on male ego. If they aren’t the bread-winner in the family, then what are they? That is such an important role they often don’t see any other major contribution.
10. LOSSES. Men have difficulty coping with losses because they are conditioned to hit it big and win in every arena in life. This comes out as anger.
IV. CURE FOR MALE ANGER
A. ADMIT IT, FIND ROOT CAUSE
The first step in correctly handling anger is to admit it, identify it. Ignoring it or stuffing it will never ever help. In the short run it will explode when unexpected, in the long run it will contribute to stress, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, etc. This contributes to men having a suicide rate 3 times that of women. First, anger must be correctly labeled.
Then the root cause of the anger must be honestly sought. Anger is a secondary emotion which substitutes for a primary emotion that is harder to handle — like pain, rejection, or not getting our own way. Notice closely and you’ll see all sinful anger comes from some kind of hurt or rejection (which is pain, also). The sooner you can recognize the inner hurt and handle it the quicker you can diffuse the anger that masks the real problem. The only way to keep the hurt from turning into anger is to forgive the one who caused the pain. Without forgiveness the hurt will remain, and anger will come.
While doing this watch the big enemy of honestly confronting your anger — fear. Fear of rejection, failure, losing control, having to face the hurt, not being a ‘man,’ etc., keep us from honestly facing our anger and hurt.
The key word to handling anger is HONESTY. Be honest with yourself and God about what is going on. Then you must be honest with the person causing the hurt/anger. This must be done in love, not to hurt back. It must be done with wisdom and patience. Usually it is good to say something to the person causing the hurt – but not always so they hear it. Pretend they are there and tell them how they have hurt you, not in a way to hurt back but to get it out of yourself. Writing it down is also good. Again, it isn’t necessary to give what you write to the person. Often getting it out of you honestly is more important than the other person hearing it, unless you think God really wants them to hear/read it. Pray first before speaking.
B. FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE
We can’t ignore anger, nor deny it. In fact, there is a time to get angry and it is commanded of us (Ephesians 4:26a). It must be handled, though, and not allowed to remain for long (Eph 4:26b). We must control it, and not it control us, as evidenced by Jesus braiding a whip in his anger before chasing the money changers out of the temple (John 2:15). Ask yourself: “How would Jesus handle this anger” and then do the same thing.
I think the key to handling anger in yourself or others is to realize that anger is a secondary emotion, always a result of hurt of pain. It is a wrong, immature way of responding to hurt, for pain must be admitted and felt, then taken to Jesus to have it removed. Anger seeks to remove pain by transferring pain back to the one we feel hurt us. We know anger doesn’t really do that, but we keep on trying just the same. To be free from anger, forgive the hurt! To respond to an angry woman, find out what hurt her. Apologize if necessary, reassure her, and do what you can to remove the hurt and increase her trust in you. Ask God to remove your own fear of anger, both in yourself and in others. Anger is an emotion, a very strong one. Still, the beast can only be tamed by your mind: by understanding it and what causes it, by doing what is necessary to correct or prevent it, and by regularly taking it to God in prayer. It isn’t a beast that we need hide and fear. It doesn’t have to come take control of us periodically. It doesn’t have to live inside. It can be killed — by the blood of Jesus. Only in Him can we be free from that demon, but that freedom is available and its easier than we may think. Face and defeat it with Jesus’ help, but don’t put that off. Who knows when it will next try to attack!
CONCLUSION So , if you see inside yourself the potential to shoot your lawnmower one day, follow these steps and gain victory over your anger. If not it’ll shoot something more than the lawnmower, it’ll shoot you!
HOW CAN A WIFE HELP HER ANGRY HUSBAND?
1. Be his friend, not his mother. He doesn’t need a mother but a friend who will treat him and insist on being treated by him as an equal. You can’t live for him. You can encourage him in his problem-solving but not try to solve his problems for him.
2. Appreciate him, don’t nag him. Especially don’t nag about things that make him feel like a failure, like his ability to provide for his family. Tell him you appreciate what he does do. Be content.
3. Affirm him, don’t criticize him. Affirm him for what he is and what he does. Compliment him for his good points. Make sure he knows you love him for who and what he is, not just what he does.
4. Give him space, don’t crowd. No one likes to be pushed or controlled, especially men. Men are intimidated when their women can’t accept them the way they are. Let him know you’re satisfied and available to listen, then back off to pray and wait. Pushing him may cause him to make some exterior changes to get you off his back, or it may cause an explosion at you.
