Blowing a Gasket

“Blowing a gasket.” “Lost his cool.” “She freaked out.” These are all euphemisms for getting angry. What is it that causes you to get angry? I find our 7 month old beagle puppy, Sophie, to be a great resource for me to explore the philosophical angles of anger and wrath. She is at that stage where she can be a true nuisance and has no intention of doing what you want her to do. She delights in chewing what is not a food substance. You get the idea.

We read in Psalm 37:8 “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!” We also read in James 1:19-20, Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. It’s clear that anger is something we are to forsake and a sin for which we should repent. The problem is, how do we get there? How do we fight our tempers?

Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits or evidences of the Spirit. One of those fruits is “self-control.” The Christian by definition has the Holy Spirit living within them. They believe the gospel because of the Spirit. They are convicted of sin because of the Spirit. It is God, working in us, by His Spirit, that will enable us to yield to self-control over anger. Step one is what my friend and mentor, Bebo Elkin, calls “stirring up the Spirit.” How are we at availing ourselves of the means of grace in the Word, prayer, fellowship, worship, and the sacraments? Through those means we are availing ourselves of the Spirit’s work.

That helps but I think we can be further helped in our struggle with anger. Fighting anger is more than just reading our Bibles for sure. Step two is to get to its root. Anger develops when a goal or idol is blocked. For example, when I’m anxious to leave the house and Sophie won’t come in from the back yard no matter how hard I call her, my goal of being punctual is being blocked.   Volcanic fury is the result. A more serious example is my anger toward people I care about may be a result of the fact that life is not meeting my selfish expectations. I perceive their actions as hindering my life of comfort and ease. The sin of which I need to confess that is producing anger is the sin of self-centeredness.

Now, this doesn’t touch on the reality of righteous anger. There certainly is such a thing. That’s for another Pastor’s Pen. My honest fear is that I too often shoehorn my sinful anger under the heading of righteous anger.

Maybe anger isn’t your problem. Maybe you don’t have a struggle with this problem. Want to test the waters of your own temper? May I suggest a puppy?