Wise Living: Anger

This morning, we’re continuing our message series on wise living where we’ll be taking the wisdom of God found in scripture and practically applying it to issues that we face every day.  Last week, we learned what wisdom itself is and how to receive it.
We know that wisdom is taking accurate information and applying it effectively to our lives.  It’s not just knowing information, but it’s living it out.

This week, we’re going to take a look at anger.
Bent out of shape, spitting nails, blood was boiling, up in arms, hot under the collar, foaming at the mouth, hit the roof, fit to be tied, blew a fuse, flipped out, went postal, bite their head off, got a bone to pick, jumped down their throat, blew their stack, went postal, blew a head gasket, flew off the handle: all idioms that we use to describe getting angry.
To start out today, let’s listen to some proverbs found in scripture pertaining to anger.
Ecclesiastes 7:9
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Proverbs 29:8
Mockers stir up a city,
but the wise turn away anger.
Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 22:24-25
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
do not associate with one easily angered,

or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.

Proverbs 30:33

For as churning cream produces butter,
and as twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife.”

The truth is, we all get angry at times.  Some of us way more often than others.  We’ve all made some pretty foolish decisions when angry as well.  We’ve all said and done things that we regret while in the heat of a moment of anger.  Our anger very rarely makes our circumstances any better and usually amplifies them way out of proportion.  It clouds our mind and prevents us from seeing things correctly and thinking things through with sound reason and understanding.  It usually invokes self-righteousness and not Godly righteousness.
Whether it be growing impatient while waiting in line, a disagreement with someone, someone wrongs us, unexpected life circumstances, or personal failures; we all have triggers that rise up anger within us.
It’s been said that the various triggers of anger come down to one of two events; either we have:
1. Unmet Expectations
For example, I expected things to go a certain way and they did not or I expected someone to do or be something that they are not

