Anger, The Illusion of Control

Dan Miller   -  

We’ve all been there. Someone cuts us off in traffic, a coworker passive-aggressively undermines our efforts, or our loved ones say something that hits us right where it hurts. In those moments, it can be hard to keep our cool. The anger wells up inside us, and we feel like we’re about to lose control. It can be frightening and unsettling, especially when directed at you. Anger is a potent emotion that can seemingly take over a person completely. But it is possible to overcome anger, even in the most difficult circumstances. The first step in the journey of slaying the dragon of anger is to realize the truth – anger always destroys more than it builds up. James reveals this principle when he says: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20). So what do we think IS being accomplished when we get angry?

What Does Anger Accomplish?

When we’re angry, we feel like we’re in charge and calling the shots. Let’s face it, anger gets people’s attention at the moment. Often, people get mad, and it works, and that reinforces a faulty understanding that an outburst of rage works. An explosion of anger can make a child stop acting out, make an employee pay attention, or stop a spouse from talking when you just don’t want to hear anymore. But what does anger accomplish in the end? It is like getting a burst of energy when you eat sugar, but it is not healthy.

Addicted to Control

When we’re angry, we feel like we’re in control, the ones calling the shots. At this level, anger feels good. But the truth is, anger is an illusion of control. It’s a way to mask our fear, insecurity, and pain. Unrighteous anger is our best attempt at being godlike in the moment. And because we are terrible gods, anger becomes one of the most destructive emotions a person can feel. It clouds our judgment, makes us act impulsively, and damages our relationships. It can also take a toll on our physical and mental health. So why do we allow this emotion to have such power over us? One reason is that we can be controlled by our pride and seduced to believe we act as agents of righteousness. Ed Welch says it well,

The problem with anger is that those who don’t have the problem take it to heart; those who are angry are confident in their right-ness and over time can become massively, utterly, completely deluded, blind and (this is no exaggeration) can feel quite good about themselves after bludgeoning someone close them, as if they have set the world aright.

Article: The Angry Person, Always the Last to Know

Choose a Better Way

What if instead of succumbing to our anger, we surrendered it to the Lord? When we surrender our anger to Christ, we surrender our need to control everything and everyone around us. We are saying that we have faith in Him and trust that He knows what’s best for us. This surrender requires humility and a willingness to let go of our pride and arrogance. How?

  • First, admit yoou need help and ask the Lord to form the attitude of Christ in you.
  • Second, create and place an index card with Scripture to remind you of who God in places you’ll see throughout the day – on your bathroom mirror, car dashboard, or computer screen saver. These verses will help you focus on Christ and His character when you’re angry or frustrated.
  • Third, take a few minutes at mealtimes to read Scripture and renew your mind with God’s Word to increase your understanding of who He is and that He is the Lord of all.
  • Finally, when you find yourself overreacting or lashing out in anger, stop immediately and repent of your attempt to take control or express “right-ness” in the situation. Then ask the person you’re with for forgiveness. Wait for them to reply and refrain from making any excuse for your outburst… just listen.

When we surrender our anger to God, we are saying that we trust Him to help us deal with our emotions in a healthy way. This doesn’t mean that we will never experience anger again, but it does mean that we are willing to let go of our need to control our own lives and allow God to work in us. We also need to have faith in Christ as we surrender our anger. This means believing that He has the power to change our hearts and minds and help us overcome our anger. We also need to repent, which means changing our minds about how we view anger and ourselves. We must see ourselves as sinners who require God’s grace and mercy. And finally, we need to humble ourselves before God. This means acknowledging that He is in control and that we are not. When we take these steps, the Holy Spirit will begin to work in us and help us overcome our anger. Taking these steps won’t always be easy, but with God’s help, they will help you to overcome anger and live a life characterized by grace and peace.