“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Prov. 29:11).”
In the spring of 1894, Boston hosted a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles that ended in a disaster. Infielder John McGraw, also known as Little Napoleon and Muggsy, got into a fistfight with the Boston third basemen. Within minutes, all the players from both teams ran out of the dugouts and joined in a free-for-all brawl. The battle royal quickly spread to the grandstands. The fighting frenzy went from bad to worse. One of the fans set fire to the stadium and the entire ballpark burned to the ground. The firefighters couldn’t contain the flames, and it spread to 107 other Boston buildings as well.
Anger is an epidemic issue. Christian counselors report that approximately 50 percent of people who get treated for problems struggle with anger. Anger can fracture communication with others, tear apart relationships, and rob the joy and health of many. It can also be self-destructive. My professor in college used to say, “Anger tastes good until you find out that what you are eating is…yourself.” How then, can we handle anger biblically?
First, it’s important to mention that anger is not always sinful. The Scripture teaches that God is a righteous judge who feels indignation, getting angry with the injustices of the world and the wickedness of man (Ps. 7:11; Mk. 3:5). Jesus, the God-Man who calls us to love our enemies, gets angry with the Jews for defiling God’s temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 2:13-18). They were turning the house of worship into a marketplace for profit. Don’t you get angry with the injustices that happen in our world today? That’s because you desire to see truth, justice, and peace reign on the Earth.
4 WAYS TO HANDLE ANGER EFFECTIVELY
1. Count to 10 – Thomas Jefferson once said: “When angry, count to 10 before you speak; if very angry, 100. As time passes, your arousal for anger diminishes. Moreover, why you are mentally counting, meditate on Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, what is pure, whatever is lovely, think on these things.”
2. Forgive – Even if you feel betrayed, manipulated, or wronged, forgiving a person who has provoked you to anger is an excellent way to subdue it. Scripture teaches, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Harboring anger in your heart will lead to bitterness, and bitterness will lead to a hardened heart that is hostile toward God.
3. Don’t deny that you are angry – A study in the journal Emotion conducted by Ricky Pond, a PhD student at the University of Kentucky, reported that people who admit their anger temptations are less likely to resort to aggression or violence than those who deny it. Isn’t denial always the first sign that someone has a problem? God’s word pronounces, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 Jn.1:9).”
4. Write about it – Writing or journaling the circumstances that led to your outburst of anger will help you to think through how you reacted, what you can do to change it, and prepare next time to slow down and think through how you want to respond next time when the temptation comes. The apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church, exhorting them to not allow their anger to last until the sun goes down (Eph. 4:26). Journaling is a great tool because it forces someone to write it out, think about it, and repent from it.
If only John McGraw would have thought about his actions before he reacted abruptly, then there wouldn’t have been a fight between the teams, the fans, and over a hundred buildings destroyed by the small anatomical piece of our body that we call the tongue. James warned us that the tongue is a small part of the body, but like a tiny spark, it can set a great forest of destruction on fire. My prayer is that you allow the Holy Spirit to control your anger so that you can have victory for the Kingdom of Heaven!