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About this series
Overcoming Emotions that Destroy
Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings that Ruin Relationships
How do you deal with those angry feelings we all experience? In the series, Overcoming Emotions That Destroy, Chip Ingram will help you identify whether you are a spewer, leaker, or stuffer. You will learn the difference between good and bad anger, how to gain control of it, and how to use it in constructive ways. This no-nonsense, practical series, will give you biblical tools to express your anger appropriately and deal with those who express their anger toward you.More from this series
I want to talk now about it is so dangerous to take this weapon of anger that he’s going to tell us now how specifically, after this passage, to treat it when you’ve been wounded deeply. How to clean out that wound, how to bandage the wound, and how to get whole so that good things can happen. And so, that’s what I want to talk about now.
Step one, to be good and mad is to cleanse the wound. Cleanse the wound. Verse 31 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice.” How do you cleanse the wound? Confession and repentance of unresolved anger. Confession and repentance are the two key words there, of unresolved anger. Listen to the command. “Get rid of.”
He’s given us this picture. Take off, have your mind renewed, put on. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling, slander. And then, along with that, that desire to hurt people. Malice. The motive is you really want to make them pay. And you’ve got to cleanse the wound.
Now, here’s the deal. In your humanness and in my humanness, here’s how I play it out. When she really apologizes and realizes how deeply she’s hurt me, I’ll forgive her. When that former business partner that rips me off, who claims to be a Christian, apologizes and tells me what he really did and owns it. When that lady who said those things about me at church and we mentioned, apologizes then…
And here’s what I want to say, some of you, especially as couples, you’ve got to be the proactive one. Every issue, every anger issue, every relational problem is never a one hundred percent, zero percent issue. You know what I’m saying?
In other words, they’re not a hundred percent wrong and you’re zero percent innocent. Now, most of you would agree with that, right?
Now, what I know is, it’s ninety/ten. It’s ninety percent them and only ten percent you, right? When you think of what they did and what he, okay, now here’s the deal. If you want to see the wound cleansed, if you want to not let this anger ruin your relationship with God and with others and not allow you to be a vessel and a weapon for righteous indignation, you’ve got to cleanse the wound.
You have to get rid of the ten percent of your bitterness and anger and wrath and malice and you have to confess it and then repent. Confess means I agree with God. This anger, this bitterness, this resentment, this passive-aggressive, this leaking, these exploding.
I need to say, God, I am sorry. Will You forgive me? I turn away from that. I don’t want to do it anymore. I resolve in my heart. And then you look into the eyes of that friend or that mate and you say, “Honey, I want to tell you. This is how I’ve hurt you with my anger and this is the mask that I wear.” And then, with eye contact, “Will you forgive me?”
And then you purpose and in your heart of hearts you know it’s a pattern and you purpose it. “I don’t want to do this anymore but if I do it again, I want you to know, I am going to take this seriously.”
And it’s hard. And it’s painful. And you’re saying, But, well, no, you don’t understand. It’s ninety percent him. Hey, you know what? You own yours. You can’t control him or you can’t control her. You can’t control that person in another state who did that and moved away with your mate.
My kids and I, I love basketball. And Sunday afternoon was our release time. And so we’d play pick-up basketball and I had a driveway that had a nice slant to it so when all my friends came over, I know where the slant is and it was an amazing home court advantage.
“Man, I’m shooting kind of short.” “Ah, don’t worry about it.” So, and all my boys, it must be, and daughter. I don’t know what it is but there’s sort of winning and losing. It’s not like you’re better than.
But we’re intense and we really like to compete. Along with my closest friends. We’re brothers. We really care. But it is an “in your face, no holds barred” and when you go to the hoop and a guy gets in your way, you don’t mean to, but if his nose gets broken his nose gets broken. And a guy skids on the concrete.
So about every three months, Theresa is inside and hearing grunts and [makes noise]! And rolls. And we always go to the ER. And a lot of times you get a big gash, right? And it was just normal. I put them in the car, here we go again. Three boys. It’s just life. That’s how we did life.