5. Give him time, don’t rush him. His anger built over years, even decades. It won’t go away overnight.
6. Hold him responsible, don’t be co-dependent. Don’t cover up for his anger or bail him out when it gets him into trouble. That doesn’t stop the problem it just keeps him from facing and doing something about it. He must face the consequences of his own actions.
7. Give to him, don’t withhold from him. Don’t leave him (except for your own or your child’s safety). Love, forgive and support him. Don’t put up walls. He needs your friendship, not your judgment. An angry man needs to know that his wife is on his side & loves him no matter what.
5. THE CURSE OF FEMALE ANGER ⇑
A recent “Rose is Rose” cartoon pictures Rose storming out of the room while her husband follows, asking “Is it about a person, a place or a thing? Is it larger than a breadbox?” Without answering Rose leaves and slams the door. Their son says, “What’s the game called?” Dan answers: “It’s called ‘What are you angry about?’ and you’re too young to play!” While there really isn’t anything funny about this ‘humor,’ it does strike a familiar cord in all of us. Often we as husbands don’t know what we’ve done wrong until our wives are upset, and even then we often don’t realize what it was we did (or didn’t do). the TV show Home Improvements is a good example of this. As the show reveals, women often are upset for justifiable reasons. If men would better understand them a lot of heartache would be avoided.
I. CAUSE OF FEMALE ANGER
A. UNMET NEEDS
Moses and Zipporah had anger problems. Moses obeyed God and headed to Egypt with his family (Ex. 4:20-23), but one night God struck Moses down and was about to kill him (v. 24)! Doesn’t that seem strange? Moses is finally obeying God and doing what He wants, but God is about to remove him? Moses seems unable to do anything, but he obviously knows what God is righteously indignant about and has Zipporah correct the omission. At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) (Exodus 4:24-26)
Because of his continual, willful disobedience God was about to take Moses’ life. Why else would God hold him so accountable? Moses obviously knew what the sin was — he hadn’t circumcised his youngest son (who was anywhere from a young boy to an adult). This is the sin unto death (I John 5:16), where God removes a believer in sin to keep his sin and it’s influence from growing. He did this with Saul, Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5), Corinthian believers (I Cor 11:27-32), and others. Satan wants Moses to disobey and die, but God is giving Moses a last chance.
“YOU BLOODY JERK!” Why hadn’t Moses circumcised his second son? It seems Zipporah is really against it! She has to do it now, for it was customary believe then that to deny a dying request would bring a curse on her. It is obvious she doesn’t want to do it, though. She threw it at his feet (better translation than “touched” his feet), called him a “bloody bridegroom,” took her sons and left. Instead of following her and being with his family, Moses followed God to Egypt. God provided Moses’ brother, Aaron, as companionship for Moses (Ex. 4:27f). Still, this event ended their marriage. Zipporah’s father tried a reconciliation a year later but it totally failed. Moses’ price in obeying God is the loss of his family – both wife and sons. Later on God would provide a godly, faithful wife for Moses (Num. 12:1).
WHY ZIPPORAH GOT ANGRY. What happened to Moses and Zipporah ? At first it seems to be all her fault for not submitting, and she is accountable for that, but it isn’t that simple. Marriage problems never are. It seems Zipporah did go along with Moses in the beginning, for she had their first son circumcised. Now she has had it with Moses. The circumcision on top of moving their family hundreds of miles from home is more than she can take. Why? Well, we know she is the firstborn in her family (the oldest had to marry first – Ex 4:21), typically a strong, determined, independent type person. Moses, a third-born, would have been more a natural follower. Also, Moses seems to have been gone from home a lot with the sheep, leaving her to take care of the home and children. That can bother a woman, and rightly so. Then when the husband comes in and says they are moving from all she knew it gets too much. Her family and friends were where she turned to have her needs met, for it doesn’t seem Moses was meeting them. Now he expects her to leave them. This sets her up inside for an explosion. The circumcision was the spark. Perhaps she wasn’t as spiritually attuned as Moses, and resented him imposing his beliefs on their sons. Maybe it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Whatever, the scene on the way to Egypt was set up by years of unmet needs.
Isn’t uncommon for an easy-going man to find he has a upset woman on his hands. Abraham had that with Sarah (he didn’t meet her needs for security and protection), as did Isaac and Jacob with their wives. As with them, this is often a pattern passed on down from generation to generation. Following the pattern they grow up with, a girl wants a husband who won’t boss or dominate her and a boy wants a wife who will be like his mother and not demand him to take care of all of life’s little problems and headaches. More about this later.
