- Mental Health
A Devotional on Anger
Cain and Abel (Gates of Paradise)
In my secular work as a residential child and youth care practitioner (RCYCP), I often deal with juveniles who have a hard time controlling their anger. Just tonight a juvenile initiated a physical struggle with another RCYCP, and I had to help her restrain him.
Young people like the one we dealt with want to be independent and free to do as they please, but they do not understand that they are a danger to others and to themselves. Before they can be back home, they need to learn to control their anger.
But how can they learn this essential life-skill?
Often juveniles who cannot control their anger need external help from their care providers. Sometimes that help comes in the form of a physical restraint, but most of the time it comes in the form of a listening ear, someone controlling stimuli, and the deliberate teaching and modeling of right values.
Thus, when a care provider listens, the care provider allows the youth to vent, helps him (or her) express his emotions, manipulates the environment to control stimuli affecting the youth, and helps the youth to figure things out and make right choices.
As a general rule, these young people are not allowed to engage in horseplay, watch violent movies, or listen to music that expresses violence. Why? Because when people become angry, they tend to say and do the first thing that comes to their minds. And if a kid has been watching the Hulk smash things when he is angry, that kid usually ends up letting his own green monster loose.
It is for this reason that youth must learn and commit to heart right values: to not kill, to not hurt people, to not utter threats, to not destroy private property, to nor curse, and to not do anything irresponsible that puts others or themselves at risk. When a person believes these values, those values can become a powerful influence on the person's own behavior.
The Bible Says
The Bible has much to tell us about anger, and here are some verses to help us remember its teachings.
First, anger per se is not a sin. The Bible says: “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, KJV). For several thousand years, God has been angry every day, but his anger is right because it is directed toward those who do evil. Moreover, God’s anger does not impede Him to rejoice in those who love Him and do his will. God is in full control of his anger.
Second, our anger must be justifiable. Jesus said, “Whosoever is angry with is brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22, KJV). There must be a good reason for us to be angry. We should not be angry without a good cause.
I remember walking into the house one day and saying “Hi!” to a young man. Immediately, he started insulting me and telling me to keep away from him and not to talk to Him. But there was no good reason for him to be angry with me: I was only being friendly to him. That kind of behavior is sinful before God (although I keep in mind that this young person, admittedly, needs therapy in order to become better at controlling his anger).
Third, as a general rule, our anger does not make things better. The Bible says that “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20, KJV). Simply put, we often do not know the difference between justice and vengeance, and we often treat unfairly those with whom we are angry. Here is a classic example: a kid pushes another, and the other retaliates with a series of punches. A push is less harmful than several punches.
For this reason, even if our anger is justified, being rightly directed at sin, the Bible warns us “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26, KJV). If we do not control our anger, but instead are controlled by it, we can easily do things that are against the character and will of God. This is similar to when a person who tries to exercise his right to self-defense, but then abuses it and becomes the aggressor. The attacker had already surrendered, but the person went ahead to use deadly force against him. The law will not excuse him.
Call to Control
As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we must keep our anger under control. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). Do not let anger control your actions; do not let it control your words; do not let it control your thoughts; do not let it control your feelings. Anger is a powerful fire, and it can easily explode and consume lives, including our own.
Questions for Reflection
1) What makes you angry?
2) What do you do when you are angry? How do you deal with your anger?
3) Have you ever been angry and done something you regretted?
4) How can believing and recalling the Bible verses in this devotional help you next time you are angry?
5) Watch the video in this devotional. Why was Lecrae angry? How did a personal encounter with Jesus help him control his anger?
This week, take time to pray for someone who is angry, or for your own anger. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ to give you peace that surpasses understanding, and to give you the ability to forgive others. Ask the Lord to forgive you any wrongs you have done while angry.
© 2016 Marcelo Carcach