And we loved each other deeply. But I’m going to tell you, when we went to the ER and there would be a deep gash and gravel and dirt, they’d pour this junk in it. And when they were younger I had to hold them [makes crying sounds]. Right? Right?
And then what do they do? Then they rub it and the kid’s going. And everything in you as a parent wants to say, “You’re hurting my boy. Hey, doc, do you need to do it that much?” “Hey, I’ve just started.” And they start picking little pieces of gravel out.
And then it looks pretty clean to you. Then what do they do? They take this syringe with a needle, right? Sssssss. And the saline solution and “Ooooh!” Right?
They cleanse the wound! Because if they don’t cleanse the wound, what happens? It gets infected. It’s not pretty. It hurts a lot.
But some of you are living with an infection that has festered for decades. Cleanse the wound. Forgive and repent.
Then, in verse 32, he says, treat the wound. My kids didn’t leave with, “Dad, I think it’s clean.” Then what happens? They treated it. Verse 32 tells us how to treat it. “Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other just as God in Christ, also forgave you.”
Then he goes on to say, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant aroma, a sacrifice to God.”
And so, he says, you need to cleanse the wound and then he goes on to say, we need to treat it. And this is forgiveness and reconciliation. I confess it, I repent, and now, I’ve got to take it from the horizontal and the beginning of confessing it to a person and then I need to both receive and give forgiveness.
I need to extend: I’m going to take you off the hook. I refuse to keep trying to pay you back. I’m not going to bring your mind up to God anymore and out of my mouth, I won’t say to my closest friends anymore how you do this and our marriage is like this and you’ve been doing it for years and he’s a spewer and she doesn’t do this.
And every time I know she’s mad because she doesn’t want to have sex ever. And all this stuff. I’m not going to say it anymore. I’m going to forgive and I’m going to extend reconciliation. I’m going to say, “Let’s get back on the same team.”
I’m going to do for this person what Christ has done for me. Be kind. Be tenderhearted. And, by the way, I will just tell you, that’s the issue. According to Jesus, there’s only one reason why people ever get divorced. Because of the hardness of heart.
It’s not your mate’s stuff or your stuff. When you get wounded and you get hurt and you’ve been spewed on or they’ve leaked anger or you feel used, your heart gets hard. You just start protecting yourself.
And so, it’s a big, risky step of faith where you cleanse the wound. And you confess your side of it and you repent.
And then the next big step is you extend forgiveness. You say, God, in light of what You’ve done for me, I’m going to extend it to them.
I had a situation not all that long ago where I went through a really, really difficult time that involved betrayal. I don’t know if you’ve ever been betrayed where people make very specific commitments and they say they’re going to do certain things and then you find yourself, like, You’re kidding. Just way, way out there.
And, for me, maybe it’s my personality, but when you’re betrayed, ooh, the anger. The resentment. And, so, I’ve gotten to practice this. And to extend forgiveness.
And I really wrestled. And I had, like, a three month wrestling match with God, telling Him what He ought to do to these people that betrayed me and they should know better and on and on and on.
And then I had a friend say, “You know something? I’d like you to go through a little exercise.” And he knew the whole gamut of the situation and he said, “I’d like you to pray for a week and then we’ll meet.” It was at a golf club, actually.
And he said, “Let’s meet next week, right here, and I’d like you to pray and ask God any and every mistake and anything that you would be culpable of, even the small things, that, sort of, helped bring about this difficult, painful thing.”
And I did. And I remember writing out seven very specific things that I thought, Wow, God, I wish You wouldn’t have showed me so much. And I’d like to say and mine were all little and theirs were all big. It wasn’t, Oh, that was dumb.
