After spending three and a half hours enduring the long lines, surly clerks, and line changing at the department of motor vehicles, a man stopped at a toy store to pick up a gift for his son. He brought his selection, a baseball bat, to the cash register. “Cash or charge?” the clerk asked. “Cash,” he snapped. Then, apologizing for his rudeness, he explained, “I’ve spent the afternoon at the DMV.”
Oh, so, shall I giftwrap the bat?” the clerk asked sweetly. “Or are you going back there?”
I called the Incontinence Hotline, and they said, “Could you hold please?” Now that’s just not right. That may make you mad.
There’s no doubt we all get angry. Some more than others. For some people it takes a lot; for others, the wind blows the wrong way and they’re upset about it. This isn’t good.
Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry person stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”
Now of course we know anger is as natural to people as happiness, sadness, even hunger and tiredness. We even understand that anger can propel people to do something that takes a lot of effort. There are times we should be upset when things are unfair and unjust. Anger can activate us to do something about it.
But that’s as far as you can go with the positives of anger. The rest isn’t complimentary. Scripture says, “A foolish person gives full vent to his anger, but a wise one keeps herself under control.”
The truth is our anger expresses the fact that reality doesn’t match our expectations. We get angry when someone doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s not to say they are the ones who cause us to get angry. That’s us.
They’re simply the stimulus that we react to from an anger based place inside.
Don’t blame others for what you freely do. Don’t play victim in order to be supposedly guiltless when it comes to what you say next. We need to take responsibility for our reactions.
Recently, I was driving, came to a stop, turned on my left turn signal and looked both ways. Nobody was coming from the left but a couple of cars were coming from the right. There was a left turn lane and another straight lane. They looked to me like they were both going straight since neither car
was driving in the left turn lane. I pulled out onto the first lane and was going to go as soon as both cars had passed by me.
Then I saw the second car had turned his left turn signal on, so I stopped where I was, having started to cross one lane in front of me. I still doubted he was turning left onto the street I was coming from but I stopped anyway. He kept going straight and turned left up ahead at the intersection where I was going as well.
About a half mile down that road, I went into the right turning lane, a car drove up next to me with its right passenger window down. The passenger was sitting with her head glued to the headrest, while the angry driver yelled out at me, “Why are you using your brakes?!”
I can only guess he was behind me when I had stopped to make sure the car didn’t make a left turn and run into me.
I didn’t fulfill his expectation of how to drive right there and he kept his anger going for more than a minute until he could confront me about it.
Getting angry is often the result of already feeling miserable. If that driver was a happy person, he wouldn’t let such a thing like what I did upset him. If he were a person who could see that life offers a wide variety of experiences and events, he wouldn’t have been so bent out of shape about having that experience.
We can’t be happy if we rely on expectations of others. Let go of so many of your expectations. Stop putting others in a box of your own making. You can’t control others actions or thoughts. Resist clinging to an illusion that started when you were just a child. It’s time to grow up.
Because it’s true. Early in life, we feel omnipotent, all-powerful, in control. We expect to control mom, dad, and others, getting them to fulfill our needs and desires. We also expect to be able to control situations and outcomes of events so we can stay happy.
So today we expect our spouse or partner to make us happy, a lot more than is possible. You expect others to work as hard as we do, but you may be a workaholic. We expect to be rewarded when we have done our part, even if we’re simply part of a team. We expect others to value us as we see fit, but who is valuing them?
I say be a blessing rather than having to be blessed. When you’re all caught up in getting someone else to recognize your important, then you’re at someone else’s mercy.
The people who are the happiest are those who are looking at others and pulling out the good things they’re doing. When you’re blessing others, telling them how they’re doing good things, empowering others to rise to a better person, you can’t help but empower your own feelings of worth and importance.
Find what’s going right in the world. Point out someone else doing well. God is doing great things through these people. Lift them up, and you will lift God up in turn.
Our scripture reading tells us we’re supposed to be producing righteousness with our lives. God has asked us to be those who do this. The Lord needs those who can establish and maintain a better way of relating and connecting and accomplishing and transforming and informing. We are supposed to be those.
Now I know that sounds like a tall order, but James point is a more basic one. In our verses, he’s not as interested in us producing righteousness as much as he is interested in us not producing the opposite.
You see, James is sure of one thing—anger doesn’t produce good things. He doesn’t say anything else about what does produce God’s righteousness because the issue right now is what doesn’t!
He knows for sure that when we get angry, when we turn things upside down by lashing out and getting impatient and knocking down other people, then God’s righteousness can’t be coming next. Since he’s sure of this, he makes this strong comment against the damaging effects of anger.
We need to tame our mind, not inflame our mind. Instead, be the blessing you want to receive. Be the kindness you believe in. Be the calmness you know is right. Bring peace to a situation that’s begging for it. Instead of a harsh reply, be someone who responds with a soft answer.
This is how we produce God’s righteousness wherever we go.
Instead of letting your anger get the best of you, there are five things we can do. First, acknowledge you’re angry. Take moment to say, “Yep, this is me angry—again.” Acknowledging what’s happening gives us a second to pause and become aware.
Second, normalize it. Reduce your reaction to something that happens but doesn’t have to take over. It’s OK to be angry; just don’t let it be the one and only response.
Third, remember your goals in relation to the person, or yourself, that you have a more important interest in them than to vent your frustration on
them, for example. Caring for someone else produces a lot more of God’s righteousness than yelling at them.
Fourth, find out the expectations that are guiding your angry reaction at this point. Your expectations are probably unrealistic and not helpful.
Finally, respond now, after you have gone through the first four steps. You will see a calmer, kinder response is yours to make.
If you do all five, you will have spelled the word ANGER but not become angry: Acknowledged, Normalized, Goal-oriented, Expectations and Responded.
Samson was one of those guys who could never let go of his anger. It ruled his life. He always had to get back at someone for what they did to him. By the time he had come to the end, he had been blinded and was chained between two columns that supported the building in which his enemies were feasting in his shackled and humiliated presence.
Samson was truly one who lived by the sword and died by the sword, who lived by his rage and died by it. His last prayer was that he would have enough of his strength left to push out the columns so the building would collapse on his enemies, killing them. The building, he knew, would collapse on him as well.
This is how Samson died, under the weight of his anger and his choices.
When we get angry, we tie ourselves to the one at whom we’re angry. We’re not free in the least.
Don’t chain yourself to strife. Tie yourself to peace and joy instead. Let your strength be in your capacity to see the good, to empower the right, to envision the best.
We shouldn’t be angry because we can’t make others as we wish them to be, especially since we can’t even make ourselves as wish to be.
The Lord wants us to gain a better sense of our own heart rather than trying to rearrange other people’s lives. When we take a closer look at ourselves, we will gain a healthy sense of humility. Let God sow meekness where now there’s arrogance.
A master asked his disciples, “Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they’re upset?” The disciples thought for a while, and one of them said, “We shout because we lose our calm.”
The master asked in reply, “But, why shout when the other person is right next to you? Isn’t it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice?”
The disciples gave him some other answers but none satisfied. Finally he explained. “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts become distanced. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.”
Then the master asked, “What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly. Why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small.”
And he concluded, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. That is how close two people are when they love each other.”
Be the kindness you believe in. Be the calmness you know is right. Bring peace to a situation that’s begging for it. Instead of a harsh reply, be someone who responds with a soft answer.
This is how we produce God’s righteousness wherever we go.
Can the church say Amen?