In Ephesians 4:26 we are told, “in your anger do not sin”. The question is not how we prevent anger; the question is what we do with anger once it crops up. We all get angry—occasionally righteously angry but mostly not.
One of the ways to battle sinful anger is to think through the reasons why we get angry. Here are five:
- I get angry when my perceived rights are violated. No matter how legit these “rights” are whenever they are violated I am prone to anger. I feel that I have the “right” to fair treatment and I do not receive it then I get angry.
- I get angry when my pride is wounded. Every person battles pride. Sometimes even those that seem the most humble take great pride in their humility. Whenever our pride (read source of identity) is wounded we often resort to anger. Our pride can be wounded through disrespect or a loving rebuke from a friend.
- I get angry when my hopes are disappointed. Who of us does not have an imagined future? We have hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Some are bigger and stronger than others. This can be as simple as the hope of getting to watch a football game or the agony of a broken relationship. Any time things are not going the way that I envision them going I am tempted towards anger.
- I get angry when my fears are confirmed. Just as we have hopes we also have fears. There are things that we hope no person ever notices about us. There are things that we hope never happen to us. There are things that we pray for and things that we pray never happen. When our fears are realized, either through someone exposing our true self or a situation that confirms our fear we are tempted to anger.
- I get angry when my comfort is interrupted. We love our comfort. We plan vacations with the hope of relaxation and comfort. Sometimes we plan mini-vacations after getting home from school or work. We hope to sit down and relax, when that comfort is interrupted we can be quickly tempted to anger.
One thing that all of these have in common is idolatry. Whenever I place my comfort, hopes, fears, pride, or rights above my identity in Christ I will respond in anger. Sinful anger is a great barometer that my heart is not holding fast to the One that it should be.
A good deal of that which parades itself as righteous anger is really motivated by one of these five things more than it is motivated by a deep love for Christ. All of my anger is righteous in my own eyes. Unfortunately the Lord doesn’t see it the same way.
Anger is conquered by remembering what really matters and who is really in charge. I like these words from Mark Dever:
We do not have to squander our words, uttering things that are unloving and untrue, words that are pointless or useless. The most important problems in the universe, and in our own lives, have been solved for us through the gospel. (Dever, Twelve Challenges Churches Face)
The gospel won’t keep you from getting stuck in traffic or secure you a good parking spot—but it’s truth will cause you to see things in the proper perspective and to get a grip on foolish anger.