In this article, I’m going to address the issue of anger, and how to recognize the things that spark your anger, BEFORE you get angry. If you understand those things, and are aware of how certain things affect your attitude, you can really make strides walking in the joy of the LORD, rather than bitterness. So, I got some tips for you that I’ve learned over the years, especially recently through this experience I had on social media.
When I was in junior high school, my friend and I got out of the line at the snack bar, talking to each other. We were trying to get out of the crowded line, about to eat our chips. In doing so, my friend accidentally bumped into some other guy. That guy immediately looked my friend up and down, told some girl to hold his burrito, and bum-rushed my friend! This dude swung wildly and missed, but ended up taking him to the ground.
I remember how stunned I was. I didn’t know what to do. It happened so fast, and was so unprovoked. To this day, my friend and I have no idea what set this other guy off. Still, there was my friend, on his back on the dirty asphalt, with some kid trying to punch his face. My friend did a good job defending himself. Neither person really landed any meaningful shots. The who picked the fight didn’t really know how to fight. I could that my friend was still in shock that he was suddenly in a fight. It was a mess.
For me, it was tough. I just stood there. I didn’t know what to do. Should I have jumped in and kicked that guy’s teeth in? Probably not. Should I have broken it up? My friend was just starting to get some shots in, and might have been able to end the fight himself. It all happened so fast, and didn’t last long either – maybe ten-seconds total. The only thing I do know, is that when the dean came and broke it up, and took my friend away to the office, I saw his eyes were bloodshot red from the adrenaline. On the other hand, the guy that attacked my friend, was walking away with the dean, so proud and pompous, like he had just won a prize fight by knockout. No one really won or lost that fight, but seeing my friend, and then the other guy’s arrogance, filled me with rage!
That was almost thirty years ago.
Fast-forward now. Just a few months ago, I was on Instagram scrolling around looking at silly stuff, and suddenly, saw that my friend from junior high school, start following me. This was the same guy who got in that fight. At first, I was stoked. It had been a long time since I’ve had a chance to talk to that guy. This is where social media can be kind of cool, reuniting people to a certain degree. Then, just moments later, that excitement quickly changed. I was somehow filled with rage in just a moments time. Somehow seeing my friend’s name and profile picture, took me right back thirty years, to that junior high school fight.
I’ve thought about that fight, maybe three times my whole life since then. Like I said before – it wasn’t much of a fight to begin with. But the day that I saw my friend on Instagram, that whole scenario came back so vividly. It was weird because I was angry like it had just happened again right in front of me. I was furious about that kid that started the fight. I can’t even remember that kid’s name. Still, in that moment, I hated that guy! I couldn’t get the anger and bitterness out of my mind. It was crazy that, just seeing someone’s name, could put that kind of emotion in me, about some person who is actually a total stranger to me. Y’all know what I’m talking about, right?
Here's the point: We know, it’s WAY too easy for the brain to go to some really dark places, really fast. We don’t need a lot of help and inspiration. We don’t need to exhaust much effort to pull out hateful, jealous, bitter thoughts about people. Sometimes we just see an image, hear their name, or hear a sound, and suddenly, we’re heated! It’s crazy. An old friend got punched over thirty years ago. Yet, there I was angry and bitter towards someone as if it just happened. In that moment, I learned how important it is to recognize the things that spark your anger.
Anger is one of those things that causes bitterness with quickness. Just like that, the joy we’re supposed to have in salvation, can be gone. Where did it go? Maybe just as important, how do we find it again? If we all have to deal with this issue, what can we do to minimize the bitterness and anger? Here are some things I’ve learned over the years, that have been helpful to me, and might also be helpful to you.
“I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” – Psalm 101:3
Be careful about where you put your eyes. We all know the things that will likely set us off. If we’re willing to learn, we can easily determine what sparks our anger. Don’t knowingly put yourself in position to be bitter, jealous, or angry. Learn to hate the things, that change your attitude, where you end up hating people. Be on the lookout for that stuff, and know where the potential to see those things, is higher.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
For me, boredom put me in a position to see things, that at first glance were harmless, but my sinful nature made use of to change my attitude in that moment. I should have been using my time more wisely in my “boredom.” Rather than seeking to please myself with mundane nonsense on social media, I could have been searching out things that were true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and good. I could have been spending my time meditating on those things. Instead, I left my mind open for different thoughts. Learning to recognize the things that spark our anger is one thing. Proactively working against those things, is another thing that requires conscious and purposeful effort.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11
Whether you struggle with anger and bitterness, or not, it is IMPERATIVE to have a constant and fruitful connection to the LORD through a maturing understanding of His Word, that is facilitated by both your individual studies AND a person who is spiritually gifted and equipped as a teacher of the Word. This way, you learn to have verses in your mind and heart to fall back on when the wrong thoughts fill your mind and change your attitude. It’s especially helpful to have some verses committed to memory, or within eyeshot, that specifically speak about the joy of the LORD and the salvation He’s promised.
For example, I have a reminder set on my computer and my phone to go off every day at 11am with Psalm 68:3-4, which says…
“But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him.”
You can’t really read or recite this verse in a bitter tone. You can’t read this verse with an angry attitude. The way it’s written, kind of makes you smile a bit, talking about the amazing glory of the LORD with an excited tone. I’ve learned that, if I just repeat this a bunch of times, then start thinking about the meaning of each phrase, it’s hard for the anger to linger. It might come back, but this is one way I’ve found to help push it off.
My old friend got punched in the face. He got sucker punched, and roped into a fight he didn’t plan on, or want to be in. That’s kind of how it works for all of us, spiritually-speaking. When I reconnected with my friend on Instagram, I didn’t plan on having to repent of murderous thoughts in my heart and mind, about a kid I didn’t know. I got sucker punched by my own flesh. I was suddenly in a fight in my mind, that I didn’t want to be in. Sure, there were some things I could have done to keep my mind from anger to begin with, but we can’t just cut ourselves off from every influential source on planet Earth. Still, the Bible teaches that we should keep our mind on heavenly things.
We need to make proactive decisions about what we put in front of our eyes. We need to make proactive decisions about what we let enter our ears. If possible, we can avoid a lot of the fuel that lights our fire. In reality, it’s not hard learning to recognize the things that spark our anger. We just have to leverage the spiritual tools the LORD has provided, to keep our minds as pure and joyful as can be. We need to be in the Word, seeking to know the One True Living God in the scriptures, to use those tools. When your mind shows that it has a will of its own, give these things a try, and see if the Word of God might not just temper that temper a bit.