And then I began to think, if I was them, how would I view that? Well, I could view that maybe he was actually trying to do that. Ooh, gosh, no wonder they betrayed me. Then there’s this. And that wasn’t sin, it was a mistake, but…
And I listed seven things. And I got the next week with that guy at the golf course and I looked at it and he said, “You’re having a hard time forgiving these people, aren’t you?” I said, “Yeah, I really am.”
He said, “So, how do you think you’d like God to treat you on this one?” I said, “Man, I don’t want what I deserve.”
And, it was just kind of like he led me through – here’s this guy helping the pastor who’s supposed to know this. And he led me through that little parable in Matthew 18 of the servant that gets forgiven twenty million dollars and then he goes and won’t forgive the guy for twenty bucks.
And basically what he said was, it’s not about proportion. You want God to be merciful with you. If you really want that, you always have to give away what you want to receive.
And then I had, I even listed my excuses. That’s not fair. They don’t deserve it. And he looked at me and he said, “I know. You’re not doing it because they deserve it. You’re doing it to obey. And you’re doing it so that you can be free.” And you know what? Christ did it for you. Not passing it on is not an option.
What do you need to do? You cleanse the wound. Confession and repentance. You treat the wound. Forgiveness and reconciliation. And then, third, you need to bandage the wound.
This is chapter 5 verses 1 and 2. I alluded to them earlier and read them but listen to what it says. It’s not about just, “Okay, I forgave him. I think everything’s okay, as far as it depends on me. I never want to see him again, never want to talk to them, I hope nothing ever happens.”
Be imitators. Literally, the word is mimic God. We get our English word. That word “imitator” if you would go to the Greek text, it’s M-I-M-I. Literally, it’s mimic God. That’s a pretty big command.
“Be imitators of God, therefore,” and notice, in your notes, put a parenthesis around “as dearly loved children.” You can’t give away what you don’t have.
And for many of you, the breakthrough will come. I remember listing those seven things and, I don’t want to be overly dramatic here but when I saw them, I cried. I just thought, Man, that’s ugly.
And it wasn’t like I willfully did any of that. It wasn’t like I was doing some big bad things. But when I really saw some things in my heart and when I really saw where I blew it, it’s just, like, Aw, that’s so ugly, God.
And then I had this amazing warmth experience where Jesus, Chip, I know. That’s why I died. Like I, Chip, you don’t, I really wasn’t surprised on this one. I wasn’t shocked. I saw this one all the way back at the cross.
See, you mimic God but as one who’s already dearly loved. You don’t work this up. It’s receiving more and more. “And then, as a dearly loved one, live a life of love as Christ loved us and gave Himself as a fragrant offering and sacrifice.”
And so, in terms of a very practical way, this is how: you put the past behind you. You put the past behind you.
When I have struggled with forgiveness, the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced is learning to pray for that person. And it’ll start off not real good. Like, Lord, will you show them what they really need to hear? Lord, will you cause them to repent? Lord, would you bring about difficult things in their life so they would look up to You, seek You, and then tell me they’re sorry? There’s all kinds of ways we want to do that.
And I’ve found that if I can bless those who persecute me. The word “bless” means to seek the salvation and the deliverance of another. And when people curse you, it’s a strong, strong word of them wanting to take you down. That’s Romans 12:14.
But Romans 12:14 to 21 became my mantra. Love your enemies. It’s, Paul is really quoting, encapsulating Jesus in Luke 6. “Love your enemies. Do good to them. Pray for those who use you. Who despise you. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Don’t be overcome with evil. Overcome evil with good.”
And so I started praying for these people every day. And then every time I took the Lord’s Supper, I just made a little vow. I will always pray and ask Your blessing, from the depth of my heart, and I long for the day when I hear something great about them, about their marriage, about their life, about their kids, about ministry that my initial reaction, before I can think, is rejoicing.
And when that day comes, I’ll know that I have act – forgive. Process – forgiven. Forgiving. And then when that day comes, when I can immediately rejoice when I hear something good about those who have done me wrong, that’ll be forgiven.
Forgiveness is a choice. It’s a decision, a process, and there’s an ending.
