When You Get Angry, Do You See Yourself Correctly?
Anger is a universal problem. Everybody does it. For many people, it’s the most recurring sin pattern in their lives. It’s easier to be harsh than kind, to uncharitably judge than think the best, to shut people down rather than build them up. The number one key to overcoming anger is seeing yourself correctly.
To the reader: This chapter was written using male pronouns. The content applies to any person who struggles with sinful anger.
Log Or Speck. You Decide
James called anger a war within the soul (James 4:1–3). Thankfully, there is a Redeemer who has the power to reverse the curse of our collective fallenness.
Jesus gave some helpful advice that cuts to the heart of anger. In His double-edged way, He not only gave the cause of anger but He provided the solution when He asked,
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:3–5
When I meet with couples for marriage counseling, I occasionally share with them Jesus’ advice and then ask each spouse who has the log and who has the speck in their marriage. Their answers are always instructive.
Recently, I met with a couple planning to get married. I told the couple if they could correctly identify the log and speck person in their relationship, they would have an amazingly wonderful marriage. Of course, if they got the log and speck reversed, their marriage would fast-track to dysfunction.
How about you? Think about your relationships. To jazz things up, pick the most challenging person in your life. From your perspective, who has the log, and who has the speck in that relationship?
When I asked the soon-to-be-married guy, he gave the right answer. From his perspective, he said that he’s the man with the log in his eye. When I asked his soon-to-be-married bride, she gave the right answer too. Praises. She said her boyfriend was wrong. She has the log in her eye. If their pre-marriage answers are their post-marriage answers, they will experience a beautiful marriage.
You may want to read:
- Anger Does Not Get All The Credit It Deserves
- What Is Righteous Anger?
- Angry People Have Too Many Needs
Log And Speck Illustrated
Speck person asks: Why aren’t you angry with me? I hurt you. I’ve offended you. I’ve done you wrong.
Log person replies: The truth is, I killed Christ. I put Him on the cross. Yes, you hurt me and it hurt, but I can forgive you. I want to show a similar mercy shown to me. That’s why I’m not sinfully angry with you. Honestly, your offense does not compare to my offense against God. There is a hummer log stuck in my eye. All I can see from where I am sitting is the speck in your eye.
Like the apostle Paul, the log person never forgets where God found him. Though Paul did not wallow in or exalt his sin, his awareness of where he came from gave him a humble perspective toward others (1 Timothy 1:15), especially those who were annoying him (1 Corinthians 1:3–4). From Paul’s view, his debt was massive, and God forgave him. Paul’s attitude toward others complimented the master in Jesus’ story in Matthew 18:32–33.
Then his master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow-servant, as I had mercy on you?”
The Psychology Of The Angry
The angry man is a sad man. He is also a reckless man. But did you know the angry man is probably a scared man too? Most sinful anger is born out of insecurity. He is fearful he is not going to get what he wants, so he uses anger as a manipulative means to make sure his craving heart is satisfied.
Part of the war within that James talked about (James 4:1–3) is a complexity of interrelated fears, shame, and guilt that churns inside the angry person. These were the first outpourings from Adam’s heart, shortly after he chose not to do things God’s way (Genesis 3:6–12). If you decide to do things your way, you, like Adam, will walk away from the Lord. This kind of rebellion makes you the functional “god” over your life.
If you ever tried to rely on yourself rather than the Lord, you know how hard it is to be the functional god of your life (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). You cannot do God’s job. You cannot control all outcomes, which is why anger becomes a “go to” tool in the arsenal of the weak individual.
Resistance Is Futile
This self-centered worldview is typically learned early in the angry person’s life. Perhaps as a child, he figured out how to manipulate his parents by using childish anger to bend the parents to fill his craving heart.
Maybe his parents resisted, which was his cue to stiffen his will and double-down his effort. His unmet desire morphed into a pouting demand, which was the pivotal moment in the parent/child relationship.
If they caved to his idolatrous demands, they would find it harder to resist him in the future. This kind of parental capitulation to a child’s will shapes him to become the god of his universe. Rather than developing his heart toward the Lord, they set the child on the throne of his heart (and the family). Their home becomes child-centered. The kid’s twisted mind and self-centered deductions would convince him that he’s the sole arbiter of how things ought to be.
I am describing what a functional god worldview looks like for an angry idolator. Somebody has to be a god, so his childlike arrogance dupes him into believing he is the only one worthy of that mantle.
