Ask, Got a Right to Be Angry?
The first question to ask a person who struggles with anger is why they believe they have a right to be angry. In general anger is sinful but it also can be incited by a perceived injustice. An angry person might have been sinned against.
When we listen to their story we might talk about what it means to be sinned against or victimized. The course of this conversation can lead us to Jesus Christ and our sin against Him, how He has such patient endurance with us in the face of our sin, and the privilege we have of walking in His ways by loving our enemies.
Proverbs 22:24-25 says that anger begets anger:
Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.
Angry people hurt other people.
Discover Their Hurts
Ask the angry person if they have ever been hurt by the anger of their parents or a person they respected. This question will help them to recall how scared they were in the past by the anger of another, guiding them to see how their behavior might be affecting those around them.
Ask them if the person who was angry at them was listening and hearing them or were they confident they were right? These questions can gently probe how an angry person has learned their behaviors and start to see how destructive they have been.
Anger deceitfully hides in many disguises.
Angry people have deep motivations. They can want revenge or for another person to hurt as much as they do. They can be jealous thinking other people deserve less and they deserve more.
Symptoms of an angry heart are grumbling, complaining, cynicism, and indifference. Cynicism has a sneering, insolent, and self-righteous attitude. An indifferent person invests stingily in relationships, thinking that whoever is less invested usually has the most power.
Help Angry People Recognize Anger
A critical step to dealing with anger is recognizing it. Angry people often see anger as a strength because it is effective in getting people to respond to what they want.
Angry people live in a self-exalting world that judges other people. Hence, they don’t often want to be demoted from their place of authoritative power. Angry people need to recognize they love their anger even when it is destructive to their relationships with friends and family.
They need to ask God for mercy.
An angry person might see how wrong their anger is, how it hurts other people, and confess their sin. In order for change to happen they must also see that their anger is against God.
An angry person wants power, control, and to be seen as right. The heart of an angry person says, “I want to win, no matter what, I must win.”
In their blindness an angry person does not see that their anger is against God. They do not want God over and above them, instead they want to stand in judgment of God. An angry person decides that they are going to operate in a parallel universe and God should just leave them alone. They have an allegiance to their kingdom not God’s.
Story of King Nebuchadnezzar
King Nebuchadnezzar is a good example. “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).
This reflects the heart of an angry person: self-exaltation, parallel universes, and building kingdoms of our own making. This is so absurd, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4).
Nebuchadnezzar lived as a beast in the fields for seven years not because he was cursed by God but because he was living the logical consequences of his sin. Act like something different than a human being and become like something other than a human being, a madman.
As Nebuchadnezzar came to his right mind and acted as a human, his sanity was restored. “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored” (Daniel 4:34).
Freedom from Anger
If you are a madman in your anger you can be liberated from your madness.
You must look to Jesus Christ, the one who shatters the self-generated madness. When you look to Jesus you see the King, Creator, Savior, and Redeemer who is to be worshipped. You see Jesus as the one who is true self-giving humanness and seek to take your lesser place at His feet.
Contemplate God’s question to Jonah in your heart, “Do you have a right to be angry?”
Your answer might instantly be, “I have a right to be angry!” Then God says to you,
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished. (Exodus 34:6-7)
God comes to you again and asks,
“Do you have a right to be angry?”
May sanity start moving into your heart. Philippians 2:8-11 tells you that Jesus, God Himself, took a place lower than us and humbled Himself by His death on a cross. Now He is exalted and at His name every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.
God whispers in your ear again and asks, “Do you have a right to be angry?” May your heart be undone by His loving transformative grace leaving you sane, weak, and free of your madness.