Summary: Anger seldom gets us what we want, while patience rests in God's perfect timing. When we’re frustrated by things we can’t attain or resolve, by real or perceived injustices, the way to overcome and heal wrath is the path of patience.
The media’s been reporting on the health risks of too much soda and other sugary drinks; New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has taken the step of banning super-size sodas…but even more deadly are the vending machines. Each year dozens of people are killed by them. They don’t get their drink or the right change, so they angrily shake the machine and it falls and crushes them. Anger is just one letter short of danger.
All other deadly sins can lead to anger, and it’s the one sin we all try to justify. Anger is the first emotion we learn and the last we learn to manage. The Hebrew word for wrath means to “burn with indignation.” We can spend a lifetime denying, suppressing, or avoiding anger. We turn it inward and it becomes depression. However expressed, anger can exaggerate our hurts, keeping us from seeing life clearly. We excuse our temper by claiming that people and situations “make us angry”, when in fact we choose our response. One of the greatest battles of life is controlling anger, especially for us who are easily riled.
Lots of things get us heated: finances, child-rearing, job stress, blocked goals, criticism, and not enough time to do things. But are these causes or symptoms? The real causes of anger are immaturity, selfishness, insecurity, unforgiveness, and unrealistic expectations. There is righteous indignation, but much of the time the way we express anger is sin.
Anger and rage can consume us like an out-of-control fire, often with a desire for vengeance, even violence. Things that frustrate us trigger conflict. This can include hurt feelings, embarrassment, and the competitive desire to win an argument. More is at stake than the issue we’re arguing about. Anger creates a toxic environment. It can also ruin our health.
We use anger because it sometimes works; it gets us what we want…yet at a cost. Anger reveals just how much we belong to our broken world and its rewards. The root of anger is often found in pain. We vent and our outrage seems justified. We get annoyed, offended, and we go on attack-mode. Anger can exaggerate our hurt, making things worse. Pride encourages anger. We feel convinced things ought to go our way, and when they don’t, watch out! We take on unholy expectations. When we’re unhappy, we may be shaking our fist at God. Behind anger lies a heart-problem. Life isn’t always fair, and there are many daily stressors we face, but we can be above it all. God uses our problems to shape our character. We’re so busy fighting we may fail to see His purpose for our pain.
People with a short-fuse have developed a low frustration tolerance, and function according to an “entitlement fallacy.” They believe they deserve something, and nothing ought to stand in their way. When life or people say “no” they feel betrayed and indignant, they play the victim, they lash out in retaliation, and firmly believe that anger is fully justified to resolve their outrage.
Anger is our doing, so let’s take responsibility and “own” it and admit that we’re angry. Anger is a choice. We can choose to restrain our temper. We are not machines. A soldier told me how his platoon leader “made him” so angry. I asked how it felt to be controlled by someone, and he got angry at me. “No one controls me!” he said. “Then your Sergeant isn’t making you angry.” We may claim people are “pushing our buttons,” but in reality we decide how we react. We can recognize when we’re getting angry and then restrain ourselves…or destroy everything in our path.
We resolve conflict by attacking problems, not people; by listening and taking positive, constructive action. We overcome anger when we stop trying to be God…we stop judging and punishing, and we realize we can’t fix everything. Yet it’s easier to be angry than to be helpless. When we’re frustrated by things we can’t attain or resolve, by real or perceived injustices, the way to overcome and heal wrath is the path of patience…
Proverbs 14:17 says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things…but a patient man has great understanding.” Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait! Patience is not being passive; it exercises endurance, resolving conflicts peacefully. It’s the ability to forgive and overlook an offense, to show mercy. Anger is weakness, and patience is strength. The Hebrew word for patience means “slow to anger.” It perseveres through difficulties. It is difficult to come by and precious when attained. While patient people may be tempted to rant and rave, they are able to control their urges and wait upon God in silence and peace. They are patient with the faults of others, knowing that others have to be patient with them.