Pastor Mark's Short Papers

Anger is No Friend

by Mark Koonz on October 31, 2011



            Every person has spiritual battles.  For many their primary battle is with intense anger. Anger enters our lives through many doors.  How long will it stay?  What will we do with it?  Let the fire die down or stoke it?

            As local counselor Dr. Daniel Reese reminds me, anger often stems from grief, loss, fear, or frustrated ambitions.  It also arises when we feel someone has done something to hurt us or those we love.

            We may be justified in being angry.  If your brother or sister steals your inheritance, you have a right to be angry.  If a friend betrays a confidence, you have a right to be angry.  No one can question that right. But even when we are justified in being angry, the problem is that anger makes for a bad house guest.

            The intensity of the feeling can grow until it becomes rage.  If we repress it then it eats away at our soul. It is like a tapeworm absorbing our vitamins. If we express it (and we will!) then it usually wounds the people who live around us.

            Depression is one form of anger:  anger directed against the self.  Aggression is anger directed toward others.  Either way, angry people are not fun to be around. Not only does anger hurt the one who holds it, but damages fellowship with friends and family.

            We can ignore our anger and repress it.  Or we can cling to anger as we once again go over the details of a past insult.  In either case anger can grow beyond our ability to control or put away.

            Youth speaker Les Christie tells of a National Geographic t.v. special that showed how eagles catch fish in lakes.  They fly high, spot the fish, and zoom down up to 120 or 130 mph.  When they contact the water they spread their wings and reach for the fish with open talons, grab their meal and fly away.

            This special showed a young eagle that swooped down and grabbed a fish in its talons.  But the fish was too large for the young eagle.  It could hardly fly above the water level.  It tried to open it’s talons and let go of the fish.  But the eagle’s talons were too deeply embedded and it could not pull them out.  The film showed the eagle slowly descending into the lake and drowning.

            Les Christie adds, “Many times in life we grab on to something that can be dangerous.  We feel we have control and can stop holding on any time we like.  It becomes a habit and one day we try to get out and discover that we no longer have a hold of it.  But it has a hold of us.”

            Anger is dangerous like that.  We can nurse our thoughts of grievance, and think that some day we will stop, be free, and be happy again.  But over time the anger can grow.  Then like the eagle that thought it caught a fish only to find that the fish caught it, we discover that our anger has a hold on us and we can’t let go.

            To keep from repressing anger, we need to acknowledge how we feel.  And we need to ask for God’s help.

            Even if we are justified in feeling anger, we need to ask God to help us give it up before it grows.  The quickest path to freedom is forgiveness.

            Forgiveness is often very difficult, and sometimes it seems humanly impossible.  Yet Jesus’ victory over death shows that all moral victories are possible where he is welcomed to heal and help. 

            Ask the Lord for the strength to give up your right to be angry.  Ask God’s Spirit to help you forgive and be free to feel joy again.  You may need to ask every day until you receive that freedom. Keep asking!  I think these are gifts God delights in giving to us.

         People who are relentlessly angry do not realize how quickly they come to poison the lives of people near them, people innocent of the crime or wrongdoing.  These are usually family or friends who "get burned" as it were, because they are near you, and you are so angry you are a dangerous fire.  Anger often damages one's relationship with spouse or children if it does not become resolved in a quick and final way, including innocent spouse and children, and innocent friends.  This is why you must take moral responsibility for your anger, and choose to end it by seeking the Lord's help.  The Spirit of Jesus can and will work to set you free.  Do not wait to seek this healing and help from the only One powerful enough and loving enough to make all things new in your life.

      One reason people do not want to forgive is because they do not understand what forgiveness means.  It does not mean you are indifferent to what happened, nor does it mean you were not hurt by what the other person did.  It does not mean you accept it or condone it.  The hurtful words or deeds were wrong.  But in the act of forgiving you are giving the problem to God to deal with and acknowledging that your anger is damaging to your own life and to those around you. 

       In the process of forgiving, you say and pray each day, "God, I give up my right to be angry."  And you may have to pray that prayer again and again, every time you are tempted to take back your anger and live with it again.  When you give up your right to be angry, you can be set free.  Don't wait!  Do it today.  Pray it every day if you have to, until you are released from the heavy burden.

        Next, pray that God will bring good things, good gift, into the mean-spirited person's life.  And into your's as well.  Pray that grace and love will be poured into that person's life so he or she can become a new person.  And pray for God's grace and love to be poured into your own life as well, so you can be defined by God's love rather than by what you have suffered at the hands of other people.  These prayers are essential to spiritual and emotional healing.

      Sometimes people also need to protect themselves while they pray these prayers, and maintain some spacial distance or social distance between themselves and the hurtful person until they are able to forgive.  Yet for those who are angry within marriage, other strategies may be needed.  A little book by Doris Donnelly discusses strategies that may be helpful to those who want to both forgive and restore a relationship, or forgive without further social contact that does not have integrity.  See Dorris Donnelly's "Learning to Forgive."

      Sometimes anger stems from deep childhood wounds, and the person you may need to forgive is no longer alive.  The prayer to give up your right to be angry is still your first and most important prayer.  Yet it must not stand alone.  You also need to pray, and pray with a trusted minister, friend, or elder, for the healing of your damaged emotions; or pray with a Christian counselor, pastor, or mature and trusted friend, for the healing of your memories.  One book that discusses these kinds of wounds is David Seamands' "Redeeming the Past."

      For important testimonies on the power of God's Spirit to help us forgive, please read Howard Rutledge's "In the Presence of Mine Enemies" and Corrie ten Boom's "The Hiding Place."