A little over a week ago my wife and I were returning from our 15th anniversary getaway. While enduring a rather lengthy layover in Chicago’s O’Hare, we were startled to see a man get kicked off his flight. After a United agent had checked his boarding pass, this young man had thrown a rather rude comment over his shoulder while entering the jet bridge. Apparently he had had enough that day with flight delays, re-routes, gate changes, etc. That brief retort did him in, however; a manager rushed onto the plane and forced him off. Cursing and yelling, this angry traveler demanded his rights and berated the gate agents while his flight continued to board without him. He finally stomped off down the concourse in a fit of rage.
I’m sure most people present thought he was a complete loser. But I couldn’t help putting myself in his shoes and feeling his pain. He had been pushed to the edge, and had snapped. Has that ever happened to you?
I vividly remember when I once lost it. It also happened right before I boarded a flight. I was still single, traveling in China with a group of guys. Struggling with culture shock and fear of getting apprehended by the authorities, I came unglued when a security agent asked me to open my bag. I pretended I hadn’t heard, put my head down, and forged ahead toward my gate. Of course I didn’t get far. They held the plane for me that day though. And after investigating my bags they let me board without further trouble.
I remember my embarrassment; my overwhelming sense of guilt for having left such a terrible testimony. I also did a lot of repenting that evening—before the sun set.
Ephesians 4:26-27 gives us some directives on handling anger. “In your anger do not sin,” Paul says. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
First, note that the Greek word for anger here is actually a command. Anger is an emotion that must be felt—not suppressed or denied. We’re ordered to be angry. In fact, anger is a negative emotion one keenly feels when perceiving that an act of injustice has occurred.
So not all anger is bad. It’s evidence, you might say, that we’ve been made in God’s image. Something within us cries out for the world to be made right.
Next, Paul points out; do not sin in your anger. “Go ahead—be mad,” he writes, “but when you’re ticked off, remember that sinning is off limits!”
Our problem is not anger; rather, it’s the sinful ways we tend to respond to it. Expressing anger in immature, selfish, and hurtful ways is always sin. If we don’t properly deal with our anger it can destroy both us and others. Buried anger eventually leads a person into pits of depression. Concealed anger eventually leaks out and poisons relationships, much like toxic waste that seeps into the water table.
Last of all, deal with your anger quickly—before the sun sets! The longer you wait the harder it is to resolve an issue. Going to bed angry makes your anger behave like cement; it hardens during the night. Holding on to anger also builds a wall of resentment between relationships. One person wisely said, “Do not erect a shrine to your anger in your heart. If you do, the devil will appoint himself its priest.”
So how do you deal with your anger? Do you tend to own it and get over it or do you tend to excuse it or suppress it? Be brave, leave a comment. Share your strategies for overcoming anger; your coping mechanisms.