And so, every time I took the Lord’s Supper, I prayed and prayed and prayed and it’s just really was exciting, after a journey, to hear some very positive things. And before I could think about it, it was, Thank you, Lord.
And it was, like, “Great! Great.” I have extended to them what You extended to me. I don’t want them to get what they deserve. Just like, God, I don’t want to get what I deserve.
“Therefore, be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful,” Jesus said, “who causes it to rain on the evil and the good, on those who give thanks and those who don’t.”
Here’s what we’ve learned. It’s okay to be angry. It’s what I do with it that matters. Anger can be good. Remember our little equation? Your AQ, your anger quotient, and I wish I had a big white board. AQ equals E, environment, plus P, perspective, times O426. Obedience to Ephesians 4:26.
And there you have it right there. The action for a stuffer is to stuff, avoid, pretend, repress, and suppress. The action for a spewer is explode, control, either in an uncontrolled manner or in a very calculated way.
The action for a leaker is passive-aggressive, indirect power, and then sort of subtle slander. And here’s the appropriate expression. Be assertive. Make non-threatening “I feel” statements about needs and desires.
In terms of reaction, the stuffer denies feelings or angry, “Me? Angry? Not me.” They bury, hide, pretend you are not angry. Spewers yell, slam doors, kick, shout, push, shove, become hostile. Leakers procrastinate, gossip, be late, don’t follow through. And their yes and no is not reliable. The appropriate biblical response is what? The reaction: express it directly, or release it indirectly. Getting the anger out in a non-destructive way.
So there are times and ways we walk through. You address it, you address it to a person, sometimes it’s face to face, sometimes, it’s on the phone, sometimes you write a letter. And other times it’s a situation where, you know what? It will do no good, you are not the person responsible to address it, and what you need to do is do some healthy wholesome activity after expressing it to God and for me it’s working out, or taking a walk, or listening to music and releasing that anger and saying, “I’m not, I’m not responsible or I’m not the one to address this. But I need to deal with my anger.”
In terms of results, when you stuff you grow out of touch with emotions. You live in denial. You expend excessive energy avoiding anger.
For some of you that are thinking, this is too hard, this is too difficult; I just can’t wait to get out of here and throw away these notes and not deal with this.” Do it for your kids. Do it for those that are around you. Because you will pass it on.
The results for the spewer are damaged relationships and emotional distance. The results for the leaker is unhealthy communication, damaged relationships. The appropriate expression and what occurs, the results are: restored, healthy relationships, open honest communication, justice and righteousness upheld, grace and mercy given.
Now, I, you know what? That’s a very simple little chart. But that basically covers almost everything we’ve done.
Questions for further thought. Here’s where I want you to ponder. I would encourage you as this comes to a close: who is an accountability partner of the same sex? Who are two or three other people in a small group? Who’s going to go on a journey with you to unpack and deal with where God’s spoken to you? Because I will tell you, two days from now, the new pressures, the old patterns, nothing will change unless you start. And so, here are the questions.
One, in what areas do you see the need to become more expressive in your anger? Where do you see that you need to be more expressive? Under control, rightly, directly.
Second, what safe-guards can help you express your anger and yet do it appropriately?
Third question is: how is the example of Jesus helpful as you examine anger issues relevant to you? Wasn’t it kind of refreshing to think that Jesus really got angry? Isn’t it exciting to think that there is wrong in the world and God deposited you with an emotion to make a difference to motivate you like few things in all the world? And that you could make a difference by getting mad about the right stuff?
Fourth, what did you learn about anger resolution? Why is it so important?
And then, fifth. Are there any anger issues or relationships in your life that need complete resolution? What steps will you take?
For some people, I’ll just repeat this one more time, I don’t mean to beat a drum. If you need help personally, you are a single mom, you are a single dad, you are a single person, you are a married couple, and you have tried and this is a pattern and maybe it goes all the way back to some things that when you really think about it you’ve learned and you can’t solve it yourself, get some help. Just get some help.