B. AFRAID TO TRUST MAN
From little on up boys dominate girls by their physical strength and ‘warrior’ manner. Girls can’t dominate men in the physical realm so they find another way to gain control. While boys are more developed physically, girls soon find that they are more developed emotionally. They quickly learn to use their emotions to control males. Tears are one way. Guilt is another. Perhaps the strongest, most effective emotional manipulator, however, is anger. Little boys grow up fearing their mother’s anger for they are helpless against it. The rejection and insecurity it causes makes them want to do anything to avoid it. Mothers, who have learned to use anger to control their husbands, soon learn they can also use anger to control their sons.
When that little boy grows up and marries he has already been programmed to dread an angry woman. It brings out all the bad little boy feelings in him. He is helpless before it. His wife is able to have the last say, to have her own way, by the use (or just the threat) of her anger. Large men shrivel in the face of an angry woman!
Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff,” when asked by his wife what was the only thing of which he was afraid, answered, “You!” Unfortunately here is a lot of truth to this. There is often an awesome fear between men and women which undermines mutuality and togetherness. For the believer, Jesus removed all fear on the cross (II Tim 1:7), but often there are fears we aren’t aware of and thus don’t turn over to Jesus. I think a man’s fear of his wife is one of them. Most Men really fear angry women.
Why do woman want control? I think its because they are afraid of letting a man control them. They fear what he will say or do. That is because they don’t trust their husband. It’s not the husband’s fault, either. His wife learned growing up that men aren’t to be trusted. Her father let her down, boy friends hurt her, and males in general tried to take advantage of her for their own benefit. Thus, like Sarah listening at the tent, she has learned that since men just look out for themselves she’ll have to look out for herself in life.
This pattern finds it’s fulfillment in the marriage of the passive man to the controlling woman.
C. DESIRE TO CONTROL MAN
The pattern of strong women marrying passive men is nothing new. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all examples. This is formed by parents in their children. When a woman dominates and a man takes a less active role the children see this as the way they should be and often grow up to repeat it. The man finds a strong woman like his mother who can and will take some (or all) of the decision-making burden and responsibilities off his shoulders. The woman, like her mother, looks for a man who ‘needs’ her, whom she can mother, and who will give her what she perceives as her freedom. Thus people subconsciously look for these things in a mate when dating.
Married life often magnifies this. The man comes home from a long, hard day of work and is emotionally and physically drained. All he wants is peace and quiet, to be left alone, and to not have any more demands made on him. The more demands his wife makes of him the more he withdraws. He feels criticized or unappreciated for what he does do and withdraws more. She wants to ‘make contact’ with him and talks about one little thing after another. He seems to ignore her and not hear what she says. She takes this as rejection. So she becomes more pressuring and even abusive. He puts up solid walls (or stays out of the house, coming home late). Eventually she goes ‘wild’!
The man then gets angry, too. However he can only show his anger in passive ways: putting things off, putting up walls, ignoring her, being late, etc. He is like a child who can’t win a war with parents instead gets stubborn and drag his feet. This affects their emotional as well as physical relationship. Men don’t express their anger at their wives much because they were taught not to show anger at the other significant woman in their life, their mother. They never saw their father handle his anger correctly, either.
When this brings out direct anger from his wife, a man will often sit back and discount what she is saying because “that’s just her anger speaking.” Since she shows anger and he doesn’t she must be sinful and he is righteous and justified in his actions. All communication ceases and more walls go up. Sometimes instead the man caves in out of fear of the wild woman (which is probably what he did with his mother).
So, why ARE so many women angry at their men? Part of it is training — its the only thing they’ve seen in their parent’s marriage. There is more to it than that, though. Some of it comes from expectations not being met in marriage. They think from young on that if they marry the right man they’ll be happy, satisfied, fulfilled. A man will solve their problems and meet their needs. The man promises this by word and action. He is attentive, romantic, and puts her first. Then gradually things change and she gets angry (frustrated).
Its not uncommon for a woman to battle a man tooth and nail for control, but when she ‘wins’ and gains control she then loses respect and becomes angry at him for letting her control him. He thinks he is giving in (being passive) to keep the peace, but really he is creating a never-ending war. Secretly inside she wants him to be strong enough to control her when she can’t control herself. She thinks, “If he really loved me he wouldn’t let me get away with this!” When he doesn’t control her she gets angry/wild. More and more today women are chewing men up and spitting them out, all the while longing for a man to stand up to them and offer a credible counterpoint worthy of their respect.
