“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 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.” (James 1:19 – 21)
I was in utter shock and disbelief! Not because I heard the F-bomb, but because I was the one who said it. Bypassing my mind’s filter, it hurled itself off the tip of my tongue defiling the ones who heard it – courtesy of a split second of uncontrolled anger over an insignificant, momentary annoyance.
There are numerous reasons why people get angry and just as many available solutions. I’d like to share what I learned many years ago that helped me conquer my own personal problem with anger. First, let me say that I am not, in any way, perfect and still have an occasional flare up, but it has become extremely rare.
I would also like to quickly cut to the chase so that I have time to share a few familiar life examples as well as some biblical ones.
Many anger issues are the result of trampled rights and unfulfilled expectations.
It doesn’t matter if they are God-given expectations or man-made, nor does it matter if they are reasonable or unreasonable. An expectation is an expectation, and when unmet it can lead to frustration, anger, or rage. If left unchecked, it may also result in death.
Consider these familiar examples:
- You are in a hurry and running late. You need to make a quick stop at the store, expecting to get what you need and get right out. But there are few employees manning the registers, long lines at the self checkouts, and now the customer in front of you is waiting for a price check.
- You expect your office equipment to work as it should; your brand new tent not to leak when it rains; and the vending machine to dispense the over-priced snack you just paid for.
- You expect your husband to throw out the trash, your neighbor to pick up his dog’s deposit on your lawn, your friend to return the tool he borrowed from you, and your teenager not to skip school.
But the reality is not everything works the way we expect. People are who they are and are not always going to do what you expect them to do, when you expect them to do it, and in the way your expect it to get done.
Stop and think for a moment about a time or two recently when you were angry over something and see if it wasn’t because of some expectation you had in place that was not met. Did you expect to be served promptly, treated kindly, spoken of highly, acknowledged openly, praised publically, reprimanded privately, accepted wholeheartedly, loved unconditionally, forgiven completely, or defended fervently?
It’s not objects or people that make us angry. We become angry because of the expectations we place on them. Once I gave up my rights and surrendered my expectations, I found myself getting less and less angry. The freedom and peace I now experience are priceless!
Biblical examples of those who got angry due to their perceived rights or expectations:
- Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, ‘I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times.’ (Numbers 24:10)
- Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. (1 Samuel 20:34)
- When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. (Jonah 3:10 – 4:1)
- The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out to and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:28-30)
My friends, rather than focusing on your rights which have been violated or your expectations that went unfulfilled, why not surrender these to God and begin concentrating on your responsibility to others instead, trusting God to ultimately meet all your needs.
PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for looking to anyone else other than you to meet my needs. Help me focus on my responsibility to others and trust you for all things. Amen.