Summary: Anger is a God-given emotion. And all anger is not sin. But we need to control our anger so as not to destroy us from being the people God want us to be.
We are following the theme: Hanging in There. Tonight I want us to look at the subject,
“Hanging in There Through Anger.” Thomas Jefferson once wrote some rules for living. “When angry count to ten before you speak, if very angry, count to a hundred.” Seventy-five years later, Mark Twain, the author, picking up on that same theme said, “When angry, count to four, if very angry, swear!”
Those of us with a shread of honestly will say that we have tried everything from Jefferson to Twain and we still have difficulty with anger. Anger has a way of restricting us. It has a way of robbing us of our testimony. It injures our family life and creates havoc with our relationships with our co-workers.
What is anger? For our purpose tonight, let me give you a definition that we can understand together. Anger is an emotional reaction of hostility that brings personal displeasure, either to ourselves or to someone else. Anger is an emotion felt but it is also a motivator.
When I was a junior in H.S., I played football. Much of the time the practice is done live with everyone going after each other with a vengeance. However, on some occasions they had us walk through certain plays so everyone would have a knowledge of how the coaches want us to perform that play. Many times this is done to show the players how to arrange themselves for punt and kick-off returns. There are a few players that the coaches do not want to get hurt. The quarterback is one. The kicker or punter is another. Typically, the coach will put some rather imposing personnel in the backfield to aid in the protection of the punter or kicker. At 6’ ½” and 225 pounds the coaches decided that I would be one of those imposing players. One afternoon the coaches drilled us on the techniques of punt returns. It was to be a dummy drill, which means no contact. Everyone got the message except for one guy, Emo Black, one of the seniors who was also a team captain. His name was actually Emory, but I never heard one person call him that including his own father. Emo never heard the coaches say that we were going to have a dummy drill. He assumed that it was full contact. When the ball was snapped, Emo came through the line like a freight train. I was somewhat relaxed because I knew that no one was going to hit me. However, when Emo reached me he disabused me of that notion by slamming his elbow under my face mask and literally knocked me off my feet.
I was immediately angry. I saw red, then blue, then purple. I started after that massive defensive tackle who was much larger and meaner than I was. My intention was that when I caught him I was going to rip his head off and reach in and remove something vital from his insides. Not once did it ever cross my mind that he could probably break me into little pieces if he wanted to. I can tell you today, I was motivated. I was angry.
People who study psychology tell us there are various phases of anger. All of us have experienced some of them.
• Anger can begin with mild irritation, which is nothing more than perhaps an innocent experience of being upset, a mild feeling of discomfort brought on by someone or something.
• Then anger can turn from irritation to indignation, which is a feeling that something must be answered; there must be an avenging of that which is wrong. But both irritation and indignation can go unexpressed.
• If fed, indignation leads to wrath which never goes unexpressed. Psychologists tell us that wrath is a strong desire to avenge. You want to strike back. So often, I think we do. It may be verbally or in some other fashion.
• Then, as it increases, anger becomes fury. The word suggests violence, even a loss of emotional control.
• The last phase of anger is rage. Obviously, rage is the most dangerous form of anger. Rage is a temporary loss of control involving acts of violence; the angry person scarcely realizes what he has done.
I woke up one morning to find the neighborhood flooded with policemen. I eventually found out that one of our neighbors had killed his next door neighbor because of an affair being carried on with the murdered man’s wife. Apparently the man who was killed was a truck driver and became suspicious that his wife was seeing someone while he was on the road. So one day, he simply came home early and confronted his neighbor. In a fit of rage, the seemingly mild mannered man who was cheating on his neighbor’s wife, killed him. Then he dismembered him, and spread the parts and pieces around two counties, all while his own children were being cared for by the neighbor on the other side of his house. When I was in grade school, I used to throw the newspaper in this neighborhood.