When a man grows up being afraid of woman-anger (his mother, sister, etc.) he has a very, very difficult time handling that same woman-anger in his wife.
I know women don’t like having their emotions attributed to PMS because that seems to them like men are just blowing off their legitimate underlying concern. Still, it must be admitted that hormone changes can and do greatly affect a woman’s angry expressions. It must be understood by both men and women as part of overcoming anger in a family.
TIME 14 days before menstruation until menstruation
NOT during pregnancy, on birth control or after menopause
30- 50% of women regularly experience symptoms of PMS
10-20% of women with PMS have symptoms severe enough to alter their lifestyle
Increase incidents of 30-40% if you are overweight
84% of violent crimes committed by women during premenstrual period
Alcoholism, binge drinking, absenteeism from work also occurs more
SYMPTOMS 150 different symptoms can occur singly or in multiples
headaches anxiousness dizziness
cramps excitability clumsiness
backaches anger fatigue
muscles spasms tension difficulty in concentration
breast pain argumentativeness forgetfulness
breast enlargement temper outbursts accident prone
joint pain violent behavior difficulty fine motor move swelling mood swings feeling blocked in getting
wt . Gain uncontrolled crying things done
water retention depression difficulty in rational thinking
pelvic pressure low self esteem energy bursts/ low energy
bloating food cravings change in sex drive
nausea , diarrhea insomnia obsessive/compulsive
identify how your daily routine contributes to PMS
– keep a log
– stress reduction as you identify stress points take positive steps to reduce them
– counseling – time management and setting priorities, living with less, do less
– exercise regularly
– clean up the clutter- the physical (feel surrounded by clutter, can’t cope!)
– set realistic and obtainable goals for areas of your life and then be satisfied
Cravings for sweets, salts, fat, milk and milk products, chocolate – avoid during 14-28
Loading up on these items make you crave more
– increase in sugar – increase of insulin leads to the reduction of sugars leads to anxiety, irritability, nervousness, hunger, etc.
– increase of salt leads to the increase of swelling, weight gain, breast engorgement (pickles, lunch meats, ham, etc.)
– increase of fat- fatty foods contribute to PMS (especially avoid animal fat)
– also caffeine, alcohol and nicotine make PMS worse
Vitamin B6 is very important, helpful (helps stabilize estrogen level)
III. CURE FOR FEMALE ANGER
In article one we saw the causes of sinful anger being 1) reaction to hurt and pain, 2) frustration, not getting our own way and 3) fear, insecurity. For a woman to have victory over her anger, or for a man to understand her anger and help her to have victory, these three must be considered. Ask yourself:
1. WHAT HAS HURT HER? WHERE IS THE PAIN COMING FROM?
Is there any real or perceived rejection, deception, betrayal or unmet needs in her life? Anything, realistic or imagined, that make a woman feel devalued, discounted or unloved can cause them to respond in anger.
First and foremost a HUSBAND must look for his blame in his wife’s anger. After all, a woman is a responder, someone who reflects back what’s been build into her. What needs of hers aren’t being met? Does she feel 100% loved and secure, protected and provided for? Men, admit that your passivity often causes her anger. Avoid extremes. Honestly convey your feelings and emotions but not in anger or accusation. Don’t stuff your feelings, but don’t dump them, either. If she shows overt anger, watch out for your more subtle, hidden fighting styles: ignoring what is important to her, withholding love and attention, pointing out little mistakes of hers, putting off work she needs you to do, putting up emotional walls between you, being too busy to be available, avoiding serious discussions, turning off the romance, taking the children’s side against her, or using ‘humor’ (sarcasm, teasing, jokes at her expense) to pick at her. Remove the log in your eye before you attack the speck in her eye. Learn about the role PMS can play in her emotions and be understanding about that and other factors that influence her. Remember what happened to Moses.
If you are a WOMAN and you realize you have an anger problem realize you are not alone in it! Check out your expectations of him to make sure they are realistic (see Article 10 in this series). Give him some space when he needs it, especially when he comes home from work drained and empty. Put your needs on the back burner and minister to his, the return will be manifold! Go to God with your needs, He is the only one who can meet them anyway!
2. WHAT IS SHE FRUSTRATED ABOUT?
After marriage women expect men to take up where they left off in courtship. They still long for a prince on his white horse to ride off with them into the sunset. They expect their man to bring them the happiness they never had before. Of course this is unrealistic, but men do promise their women that they will provide this when they are married.
Often, without realizing it, women are looking for a replacement for their father. This, too, gives them high expectations of their husband. Few men can meet this expectation, for they have their own needs and immaturities. This disappointment can cause anger in a woman.