2. Blockage of goals
For example, I had a goal to get to my appointment 15 minutes early and you are making me late or I had a goal to live married, happily ever after and you just left me.
We see that most all triggers that make us angry tend to fall into one of these two categories.  It’s very useful to know what some of our triggers to anger are.
Now when looking at the emotion of anger itself, we find that it is amoral.  This means that in and of itself, anger is neither right nor wrong.  In fact, we even find several occasions throughout scripture where God Himself was angry.
However, we do find in scripture that right and wrong, sin and righteousness, do come into play in two aspects of anger.  These aspects are:
1. The source/reason for our anger
2. Our chosen response to our anger
For example, if we care about someone and they are making bad decisions despite our advice, we get angry.  The source of this anger is love and compassion.  It’s not a source of envy, jealousy, bitterness, or resentment towards that person.  We’re simply upset because we care for someone and they are doing something to harm themselves and will not listen to reason or sound wisdom.
We can also get angry when we see injustice or others getting mistreated.  This is also a good source of anger because it is again out of love and compassion toward others.
When we see God get angry throughout scripture, this is the source and reasoning for His anger.  He would get angry with His people because they would not listen to sound wisdom and submit to it.  They did things their own way and chose to walk into harm’s way and outside of the shelter and protection of God.  It also occurred when His people would mistreat others.  This provokes the Lord to anger as it should if He is the loving Father who He claims to be who does not wish His children harm, but rather to protect and bless them.
More commonly, however, we get angry for other reasons.  Anger can be a result of attitudes and areas within our own hearts that should not be there.
For example, we can get angry with others because we are jealous and envious of them.
We can get angry because others aren’t doing what we want them to; as we try to control them.
We can get angry because of our own selfish ambition while someone stands in our way.
We can get angry in pride and arrogance as people point out areas needing change in our lives.
We can get angry because others do not meet our expectations of them.
We can get angry just because someone irritates or annoys us.
We can get angry when our plans are interrupted and things unexpectedly change.
We can get angry when we don’t get what we want.
Let’s take a look, however, at the wisdom of God and find how it applies to anger and how we can get a grip on our anger and avoid making foolish decisions in the midst of our rage.
James 1:19-21
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
The truth is that we can control our anger, but not on our own.  We need the strength and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the Spirit such as self control, patience, and gentleness enable us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Through our relationship with God, He will guide and direct us and keep us from acting foolishly in the midst of our anger.
We are called in scripture to be
1. Quick to listen
2. Slow to speak
3. Slow to get angry
Let’s break this down and take a detailed look at each one of these three things that we are being called to do.
Quick to listen to:
a. Why we are angry
Sometimes the real reason that we are angry has little to do with the current situation and shouldn’t taken out on the current situation.  Anger can also come from other emotions such as embarrassment, hurt, or shame.  We need to stop and fully analyze the root of why we are becoming angry and why this situation triggered our anger.
One of the key points to managing and controlling our anger is to first understand what our triggers are and to address them appropriately.  This gets to the root of the issue instead of just avoiding situations that commonly trigger our anger.
Sometimes we are angry for selfish reasons and not righteous ones.  We have to stop and ask ourselves if we really have the right to be angry or if this is coming from a wrong condition within our hearts.  Is the reason for our anger one that is in alignment with the word of God or is the source the moral filth that we need to get rid of?
We can easily become bullies and even use our anger to force others to get in alignment with our own expectations or use them to reach our goals.
b. Who are we angry with
Sometimes we are really angry with ourselves or someone else and wrongfully take it out on the unrelated current situation.  If we get angry and punch a hole in the wall, was that really fair?  Did the wall really do anything to us?  However, we often hurt ones that we love the most out of anger when the root of our anger really has nothing to do with them.
c. Fully understand the circumstances
Much of our anger stems from misunderstandings because we assume to fully know the circumstances.  We need to learn to wait until we have all of the information and fully understand the circumstances before making a judgment!  Which is why we are lead to the next thing that scripture calls us to do after being quick to listen.
2. Slow to speak
Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
We were created by God with one mouth and two ears.  Perhaps this is His humorous way of teaching us that we should be listening twice as much as we speak?  We cannot be quick to listen if we are quick to speak.  This is especially difficult when we are angry and are in the heat of an argument.  We’re more likely to be spending our time silent considering our next arguing point than listening to what the person is really saying in order to gain mutual understanding.
We’ve all said things that were hurtful that we later regret when we’re angry.  When we are getting angry, we should keep a tight reign on our tongue.  This requires self control, which the Holy Spirit will give us as we lean on Him and not on our own abilities.  James tells us this about the tongue:
James 3:3-12
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Getting control of our tongues is quite the struggle, however, when we are able to do so, we will be able to rise up to be wise and not foolish.  We’ll be able to be quick to listen.  We’ll be able to act in faith and not flesh.  We’ll be able to speak blessings that build others up instead of pouring out daggers that tear people down.
Once we have gained success to be quick to listen and slow to speak, we’ll automatically find ourselves gaining victory in the next thing that we’re called to do:
3. Slow to get angry
Ecclesiastes 7:9
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
This is one of the parts that really require self control, gentleness, and patience that only the Holy Spirit can give.  Once we recognize that we are angry, only these giftings can enable us to be slow to get angry.  However, recognizing the triggers that make us angry is also a key in this so that we can see the warning signs as soon as possible before we are already in a fit of rage.
Once we have dealt with the source of our anger and have made sure that we’re righteous in the reason that we are angry, and have been quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, we next need to deal with the response to our anger.
Ephesians 4:26-27
26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
Though anger in and of itself is not a sin, we can be easily snared and moved into sin as we give the devil a foothold in our lives through the response to our anger.
Proper responses:
Give yourself some time to cool off – define a time to deal with it later (but quickly! do not let the sun go down)
Discuss why you are angry
Pray (especially for understanding, direction, self control, patience, and gentleness)
Consider possible solutions
Find out what scripture has to say about the situation
Seek wisdom from others who have overcome in this area
Improper responses:
Explode in a fit of screaming rage
Start beating on the person or object you are angry with
Just ignore your anger and bottle it up
Body language such as throwing arms in the air, making fists, rubbing forehead, pointing, shrugging, eye rolling, etc. (these are just as powerful and expressive as screaming in a fit of rage)
Gossiping to others
As we take His word and begin to put it into practice as wise people, we’ll find that our anger will have less and less control of our lives and even find that we become less and less easily triggered into anger.  Though there is an appropriate time and reason for anger, our lives should be ones marked with peace and self control, which are not products of our human anger.  As we do these things, we begin to get a reign on our anger and begin to respond even as the Lord does as found in these Psalms.
Psalm 103:9-10
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

Psalm 145:8
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.