The danger in anger

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly – Proverbs 14:17 (NKJV)

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools – Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NLT)

Someone sent me a video recently that got me thinking and which brought these two Bible passages to life. The video was about a man who, in a fit of rage, must have chased someone, perhaps his wife, out of the house. Not content with that, the man proceeded to throw the person’s possessions out of the house through the balcony. While leaning over the balcony to throw out the objects, he lost his balance and was himself flung down headlong with what he was trying to throw out, of course with fatal consequences!

The Bible’s first incident of anger was over an issue involving two siblings Cain  and Abel. By the time it was over, Cain killed his own brother, committing the first recorded murder in creation! Research has shown that sixty percent of murders in the USA are committed by family members. As the story in the video I referred to earlier showed, unbridled anger is not only harmful to the person against who it is directed, it can also be injurious to anyone easily given to it. The result of a research carried out by Duke University in the USA concludes that anyone given to rage and uncontrolled anger is five times more likely to suffer from coronary disease which more than doubles their risk of a heart attack when they are angry!

The anger you don’t manage will damage you! It has been appropriately said that anger is only one letter short of danger! The way an individual manages his emotions will largely determine how much control he has over his anger. This is why the Bible teaches that the man who is slow to anger is better than a strong man and the one who can control his emotions is mightier than the one who conquers a city.

Anger is a two-edged sword that can be used for good or evil. It can be destructive or redemptive depending on how it is triggered or channeled. Anger can serve a redemptive purpose when it is a justified response to a situation that needs to provoke some changes in an individual or in an environment, especially when the trigger challenges our sense of fairness or core values. In such situations, the very emotions generated by our anger may be the way of escape for us out of the possible harm that could be caused by the trigger. In such situations, the anger we manifest could actually serve a protective purpose if we find ourselves in any situation that conflicts with or compromises our core essence and could be inimical to our overall well-being.

We will all have reason to be angry, leaders moreso because of their position and exposure to people of diverse temperaments and conduct. The problem therefore is never about getting angry but about managing our anger in a way that it does not lead to counterproductive outcomes.

Several factors can trigger anger in anyone. Those triggers differ from person to person. What aggravates one person may actually be pleasurable to another. A statement made in jest may make one person laugh. The same statement made to another person even in similar circumstances can make him fly into a rage! The first key to understanding anger and how to control it is to fully understand the possible triggers. Several things can trigger anger.

People usually get angry when they feel threatened in any particular way, especially when it is a threat to their physical well-being or property. Sometimes, people feel that their values are under threat and they react with anger.

Compelling people to do what they do not want to do willfully can trigger anger in them or in the person making the order when the person given the instruction is tardy in complying.

Quite often, people get angry when confronted with certain issues which they do not want to confront or for which they want to escape a sense of guilt or responsibility. When confronted with feelings of guilt and shame that they don’t want to admit, people sometimes fly off the handle as a face-saving device.

None of us enjoys being betrayed by people in whom we reposed a high level of trust. The more trust we repose in people, the more hurt we are when they stab us in the back. Trust me, I have been there!

Not many people enjoy it when it seems that their feelings are being taken for granted or their views on a matter discounted or discountenanced. The reaction and intensity of anger to this trigger is especially aggravated when it is expressed by people who struggle with self-esteem issues. They treat every attempt discount their feelings on any matter as an assault on their personality and usually recoil into themselves or play the avoidance game. One other trigger that tends to provoke a similar response is when people feel that they cannot have their way.

I have met several people who are so highly opinionated that they throw tantrums when their opinion on any matter is not upheld or implemented. Bedeviled by the delusion that they cannot be wrong, they hardly take time to process the reason for the rejection of their opinion, position or suggestion on an issue. Such people handle rejection very badly because for them, it is either their way or the highway even when their expectations are totally unrealistic and sometimes surreal! One of the ways such people manifest anger is to withdraw further contribution of ideas to the collective and a deliberate inclination to sabotage the group’s efforts if only to prove that he was right and they should have listened to him in the first instance. If and when it is actually proven that he was right, he wastes no effort in shoving the “I told you so” gloating mode down everybody’s throat!

In the early years of our church, we used to have a lot of outdoor evangelistic outreaches. Probably excited by the results we were getting at that time, a brother who also used to be a friend brought the suggestion that we should hire Liberty Stadium in Ibadan for a crusade. At that time, we were barely thirty people (including children) in the church; so you can also guess what our weekly income would have been. We only had a few microphones, two small loudspeakers, one keyboard and a drum set. Hiring Liberty Stadium which would seat about thirty thousand people would have cost what could easily be our income for a year, not to talk of the cost of publicity for the event, the equipment that would power the event and several other issues of logistics. When I tried to explain to him why that option was not feasible, he felt offended, became withdrawn thereafter and ultimately left the church in very unpleasant circumstances!

Although we all get angry, our manifestation of anger and response to the triggers are as varied as the people on our team…continued

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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