Also, if she works at home those frustrations and the stress of a job and home can drain her emotionally, making anger more easily shown. The same can happen from staying home with needy children all day.
As time goes on a woman realizes that her dreams and plans are taking second place to her husband’s plans and dreams. Her whole life is built around his life and she loses her life in his. “It’s always about you!” she thinks. If a husband doesn’t affirm his wife’s sacrifice and continually reaffirm his love and appreciation she can feel used and hurt. Then comes anger.
3. IS SHE AFRAID OF SOMETHING? WHAT?
Many things scare a woman that a man doesn’t understand. She can fear financial insecurity – ending up losing her home. Or she may fear the mistakes and errors of judgment her husband may make, for he is probably learning everything by trial and error. Women fear being alone: her husband dying or deciding he doesn’t love her any more. Past hurts just compound these fears and make them seem very real to her. Instead of handling these fears as fear, she often lets them out as anger.
A woman needs to know that her husband is strong spiritually and emotionally, that she can depend on him and that he will ‘be there’ for her. She needs to know that he is in charge, in control – even if she does all she can to take that control from him.
Men must admit that their passivity is just as wrong as her anger, and often a lot more dishonest. Understand her high expectations as a show of her need of her husband. Men must find a way to honestly convey their feelings — not stuff them inside until they explode. Study yourself to become aware of the subtle ways you show anger and fight back: walls, procrastination, criticism, withholding love, etc. Be the man in your family, take control lovingly from your wife. Be more aware of what God thinks of you than what a person thinks of you.
Engaging an angry woman can be like boxing with someone who has long arms. If you “stay outside” trying to calm her down and backing off or giving in, she’ll batter you. But if you’re willing to take a few blows and move deliberately closer to her — perhaps insisting that you sit down and work it out, and refusing to let her harsh words continue to hurt you — both of you can win the match. A man must be emotionally healthy to “move inside” and take a few punches for the future good of all. Sadly, many men today bear deep wounds caused by demanding mothers or distant fathers. In confronting the woman he loves the man is ruled either by suppressed hostility toward his mother or the model of withdrawal from his father. Without an example of a father who handled his wife’s anger correctly the boy grows up fearing woman-anger and will not express his true feelings so as to not make things worse.
‘Wild’ women long for a knight in shining armor who is both strong and bold enough to cut her free, so that she can be restored to what God wants her to be. A woman knows in her God-created spirit that she needs a man strong enough to help her face things about herself which she would otherwise avoid if left to herself. She needs a man capable and willing to wield the sword of truth with a manly sensitivity, that is, with the courage to cut where and when necessary, and with the love to do it with respect for her and submission to the God who has created them both.
When the man can’t face the woman-anger he needs to recognize the spirit of fear and condemnation which is his enemy — not his wife. He must battle his own insecurity and past hurts, not battle his wife. She just points them out by her anger and forces him to become aware of his failings . Remember, the woman is not your enemy but a victim of her own past hurts, just like you. She probably grew up afraid to trust a man with her needs.
A man must let Jesus control Him and depend on His strength in virtually every area of his life and marriage to have the strength to be the husband his wife really needs. Pray constantly for your wife, and yourself. Ask Jesus to show you how He’s praying and interceding for your wife and pray for her the same way yourself! As you pray keep in mind that God will usually work through you to answer those prayers, so be ready to do what He wants when He wants it. Its not easy, but its certainly worth it!
Every marriage relationship takes adjustment. Two people who are quite different (opposites do attract) have the potential for great richness together, or great turmoil. It’s up to you, men, to determine which it is. Ask yourself: “How would Jesus respond? What would Jesus say? What would Jesus do? How does Jesus see my wife? What does He want for her?” Put yourself in her place, remembering the Golden Rule. Pray constantly for patience, wisdom, love and self-control. “I CAN do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
6. THE CONTROL OF ALL ANGER ⇑
We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself! Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander’s and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but he was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer. Alexander the Great conquered many cities; he conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own spirit. If Alexander was unable to conquer anger, can we?
Even though we today don’t go around killing people we are angry at, Jesus Himself said that anger is as bad as murder. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ` Raca ,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21)
Anger is one of the most basic emotions and the one many of us have the most difficulty expressing. We all experience anger, but not all of us feel our anger. Even fewer of us acknowledge and appropriately deal with out anger. If we are going to experience intimacy, we must be able constructively to deal with and communicate about anger. Inability to deal with anger damages our ability to experience intimacy, as Gary’s story illustrates.
