There was a group of police recruits who were taking their final oral exam, before graduation. The police instructor offered this scenario as their test: “Imagine you are downtown when the first national bank gets robbed. As soon as you spot the thieves fleeing the building, a huge truck slams into a fire hydrant sending water into orbit. A moment later, a woman screams as an armed man mugs her. Suddenly, a bomb blows up in a building across the street. The crowd that’s gathered falls into chaos, pushing and shoving to get away from the fire.”
After painting this scenario, the instructor asked: What would you do in response to this situation? A young recruit in the back row stood up and candidly replied: “Remove uniform, mingle with crowd.”
We’ve all felt this way, haven’t we? It’s easier to try and escape the chaos of our life than deal with it.
Remember Zinedane from last week?
The same thing was happening inside of him that happens in each of you when you get angry and feel helpless.
His heart rate increased, he started functioning from the survival, instinctual, fight part of his brain. Same thing happened to Mel Gibson when he was arrested.
It seems that many people, including Christians, have anger management problems.
It is not without reason it has been classified as one of the seven deadly sins.
For so many people, Christ followers included, anger is right at the top of the Emotional Bottle.
What's Your Stress Style?
Appeasing, eager to please, apologetic, a syrupy “yes” man or woman.
Tends to be taken for granted and a martyr.
Cancels out SELF.
Fault-finder, dictator, controls, nit-picks, criticizes, uses sarcasm.
Tends to blame others for personal problems.
Cancels out OTHER.
Calm, cool, collected, carefully chooses right words, avoids admitting mistakes.
Tends to deny feelings, cite facts, statistics, authorities and tradition.
Cancels out SELF and OTHER.
Talkative, irrelevant, hyper, unfocused
Tends to avoid direct eye contact and direct answers, quick to change the subject, ignores the point being discussed.
Cancels out EVERYTHING.
Listen to what the Bible says about anger.
1 Timothy 2:8
I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
That’s a great idea Paul, but it doesn’t seem to be working in life and church.
“A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated.”
Yes Solomon, if you only knew. That is so true. We can’t seem to go long without an angry outburst. We do foolish things. We throw something across the room. We threaten, taunt, ridicule and put others down.
We blame, we criticize, we nag, and we are filled with sarcasm.
The words we use to define the anger we feel are telling: We're boiling mad, we feel fried, we’re really steamed…or at least simmering.
We become demanding and impatient.
Why is anger, and not love, our first response in so many of life’s situations?
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
How do we do this? How can we be slow to anger?
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
How do we get rid of anger so that it is no longer at the top of the bottle? So that anger no longer controls our lives?
The only way to get rid of anger’s control in our lives is to get to the source of it.
Two important things we must understand about anger and emotions in general that will help us to begin to do this.
1. There is nothing good or bad about feelings; they just are.
Feelings are our reactions to what we perceive and experience and at different times and in varying degrees of intensity we all share the same feelings: there really isn’t anything new under the sun.
Anger is no different. Anger itself is not a sin.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”
We need to accept that anger is a feeling, an emotion that God has given us and we cannot will it away, but we have a lot of choices about how we understand it and how we express it. We can learn to ‘not sin’ in our anger.
Tell me, who of you doesn’t want that?
2. Our emotions act like the warning lights do on the dashboard of our vehicles. It’s a warning on the dashboard of our life.
A light that indicates we are low on gas. As men we like to see how far we can go after the light comes on. Light for low oil. Light for low battery power.
Every light indicates that something in your motor, beneath the pretty exterior of our automobiles needs our attention.
Our emotions serve the same purpose in our lives.
“Our natural tendency is to see our emotions as a statement about someone else rather than as a statement about ourselves.”
Anger is a profound statement about ourselves and what is inside of us.
Anger is an emotional warning light telling us something is going on beneath the surface that we need to be aware of and we must be emotionally intelligent so we can pick that up.
If we do not do this it is like putting duct tape over the warning light on our dashboard so we can’t read the signal. And so we ignore the problem but the problem is still there and eventually, just as when we ignore the warning lights in our vehicles we have mechanical failure, when we refuse to ask the “why” behind our anger we destroy ourselves and our relationships and anger still controls us.
We need to learn to feel the anger in a safe place. Then as we talked about last week, thoughtfully reflect on the “why” behind our anger, and when something surfaces it calls for a thoughtful response.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
God can be angry and not sin because He is angry for the right reasons and He does only what is right in His anger.
But we fall short because of sin. Far too often our anger is not the right response in a situation because of sin in our hearts.
But you say, the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17
The old way of thinking and acting is gone.
Yes it is true that when we come to Jesus Christ our sins are wiped away and we are given a new name, a new identity, a new future, a new life. It is an amazing miracle God gives to us. We are declared right before God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
This does not mean that our past lives stop influencing us in different ways. We need to unlearn some of the past, to put off the old self as the Bible calls it.
And if we are not emotionally mature we miss the warning lights of our emotions given to us by God and meant to help us see what yet, in our lives needs to be surrendered to Jesus, what needs to yet change, what patterns of relating and coping need to be broken, and the wounds and hurts that need to be healed.
Unless we deal with hurt and pain the anger will continue to control us.
I know this is hard. One of the most difficult things we can do. It is like a death to dig beneath the surface of our lives and begin to feel the hurt and pain but there is no other way to find healing.
Far too many people make it through life by simply coping but not really changing. They learn what ‘masks of composure’ will help keep them intact.
“But God will settle for nothing less than deep change in our character, a radical transformation and restructuring of how we approach life.” Larry Crabb
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
Jesus wants deep change. There is no room for pretense. We may appear to have it all together as we sit here this morning. Outwardly we do so many things right, we pray, we tithe, we read our Bibles, we don’t rent R-rated movies, we don’t gamble, the list goes on but what about our relationships.
Is the quality of your relationships improving? Do you have real friends?
What happens if we are not willing to ask the “why” behind our anger and deal with hurt and pain in our lives is that people in your life are paying the price today for your past hurt, pain, discouragements, disappointments.
There may be certain periods of our lives when important people, like our parents, siblings, peers, treated us unfairly.
Some of you may have been abused, neglected, or uncared for. You have experienced deeply painful and hurtful things.
We need to ask God to show us the root of our anger. Where do I need healing? This takes risk.
This is scary.
Every one of us is desperately broken and in need of healing.
Each of you is experiencing these teachings with different feelings. Some of you may be angry that we are talking about emotions and even suggesting that we dig up past hurts and painful experiences.
Your response of anger, instead of brokenness tells me that there are yet wounds that Jesus needs to touch and heal in our midst.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the truth about what has happened to you in our past.
“This ____ happened to me God.”
Become aware of it and acknowledge it and allow the Holy Spirit to bring healing to these wounds as we allow ourselves to feel the hurt and pain.
We must acknowledge the truth. We have been hurt.
Some of us have done a great deal of this work in our past. But if it has taught me anything, it has taught me that it’s a life long learning process. At some point it’ll maybe move from a ‘healing’ experience to a ‘self-care’ perspective.
“I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.” Parker Palmer
Palmer suggests that burnout is not so much giving ‘too much’ as giving ‘what I do not possess’. Interesting.
"You only believe the part of the Bible you do." Rick Warren
Who loves me? Who loves you?