Index Forward: Now he’s an adult. The angry man is a bigger version of the kid sitting on the floor throwing a tantrum, manipulating others to get what he wants. It’s the same anger, born out of a similar insecurity (fear). His unbridled Adamic nature has now morphed into a habit, a way of life. He may be a Christian, but he brought his former manner of life into his Christian experience (Ephesians 4:22). Anger is the portal that permits him to access his desires.
Anger And Habits
There is a thin line between making demands out of fear (“I’m not going to get what I want.”) and making demands out of habit. A child not parented well will learn how to satiate his fears through anger. If he continues down that path, it will become his habituation (Galatians 6:1–2). Anger is the means to get what his heart craves.
As you look back on his life, you will see how his habituated anger has worked for him. There will be a string of broken relationships his anger has carved up. “Gods” of your making are not cooperating idols. Those so-called “gods” will devastate your relationships and incarcerate your soul.
Sinful anger has a twist of irony. He appears to be strong and in charge. His bellowing convinces you of his power. The truth is that the angry man is weak, broken, and insecure.
It takes no strength to submit to an habituated way of life to blow up at someone. It takes a lot of strength to submit yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit while walking under His influence and control (Galatians 5:22–23).
The angry person never learns this lesson from the Spirit. Though he has human power (anger), he does not have spiritual power (Spirit) that controls his human power. The book of Proverbs gives us insight regarding this lack of “spiritual power over your human power” problem.
- Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. — Proverbs 16:32
- Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. — Proverbs 14:29
- A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. — Proverbs 29:22
The person who is slow to anger is submitting his human power to the strength of the Spirit (James 1:19). Fallen Adamic anger needs God’s power to harness it. If not, it will pour over the dam of your heart and hurt people. The angry individual is weaker than he realizes.
Let Me Illustrate: Imagine the cap of a fire hydrant popping off. The cap is weaker than the force of the water. If the cap could withstand the force of the water, it would be stronger than the force of the water.
Ultimately, the angry man shows his lack of submission to the Holy Spirit–the only One who can speak peace into his heart. In such a case, to be sinfully angry is to be without God, which makes this kind of person dangerous.
To The Victim
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, — Proverbs 22:24
Do not try to help the angry person alone. The person habituated in sinful anger is not under the influence of the Spirit of God. He is without God, at least functionally because God opposes proud hearts (James 4:6). It would be a fool’s mission to try to get the angry man to stop being angry. He needs community and lots of it.
A synonym the Lord uses in Proverbs 14:29 to describe the angry man is folly. The word folly represents the actions of the angry person–he commits folly. The behavior of folly comes from the heart of a fool. By his fruit you know him: his behaviors reveal his heart, who he is. Jesus taught that words originate from the heart (Luke 6:43–45). If the words are foolish, the heart is folly, and the person is a fool.
The angry man is a fool, and you would be wise to not interact with him by yourself. He does not play by God’s rules. Remember: He is a god. You would be right to make your appeals, but if those requests fall on the hardened ground of his heart, you must talk to the spiritual authorities in your life, calling to them to help you (Matthew 18:15–17).
Because he is a god, he is breaking the first commandment (Exodus 20:3), which functionally disqualifies him from leading you. You are not called to follow fools blindly (1 Corinthians 11:1). There is a mutual and reciprocal requirement on the husband to lead and love and the wife to submit and respect. (See Ephesians 5:22–33)
If he is not leading or loving, you must help him fulfill his husbandry role. The best way you can respect him is by trying to get him help. It would be the height of disrespect to refrain from seeking to help a person in trouble. The angry man is in a deep well from which he cannot extricate himself. He can’t lead you well as long as an angry heart has him captured. He needs you to help rescue him.
Anger must be treated as an addiction because that is what it is. It is a learned habit, born out of a fearful, craving, Adamic nature. You are not only his wife, but you are his sister. To let him stay in his sin is not only disrespectful, but it’s unkind, unbiblical, and ungodly.
Call to Action
The angry individual is so elevated in his mind that he cannot see the entanglements of his heart. Thinking you are somebody that you are not will cut you loose from the moorings of Christ and motivate you to unleash your anger on anyone who does not do as you please. Christ is the only solution but seeing Him is hard from such a lofty perch (James 4:6).
- Do you perceive that you’re an angry person?
- Will you confess your sinful anger to the Lord?
- Ask Him to lead you to a friend who will help you walk out repentance.
Originally published at Rick Thomas.