Gary’s family didn’t discuss anger. when family members were angry, they never said so. His family had indirect ways of expressing anger. They used sarcastic put-downs. They never affirmed each other, just joked about each other’s faults and peculiarities. When tension would reach a critical level, someone would tell a joke or make a funny comment. Occasionally, Gary’s dad would blow up at something, usually when he was drinking. Gary’s father never hit anyone, but he did break things and occasionally kicked the cat.
Gary fears anger. He doesn’t know how to express it. Lately Gary has become increasingly angry at his wife. She doesn’t discipline the children to suit him. He wishes she would keep the house cleaner. He doesn’t like her friends. Although she is always available for sex, she never seems to enjoy it and this makes Gary really angry. Gary has become just like his dad, blowing up frequently. He yells at the kids for insignificant things. He is stressed at work and angry because he isn’t moving up in the company. Gary often finds himself withdrawing into his own world. His state of depression is growing deeper. When his wife asks him if he is OK, he makes a sarcastic reply. Gary is a walking time bomb. His is a case of growing, unexpressed anger.
Learning to handle anger is a key ingredient for a healthy life and marriage. There are more examples of the dangers of anger than of correct handling of anger. One of the later, however, is found in the life of Nehemiah. He experienced anger and learned to handle it correctly.
Nehemiah 5:6-7 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them.
I. ADMIT YOUR ANGER
Anger is normal but must be controlled. The first step is admitting we are angry. Nehemiah said “ I was very angry.” He recognized and admitted his own anger. Men especially have a hard time recognizing and admitting their anger. Pride stands in the way.
One of the problems we have in admitting anger is recognizing it. We call it frustration, jealousy, resentment, etc., but it is all the same thing – anger. The problem is that we don’t identify it as anger unless we blow up. Most of us clam up, and the anger goes unrecognized. Then it can do its awful damage undetected, like a virus in a computer. ANGER AT GOD is often present, but something we wont’ admit. Down deep inside we sometimes feel God isn’t fair, right or loving, so we take things into our own hands. That is like saying we have more wisdom than omniscient God. We feel too guilty to say that, so we stuff it down and don’t come to grips with it. It’s important, though, to search your heart to make sure there isn’t any anger at God in it. It will undermine your spiritual life and cut off any intimacy with God.
Tell God when you are angry at him. He knows it anyway! The Psalmists did (see Psalm 44:9-21) and so did Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:7-18). Accept your circumstances as coming from God. They may seem unfair and unloving, but God puts them there so you will depend on him more and more (II Corinthians 12:9). That will develop the fruit of His Spirit in you and you’ll learn to lean on His power.
II. LABEL YOUR ANGER
After you admit you are angry, the next step is to find the root cause for your anger. It’s not just the current source that matters – the surface problem that your anger focuses on. Look behind what triggered your anger, look for the bottom line emotion.
Nehemiah did that when he realized he was angry, VERY angry. Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” (Neh 5:1-5)
First see if your anger is righteous indignation or sinful anger. Eph 4:26- 28 ” In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Then, if it isn’t righteous indignation, look for the root cause. Is it: 1) hurt and pain (anger is used to divert the pain); 2) frustration, not getting your own way (anger used to control the situation) or 3) fear, insecurity, feeling threatened (anger used to protect self).
Ask yourself: what are my unfulfilled desires? Are they legitimate? What are my blocked goals? Are they selfish or loving? Am I demanding that I get my own way in my own timing? Will I trust God with my desires in this situation?
Unmet desires, be they legitimate or illegitimate, can be turned into anger unless we are aware of them and turn them over to God. James 4:1- 3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
To make sure you understand how to look for root causes, match the following people with the root cause of their anger:
MOSES Ex 32:19-20 God didn’t do what he expected
DAVID II Sam 12:1-6 Wasn’t shown respect
AHAB I Kings 21:1-4 Saw religious leaders’ legalism
ASA II Chron 16:7-10 Saw God’s people worship idols
JONAH Jonah 4:1-9 Didn’t get what he wanted
HAMAN Esther 5:9 Was confronted with his sin
JESUS mark 3:1-5 Learned a rich man oppressed a poor man
A benefit of labeling your underlying emotions which cause your anger, besides preventing anger from growing as quickly as in the past, is putting her mind in control of your emotions. Let your mind explain reality to your emotions. God didn’t create our emotions to be the controlling factor in our life but to add beauty and enjoyment to life. They are to be the passenger car on the train, not the engine!
