Thursday, May 8, 2008

Don’t Simmer

“Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 CSB)

Anger is as normal a human emotion as any other emotion is. Even God gets angry. Anger is the state of thought where expectation crosses swords with frustration, resulting in an explosion of emotion. Anger happens when an “oughtness” fails to occur when expected.

The problem with anger is not in getting anger, but it the way we handle it. Some of us try to ignore it as it standings behind us snarling like a dog. Some of us try to bury it, but like a zombie it keeps coming back to life. Some of us think we ought to embrace it, only to have it strike us like a snake. And some of us tend to just spew it out all over everybody, because somebody told us we shouldn’t hold it in.

Probably none of the above works very well. At least not for long. It may be that one of the biggest problems many of us have is that we do not handle our anger very well.

Here are a few facts to remember: 1) anger is normal, 2) anger can be expressed, 3) expressions of anger should be more about how I feel than who you are, and 4) anger needs to be resolved, and quickly.

In the verse above, Paul first quoted from the Old Testament, “Be angry and sin not.” That means it is not a sin to be angry about something. That means it’s ok. Some things that happen, or some actions others take can make us angry, and it’s truly ok for us to be angry when that happens.

The real problem comes when we fail to resolve anger and let it set up its tent with us, to camp out with us. Holding on to anger certainly cannot get back at the person who made us angry, and it certainly can just hurt us (and generally nobody else). What this means is that it is to our best advantage to get rid of anger and not let it dwell with us. When Paul said, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” he simply meant that we need to try to handle it immediately. We don’t want to let it simmer on the stove, because it won’t just simmer; it will ultimately boil over and mess up everything.

To handle anger, first remember that it is an emotion, and emotions – all of them – do ultimately subside. It just takes a little time. Second, let anger be released in a controlled fashion. In other words, don’t stick a pin in the balloon, but rather, let the air out in a controlled way. Third, let anger be what it is; let it be more about how you feel than about what you think about the person who caused it. The emotion belongs to you, and it is yours to handle. Fourth, as the emotion begins to subside, think about how gracious God, in His anger toward you and your sin, actually forgave you, so that you can begin to work toward the forgiveness of the one who offended you.

Lord, We recognize that anger is part of our lives as human beings, and You have given us this emotion. Help us to be good stewards of our anger. Amen.

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