Culture zoomed through an anger management trend a decade or so ago. It was popularized by Hollywood in the 2003 film and 2012-2014 television series, both titled Anger Management. They were, of course, comic relief rather than serious academic instruction. While it is true that lighter attitudes may curb our anger tendencies, their approach was more a laugh it off outcome. Hundreds of anger management systems since then have done little to ease the systemic ills of an angry world. Managing our anger may not be the right approach. As a Christ believer and convictional Christian, I prefer Scripture as authoritative truth for containing my emotional outbursts, including anger. Scripture teaches me to resolve my anger issues and not merely manage them.
Anger resolution in the Bible follows a very clear path. I've organized them in my own language and according to the priorities of my personal faith. When anger sneaks up on me, I usually---
1. Take personal ownership of my emotions.
Hundreds of life realities can ignite my fuse. Like everyone, I have preferences, likes and dislikes, biases, and values about every aspect of life. Some are in harmony with the rest of the world and some are not. How they influence me, however, is my responsibility. When my fuse is lit only I can determine how far it burns. Resolving anger begins when I take ownership of my emotions, anger included. Solomon wrote, "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, ESV).
2. Visit the produce department of my life.
When my fuse is lit I try to examine the fruit of the spirit that should be growing naturally in me. The Apostle Paul identified these character markers that should override the emotional impulses that could light my fire. He made a neat list for me---
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). A quick run through of these nine traits can douse the burning fuse.
3. Weigh the situation that lit my fuse.
Maybe it's just me, but I have a tendency get angry over inconsequential things. At the flashpoint, I try to remember another wise counsel from Solomon. He wrote, "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11). I need to evaluate the cause of my anger. At times I should just let it go. Personal relationships, my Christian witness, and my own peace are too valuable to be lost over something with little standing in my value system.
4. Follow the instruction manual.
The Bible provides hundreds of verses about living this life. There are too many to be listed in this context. So, let me mention a few---
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 18: 15-17, ESV
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
Romans 12: 17-19, ESV
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2: 3-4, ESV
Bearing with one another, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Colossians 3:13, ESV
Forgive and forget are terms often linked when there's any kind of dissonance in our world. Used in this context it assumes that many of our anger moments are people oriented. Forgetting is the hard part, even when the fuse isn't the result of anger with another person. Paul wrote a sentence about moving forward when there are moments of discord, disagreement, or anger. He wrote---
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13-14, ESV
We humans aren't computer bytes and cannot actually erase or delete life hurts, wrongs, misdeeds, or the occasions of genuine anger. The word that is translated "...forgetting..." has a more vivid meaning. It pictures the setting aside of the life circumstances or events that could hinder our forward movement. To "forget" is to purposely and intentionally move the obstacle from our a path. It's always back there in our memory. But we move it from our life course so that we can become the person God intended. We must just fughedaboudit.
Maybe it's just a play on words, differentiating between managing anger and resolving it. The point here is that God has given us ways to resolve the anger issues that threaten our living the abundant life he designed for us.
If we don't, that anger can create many toxic emotions that will poison us. And, that's the deal Friday.
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