One of the reasons this is hard to do is because anger causes our bodies to create an immediate rush of ADRENALINE. This ‘rush’ can feel good when we first get angry for it covers any pain and hurt we may feel. It also makes us feel strong and capable of defending ourselves. God created his empowerment to help us when we need to “fight or flight. ”. Along with the increased adrenaline to fuel our muscles our blood pressure increases because of our accelerated heartbeat (to more quickly distribute the adrenaline to all parts of our body). Our eyes dilate for better peripheral vision, palms sweat and mouth gets dry. Our bodies go from calm to “alarm reaction state” in a few seconds. It’s an involuntary state, we can’t stop it. In real times of danger this is invaluable, but in most times of anger we have nothing to do with this extra adrenaline rush. What to do with it?
Some enjoy the rush, even get addicted to it. They come to need it to fuel their bodies to function well. For the most part, though, it causes us to “let off steam” in words or actions and usually something harmful is said or done. We hit, break, yell, kick the dog – whatever it takes to use up this surcharged power. If we clam up the adrenaline stays in our system, slowly burning u tissue and eating away at us. It can easily cause damage to our bodies. Anything from headaches to heart disease can result. We become emotionally tired, even depressed because all our emotional energy is going to stuff down our adrenaline-supplied anger. Physical activity every day can be a good way to burn up excess adrenaline in our systems. That’s why preventing anger is better than getting angry and trying to control it.
III. PLAN YOUR ACTION
Anger is like cancer. If it isn’t dealt with early it will grow and kill. That’s why we must admit to it, recognize it. Then we must label it, find out what is causing it, what the real root emotion is which you are covering with anger. Following this we must plan our action – what to do to replace the anger response. Nehemiah did this. He used his anger to motivate him to appropriate action. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them (Neh 5:7)
When planning what to do to solve the problem which your anger reveals, it is important to let your rational thinking, your mind, control things and not your emotions. Don’t stuff or deny anger, but don’t act on it before you think it through. Jesus took time to braid a whip before chasing the moneychangers from the temple (John 2:15).
BE SLOW TO ANGER
Eccl 7:9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Ps 37:7-8 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret–it leads only to evil.
Prov 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
Prov 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
SMOOTH RUFFLED FEATHERS
Prov 21:14 A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
Prov 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
While it is important to do something like counting to 10 before reacting in anger, we must remember that that alone is not nearly enough. That just helps us clam up. To really work through the anger it must be admitted, labeled and replaced with more godly behavior.
An important action to take in having victory over anger is CONFESSING IT AS SIN. Be angry but do not sin. If we sin we must confess if. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9). If we don’t confess all sinful anger right away we grieve God’s Sprit and keep Him from producing His fruit in us. It also opens us for Satan’s forces to work in our lives.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE One of the leading causes of demonizing is unconfessed anger. Anger includes any form of unforgiveness, bitterness, hate, jealousy, gossip, criticism, etc. Paul says these can “give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). He tells the Corinthians that if they don’t forgive each other Satan will use that to “outwit” them (II Corinthians 2:10-11). Jesus Himself said that those who don’t forgive others will be turned over to tormenting demons to bring them to repentance (Matthew 18:34). This anger includes anger toward others, parents self, or God. There can be no removing demons using this access until all anger is truly confessed and put under the blood of Jesus. This is one of the first things that usually comes up when we counsel people and pray for their deliverance. Do NOT take this lightly!
Satan organizes his demons in the same manner God has angels organized – in a military-like structure. These are similar to generals, colonels, majors, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, privates, etc. (Ephesians 6:12). Usually a “strong man” (or ruler) is assigned to a task, and he has lesser demons under his command to help in the work (Matthew 12:25-29; Daniel 10:2-6, 12-14). The names of these demons usually refer to their work (“Fear,” “Anger,” “Lust,” “Pride,” “Deception,” etc.).
Remember that sinful anger comes from mishandling hurt and pain. Instead of feeling it as hurt we turn it into anger. Demons are behind and use anger, too. They made Saul angry at David, so much so that he tried to kill him (I Samuel 18:10-11; 19:9-10). Paul shows the close connection between anger and demonizing (Ephesians 4:27).
Willingly allowing anger to remain is like asking Satan’s forces to fill you with hate and bitterness. It is a prayer, a curse on the one you hate. It as taking God’s work in your hands, for revenge belongs only to God (Romans 12:19). Often the name of the demon who answers this ‘prayer’ to Satan is “Anger,” for that is the work he does in those he influences. Unchecked this leads to wrath and rage. That is not something God’s children should ever have!
