We all have it; it’s a matter of what we do with it.
Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us it’s one of our primary emotions (like fear, happiness, sadness, etc.). And, when used in the right way it can become a force for good; but, used wrongly, it can wreck great havoc in lives, relationships, families, churches, etc.
Again, we’re born with this emotion. Who of us hasn’t seen even a small baby throw a temper tantrum? Or, who hasn’t witnessed a 2-year-old jumping up and down and screaming when he doesn’t get his way?
And, sadly, just because we get older doesn’t mean we outgrow such episodes of uncontrolled anger.
Just this past week I saw the video of a car intentionally striking an elderly man in a gas station parking lot. Security camera footage showed him walking from his car to the office when out of nowhere a car appears and stops right before hitting him. Then, the driver floorboards it, striking the old man and leaving him writhing in pain on the ground. Police later determined it was a case of road rage and the hit-and-run driver was taking his anger out on the poor man who’d evidently offended him in some way on the highway.
I also saw another video of a small child at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant somewhere whose parents were nowhere to be seen. He was playing one of those games where you roll some hard balls up a ramp, trying to put them in holes with various point values.
Instead of rolling the balls up the ramp, he was picking them up, walking up the ramp and putting them in the 50-point hole so he’d get more tickets. Then, he crossed over four lanes and started getting another child’s balls. The child’s mother was standing nearby, told the offending child "No" and started picking him up when he refused. Somehow he wriggled out of her grasp, ran up that ramp and then spit at her!
I wasn’t even there and the sight of that made me livid! I wanted to reach into the computer screen, grab the little tyke and apply the board of education! But, most likely, if I’d been there and done that, I’d now be writing this column from jail, charged with child abuse and/or terroristic threatening.
Yes, dear Reader, anger is an inherent part of our make-up. When expressed properly, it becomes like channeled steam that’s used to produce electricity; when left unbridled, it can lead to interpersonal conflicts, lawsuits, fisticuffs and even all-out war.
That’s why Jesus warned his listeners (and us) in His Sermon on the Mount against uncontrolled anger (Matthew 5:21-26). He knew that most folks will never pick up a gun and murder someone; however, if we harbor hatred and bitterness in our heart we’re still guilty-as-charged. In fact, the Apostle John said "If you hate someone else, you’re a liar who walks in darkness and the Truth is not in you!" (I John 2:7-14; 3:13-24; 4:7-21).
Thus, it’s eternally important that we take these words to heart — for Jesus Himself said, "If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your (Heavenly) Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:15). Simply put, "If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven."
So, how are we to control this volcanic force within us?
The first step is to allow God’s Love to permeate every part of our lives. It’s impossible for us to "love our enemies, bless them who curse us, do good to them that hate us and pray for them who despitefully use us and persecute us" (Mt. 5:44) without His Help.
Secondly, we must learn to "bridle our tongues" and carefully weigh our words before saying anything after someone’s offended us in word and/or deed; otherwise, we’ll lash out and later wish we’d kept our mouths shut.
And, finally, we need to ask God to help us learn to tame the beast called Anger within us by daily surrendering our lives to Him. Most infractions or slights against us simply need to be ignored and forgotten; the rest must be released to Him as we follow His lead in responding to others the way He did. God bless you.
To contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled "Morning Manna," write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.