A few days ago I traveled to Sacramento by airplane for a conference and came home the same day. The flight on the way home was completely booked. The passengers were stuffed into the metal tube of a cabin like sardines. Departure was delayed for 40 minutes while we waited for the ground crew to load baggage into the cargo bay. Since the plane’s engines were off, the air conditioning could not work. The temperature outside was in the 90’s and the temperature in the cabin started to rise dramatically. The air was stale and hot and I noticed my mood was also rising in irritability.
Besides, it was the end of a long, hectic day and I was very tired. I had just talked to my congregation the previous Sunday about managing anger and remembered that hot temperatures and fatigue can cause a person to experience angry thoughts. I became an illustration of my own point.
Anger itself is neither right nor wrong. We have both an “emotional brain and a “think brain.” The emotional brain receives information before the thinking brain. It can overrule the thinking brain by flooding it with hormones, which lead to a “fight” or “flight” response. The emotional brain judges situations in broad terms: good vs. bad, or safe vs. dangerous. That’s why you often react with anger before you completely realize what’s happening. The Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
It recognizes that anger is neutral but what we do with our angry feelings leads to right or wrong behavior. Even Jesus Christ became angry. He met a man with a withered hand in a synagogue. The religious leaders were ready to accuse Jesus of doing wrong if he healed the man on the Sabbath. The Scriptures record that Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 5:6).
Anger can energize us to correct injustice or perform acts of kindness. However, anger can also push us into behavior based on hatred, resentment, and bitterness. Unfortunately we often succumb to the latter. Who has not experienced rudeness from others or even the results of road rage. Unchecked, at its extreme, anger can lead to violence and abuse of children and adults. James advises us to “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
In the book of Genesis, the brothers Cain and Abel presented offerings to God. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. The Bible states, “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:5b-7). Anger is like a crouching tiger, ready to attack its prey. Yet it’s possible to tame that tiger within, to master anger.
After Scripture admonishes us to “be angry and do not sin,” it goes on to say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:25-27). We need to resolve anger quickly, especially when it involves other people. My suggestion: stay cool, get plenty of rest, and let God take charge of your thoughts and attitudes.
If you would like to hear and experience some practical ways to manage anger, please join us at Hemet Valley Christian Church on Friday, June 21, at 10:00 a.m. for a two-hour workshop on “Taming the Tiger Within.”