Below is a prayer you can use in connection with this.
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank You for the riches of Your kindness, forbearance, and patience, knowing that Your kindness has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). I confess that I have not extended that same patience and kindness toward others who have offended me, but instead I have harbored bitterness and resentment. I pray that during this time of self-examination You would bring to mind only those people that I have not forgiven in order that I may do so (Matthew 18:35). I also pray that if I have offended others you would bring to mind only those people from whom I need to seek forgiveness and the extent to which I need to seek it (Matthew 5:23-24). I ask this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
(If I can help anyone in any way with their anger please let me know. I’ll gladly pray with you, spend time counseling, or do whatever I can to help. Contact me, Jerry Schmoyer. If you want more copies of this paper I can mail or email them to you.
TEACH YOUR CHILD ANGER MANAGEMENT
Learn it yourself. Mishandled anger is at the root of most problems in our lives, in our homes, and in society. The reason for this is that appropriate ways of handling anger must be learned, since they do not come naturally. Mature management of anger needs to be taught at home, and this seldom happens today.
* Why anger management is important. The extent to which your child learns to manage anger will determine some of the most important outcomes in his or her life. This includes respect for legitimate authority and the moral direction of life.
* Uncontrolled anger exhibits itself in irrational behavior and violence. Road rage, fights in schools, spousal and child abuse, throwing things or destroying property, are example of anger gone wrong.
* Controlled anger can have a positive side when it is channeled constructively and used to effect change.
* Only two choices. There are two ways to respond – in actions and in words. Children are limited in their expressions. If they react in hitting or throwing toys the behavior must be dealt with as inappropriate. Because of their limited verbal skills, they will come across as disrespectful and inappropriate.
* First requirement is love. A child who is emotionally filled with knowing he or she is loved is able to manage anger.
* Second requirement is a verbal response. The desired outcome of anger management is to verbally – and pleasantly – resolve the anger with the person at whom you are angry, or find a way to resolve it within yourself. You cannot train your child in anger control until he or she first expresses the anger verbally.
* Beware of passive-aggressive behavior. This is when the subconscious motivation is to do the opposite of what the authority figure (parent, teacher, employer, spouse ) wants you to do. It is a subtle kind of aggression, an underhanded way of moving against another person. This type of behavior is as manipulative and destructive as throwing things or hitting people.
* Work on your own anger management. You can’t expect your children to deal with their anger any better than they see you deal with yours.
THE ANGER LADDER
You can see the goal in teaching your children to manage their anger. The lower rungs – with the least effective forms of anger management – move to increasingly effective forms of dealing with one’s anger.
1 PLEASANT, SEEKING RESOLUTION, FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE , HOLDING TO PRIMARY COMPLAINT, THINKING LOGICALLY.
2 PLEASANT, FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE, HOLDING TO PRIMARY COMPLAINT , THINKING LOGICALLY.
* Positive and negative
1 FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE, HOLDING TO PRIMARY COMPLAINT , THINKING LOGICALLY, unpleasant and loud.
2 HOLDING TO PRIMARY COMPLAINT, THINKING LOGICALLY , unpleasant and loud, displacing anger to other sources.
3 FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE, HOLDING TO PRIMARY COMPLAINT, THINKING LOGICALLY, unpleasant and loud, verbal abuse.
4 THINKING LOGICALLY, unpleasant and loud, displacing anger to other sources, expressing unrelated complaints.
* Primarily negative
1 Unpleasant and loud, displacing anger to other sources , expressing unrelated complaints, emotionally destructive behavior.
2 Unpleasant and loud, displacing anger to other sources , expressing unrelated complaints, verbal abuse,
emotionally destructive behavior.
3 Unpleasant and loud, cursing, displacing anger to other sources , expressing unrelated complaints, verbal abuse, emotionally destructive behavior.
4 FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE, unpleasant and loud, cursing , displacing anger to other sources, throwing objects, emotionally destructive behavior.
5 Unpleasant and loud, cursing, displacing anger to other sources , throwing objects, emotionally destructive
1 FOCUSING ANGER ON SOURCE, unpleasant and loud, cursing , destroying property, verbal abuse, emotionally destructive behavior.
2 Unpleasant and loud, cursing, displacing anger to other sources , destroying property, verbal abuse, emotionally destructive behavior.
3 Passive-aggressive behavior .
Note: Phrases in capital letters indicate positive ways to express anger feelings.
SOURCE: Ross Campbell, Kids in Danger (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1999), 69. ⇑