Let’s take a look today at some things we can do when we become angry. Usually, after we’ve blown up (sprayed our anger) and had our little say we don’t feel so good about ourselves. We often find ourselves denying, defending, blaming, or justifying our erratic behavior. Let me suggest a few things. First, we need to admit our anger…
1. ADMITTING YOUR ANGER. We need to stop denying it, stop pretending it’s not there. When I’m angry I just need to say, “I’m angry” Ephesians 4:25-26 “Stop lying to each other; tell the truth. When we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves. If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge.” Note once again, it says, “don’t sin by nursing your grudge”. There’s a right way to get angry and there’s a wrong way. There’s an appropriate way and an inappropriate way. There is a constructive way to get angry and there is a destructive way to get angry. Anger is not necessarily a sin. God gets angry. 375 times in the Old Testament it says God got angry. Jesus got angry. It is not a sin to get angry. In fact, if you never get angry in a relationship it means you’re not in touch with reality. There are some things you ought to get angry about. Sometimes anger means, “I care!” Sometimes anger is an expression of love. Sometimes anger says, “I’m not going to stand by and watch you waste your life.” When you have the idea that a Christian should never get angry, it’s not only unreasonable, it’s also unbiblical. It’s not how you get angry it’s what you do about your anger that makes it a sin or not. He says we can learn to get angry without sinning. He says, “stop lying to each other”. In other words, it’s wrong to deny it when you’re angry. You say to someone, “You’re angry.” “No, I’m not!” “Yes, you are.” “No! I’m not angry!” “I can tell you’re angry!” “I’m not angry!” The Bible says that anger isn’t necessarily a sin, but lying about it is. When you’re angry and you won’t admit it, now you’re sinning. Because that’s called lying. The starting point is to admit my anger. I can’t work on it until I admit it. Doctors say that the number one cause of depression is anger. Depression is often frozen rage. It is angry feelings stuffed down, taking itself out on my body in the form of depression. Some of you who are depressed should stop saying to yourself; “Why am I depressed?” and say instead, “What am I angry about?” Because that is the real issue. What am I angry about that I don’t want to admit? The issue is not how to eliminate anger from your marriage but how to express it appropriately. In order to do that, you have to understand your anger.
2. UNDERSTANDING YOUR ANGER. This is not an easy topic for many to talk about because anger and expressing it in inappropriate ways is such a problem for so many. You may remember our example of the skunk and the turtle. Well, I am the skunk in our family.
Yes, I can be a skunk. I admit it. I allow everyone to know when I am angry. But less some of you think you don’t have that kind of a problem, there are different kinds of ways of expressing anger, besides just being a skunk or a turtle. There is a way I call the under-hander. The under-hander is the person who will throw darts at you — sarcastic little jibes at you. When you draw back they’ll say, “Just kidding!” They’re slippery and really hard to pin down because they don’t like to admit that what they’re doing is showing their anger. Then there are the people who are the martyrs. Every time something happens they’ll say, “You’re right. It’s my fault. It’s always my fault. It’s me!”
Then there are the people who take their anger and they will not admit it for anything. But what happens is they take it out on their bodies. And their bodies have all kinds of reactions to at least 4 or 5 different specific illnesses that doctors say are related to swallowing your anger. So those of you who are skunks, just realize there are lots of other ways of inappropriately expressing anger. I am convinced that my personal growth as a Christian is largely due to understanding more of the things that made me angry, and why I expressed myself the way I did. It seemed to be at the point of understanding that I began to do something about it. At this point, God was able to get control of this area in my life. It was then that change began to happen. Proverbs 19:11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverbs 14:39 “A patient man has great understanding but a quick-tempered man displays his folly.” The point of this is to begin to look at yourself and ask questions like, “Why am I angry? Why does this situation upset me so much?” When you begin to understand what it is that’s going on in your heart, God can work on you and you can begin to resolve some things.
Anger is a warning light in our lives that lets us know that there’s something very deep that’s causing us to be upset. We get irritated over inconsequential things. But when you get really angry that’s a clue that you need to stop and ask yourself why? What’s so upsetting about this? Is it because it’s touching a life-deep issue in your heart?
Arguments rarely start with the real issue. Anne and I have discovered in our lifelong relationship that most of our arguments began over surface issues. Really dumb, dumb things! One of the arguments that seem to surface most is, who leaves things out the most and refuses to pick up after themselves. I am totally convinced I pick up after myself more than her. Obviously, she doesn’t see it that way. Therefore, I remind her that since she doesn’t see it that way, that’s the reason she doesn’t pick up her things, simply because she doesn’t see it.
This leads me to the three phases of an argument. We have found that these seem to be true most of the time.
Phase One is RECOGNITION: This is where the sharp words start getting exchanged. Somebody looks at somebody else wrong. Or somebody just says, “That’s it! We’ve got to stop and talk about this, there is a problem.” There’s a recognition between you that there’s something that needs to be dealt with.
Phase Two is called REACTION: This is where you start talking about it. Sometimes it gets a little loud, especially if you’re a skunk. Sometimes this is where the discussion just goes on and on. It can get really bad at this point. You must press on to phase three.
But Phase Three is RESOLUTION: This is where you continue to hang in there together until you decide what it is that you’re both upset about and what needs to happen to change in order to start resolving the situation. The problem is most people stop at Phase Two. They stop at the loud angry hostile stage. And that’s as far as they get. You’ve got to go on to Phase Three — talking about why you both feel the way you do. That takes time. It can be painful. It can be hard work. But it’s worth it if you stay at it.