When we think of anger or an angry person, we tend to focus on the explosive moment.
There’s a picture in our heads of someone screaming in rage and breaking things and all the other stuff that happens in a knock-down-drag-out-moment. But what about the other ways anger affects us? There are some very real long-term effects that happen to someone who operates out of a place of anger. Sometimes you can even be acting out of anger without even realizing it! Then, before you know it, you are walking around with a very short and very flammable fuse—ready to go off at any moment at anyone. The anger in you has taken root and born the fruit of destruction in your life. Does this sound familiar? Keep reading to find out what advice God has for handling the anger in your heart.
I once knew a very angry kid, who lived in a very angry house. His mother was angry. His brother and sister were angry. His dad was so angry he left that house; and now everyone was even angrier. So, all day, they walked around angry at everything. My friend was angry at his Xbox for not working right so he threw his controller. His sister was angry that the loud noise woke her baby up, so she dumped the baby on her mom to deal with. Her mom was angry too so she ignored the screaming child and put her headphones on. The screaming and crying woke up the oldest brother, who had to work nights, so he went off to work angry, slamming the door behind him, and carrying that anger all the way to work to spread it around some more. And around and around this cycle went.
That’s how anger works. It’s a parasite that jumps from one person to another, growing bigger and bigger each time. It can start from something so small and become amazingly powerful. Perhaps you saw the material from Seeds and learned a little more about how this cycle gets started. Anger is a sneaky little sucker that seems to cozy up to you and make itself right at home. It’s so tricky that you don’t even realize it’s there until it’s unpacked it’s suitcase, redecorated the place, and is bossing you around like it owns your home!
What I’m talking about is our hearts and the way that we interact with anger and let it affect us. When I found out what my friend’s home life was like, I saw a sad little puppy who needed to be cared for and I jumped right in to help. The problem was that he didn’t necessarily want help; and I wasn’t paying attention to my own heart and how to stay healthy when helping others. So I found myself about 6 months down the road and no longer talking to that friend because we had, of course, had an explosive argument, which was followed by more explosive and destructive events and finally the breaking of our relationship. But I didn’t walk away scot free.
When I spoke to other people I seemed always either to be attacking them or defending myself. When I walked my dog I would yank on his leash and dump him back in the yard early because he was driving me crazy. When I drove places, I spent the entire time flipping people off, swerving, and yelling at them. I don’t know when it started, but I found myself walking around as a very angry person! Things in my life seemed to be falling apart more and more every day as my anger bore its fruit of destruction.
One word I consistently use to describe my anger and the state of my heart is “pervasive.” It means “spread throughout.” Like a network of roots, anger had planted itself in my heart and wriggled and squirmed its way into every crack, loose board, and opening it could find. It was shocking actually to open my eyes and see how nearly every action, every thought, every word that came out of my mouth was under the influence of my anger.
I’m still working on it every day—which mainly consists of a lot of prayer, apologizing, and relearning how to express myself. It takes time to extract every single piece of those roots from your heart. The first thing you have to do though is recognize that it’s there in the first place! People often say the first step to fixing anything is admitting you have a problem. I think that comes second. You can’t admit anything if you don’t know it yourself! So what do you think? Are you angry?
Maybe you aren’t sure if you are angry. Maybe what you do seems reasonable or even necessary to your well-being. All I can say is that Jesus understood and experienced anger and angry people. He instructs us to take the other path when we are in those places. He shows us that there is another way to handle our lives. So if you want to check and see if your heart is healthy or angry, look at these words written by the apostle Paul and notice how there are very clear distinctions regarding what a God-serving heart produces and what fruits anger bears.
Scripture: Galatians 5:13–26
- Do you know someone who lives in an angry house like my friend?
- If so, did you try to help them? What was the effect on you?
- Do you think that you are angry?
- How does your heart and life match up with the examples in Scripture?
- How do you think having Jesus in your life impacts how you deal with anger?
- Do you believe you will ever be free from anger?
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I do want to follow you and I don’t want to be so angry anymore. I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time! I want to stop but I don’t always know what that means. So please show me. Make your words in Scripture make sense and have real practical application to all the crap I deal with every day. I want to believe that you have a different, a better way, of doing things because I see how my anger has taken root in my heart. I see the sort of fruits it bears, and I really hope life has more to offer me than that. Please help me. Give me hope and peace, clarity and wisdom. Show me how to heal and be a true follower of you, Jesus.