Are you an angry person?
Amid all of the potential issues that we humans can grapple with, is anger near the top of your list? I certainly have my share of issues, but anger isn’t usually one of them. Overall I’m pretty patient and laid back—except for those times when merging drivers try to sneak past me on the freeway shoulder and then cut in front of me…or when drivers are driving too slow…or when today’s aggressive political culture starts infecting me…and then I realize that I’m not quite as anger-free as I like to think I am.
I’m actually quite a bit angrier than I usually admit. I’m angry about more things than I realize, and when I feel the angry I probably feel more of it than is warranted.
What should I do with my anger? What should you do with yours?
The Bible says, “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) so there is certainly a place for “righteous” anger, but how do I know if my anger is righteous or not? How do I know if my anger is justified or not? Anger isn’t something I choose to feel—it just emerges in me—so what do I do with it?
Perhaps a helpful metaphor could be the imagery of your car’s dashboard. Anger is like a warning light on the dashboard of your car. The light itself is neither right nor wrong; it is simply an indicator of a deeper issue. Yes, your oil light may be blinking but the issue is not the light it’s the lack of oil in your car. So too with us, our emotions of anger are indicators of a deeper concern.
Perhaps we are reacting to injustice…perhaps we are defensive for another human being…perhaps a situation is being poorly or dangerously handled in front of us…or perhaps we are just being selfish, and we are angry at whatever is interrupting our way.
Our anger must be judged, that’s the first step to dealing with it appropriately. We need to identify whether the underlying issue is valid or not. Then based on our assessment—valid or invalid—we respond appropriately. Anger can guide us to justice and relational repair, or it can fuel selfish, self-destructive patterns. Let’s follow it to the deeper issues and then harness it for our good.
And while we’re at it, let’s please stop driving slower than the flow of traffic on the freeway!
Self-pity is Satan’s favorite babysitter. At least that’s what my pastor used to say when I was growing up, and now that I’m a grown man with a few years of experience under my belt I can conclusively say that he was right.
Self-pity—with its accompanying self-loathing and victim mentality—has NEVER helped me get ahead in life.
I have certainly been filled with self-pity before, and I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about how unfairly and unjustly I was being treated. And I was right—I was being treated unfairly, and it was wrong. However, it still didn’t help me. Whenever I’ve made self-pity my friend, it has only pulled me down deeper into anger, defeat, and despair.
I think my pastor called self-pity “Satan’s babysitter” because once we start indulging in it we take ourselves out of commission and Satan can simply walk away. We don’t need any external spiritual warfare to oppress our beleaguered minds; we do a fine job of it on our own. Our own bitter rumination locks us into a state of anxious inactivity.
You and I are too big for babysitters, especially destructive ones like self-pity. It is true that sometimes we are wronged, and the wounds from those wrongs can really hurt. In some ways we probably have a legitimate right to quit the fight and hunker down for a good pouting session. Indeed, nearly every one of God’s preachers and prophets had their share of pouty moments. However, once we’ve cried, vented, pouted, and complained we need to get back up. We need to take the keys away from our babysitter, pick up our battered shield and head back to our post.
God’s compassion and gentleness will heal us and make us great, but our self-pity never can. It will only lock us into a negative, ineffective state. Let’s do whatever it takes to shake ourselves free and carry on in what the Apostle Paul called “the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).
I’m not an angry person. Never have been. I’ve seldom had a chip on my shoulder and I’ve never been a walking container of radioactive rage. I certainly have my share of issues, but anger isn’t one of them, and it’s nice to have at least one area that I haven’t had to work hard at overcoming.
Throughout most of my life I’ve stayed relatively chill.
At least until recently. There’s something about our So Cal traffic that keeps pushing me over the edge.
It’s probably not my fault. I’m sure it has something to do with the other drivers, the ones who haven’t learned how to use a turn signal or make space for merging traffic. It’s probably the text-ers and the weavers and the generally crummy drivers that keep causing me to lose my peace.
And that’s exactly what’s happening. Road rage is stealing my peace. The careful cultivation of my soul through early morning Bible reading and prayer is getting progressively undone as I give in to frustrations and judgments against other drivers. Instead of worshipping in my care and allowing the rat race to become a holy space, I’m capitulating to the agitation of the world around me.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27) That’s the promise for those who quiet their souls in the Lord’s presence—they touch a state of peace, untroubled, undisturbed composure and well-being.
Let’s touch that place. Let’s worship and pray, refusing to allow any external angst inside of our souls. Let’s learn to quiet our hearts and partake of His peace.
And while we’re at it, let’s leave a little space for another car to merge in front of us.