And you say, “Well I can’t afford it.” You can’t afford not to. I mean, you know I discourage people from ever going into debt but most of you spend money you don’t have on Christmas every year.
Eighty or a hundred bucks a shot for someone that would help you walk through the process to get anger where it needs to be and it will open up a window of issues that you had no idea, that you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. And relationships will be improved and your relationship with God will get deepened like, now, what’s that worth to you? I bet more than the car you are driving. And you spent a little money on that.
Final thing I just want to share and this will put everything in perspective. Just listen very, very carefully. Did you ever wonder why you get so mad and what you get mad at? You ever think of that? Now I shared the story of that lady banging that kid into a dryer. I got mad. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen really, really deep injustice but that gets us angry.
But most of your anger is, and often with people close, they do you wrong, don’t they? It’s not fair. They violate you. They attack you. They do terrible things to you and you get mad. And a lot of times, you ought to get mad, right? A mate walks out on you, you say, you ought to be mad! People steal from you? You ought to be mad! Why? because it’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s, ready? Wrong.
Question. Where’d you get that idea? I want to suggest that you are made in the image of God. And there is a phrase that I don’t know that I’ve heard a message in the last twenty-five years where anybody used this phrase. Now I’m sure there are some people and I may have been in the wrong circles. The wrath of God. Anybody heard that one? Or we allude to an old sermon by Jonathan Edwards and everyone thinks it was a terrible sermon. You know what? Thousands of people got saved over that sermon.
If you think you get mad, I mean picture if you will, spending all day, and making this beautiful, little sandcastle on the beach and you spent all day, and it’s a beautiful sculpture and somebody walking by kicks you out of the way and kicks it down. How do you feel? Mad! That’s what we as human beings have done to God and His earth and His creation and His Son.
And He’s holy. And He’s pure. And when there is sin, when things aren’t right, He’s mad. In fact, however mad you think you get about stuff, multiply that infinitely. That’s how mad He gets. And it’s called God’s just wrath. When you sin, are you ready for this? He’s mad at you.
When you mess up relationships and hurt people, He’s mad at you. When you violate the environment to make more money, He’s mad at you. When you use people and lie, He’s mad at you. Well should – now wait a second – don’t look. You, I wish I had a picture of you all. “He’s mad at me? Ethel, you think he’s talking to us right now? Homer, I think he might be.”
He’s mad at you! He’s mad at me. Now wait a second. It’s okay for you to be mad when someone walks out on you isn’t it? It’s okay for you to be mad when a child’s abused. It’s okay for you to be mad when girls are put into prostitution.
God’s mad at you when you sin in your mind, in your heart, with your mouth, and your actions and the Scripture says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who suppressed the truth in their wickedness.”
So, if you don’t feel a pretty weighty problem, you need to check your pulse. You get mad about stuff because you are made in the image of God, who knows the desires and the thoughts and the intentions not just of what you do but your heart and even your motives. And the one who wrote those words when on to say in chapter 3, “But now, a righteousness from God, apart from the law,” in other words, from keeping rules, “has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify.” So it’s not new it was the intent all the time of all the prophets.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to a special group. Whoever believes. There is no difference for all have sinned. Big, small, little, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
And they’re justified freely by what he did. His grace. Through the redemption. That’s the purchase price for you. It’s the picture of the slave market. And in the slave market of sin, at the time this was written, if you would buy a slave, you would walk in and you would pay so much and you would buy this slave.
And this is the word “redemption” of you being purchased out of the slave market of sin with your sins and God’s wrath and his anger hanging over your head and Jesus came and He offered His blood as the payment price and God said, “Okay, Mary, Bill, Ethel, Chip, Bob, Jim.” Whosoever, I’ll buy them all back.
The redemption that came by Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement. It’s an Old Testament picture of a covering. His blood covers the sin through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate, notice, His justice, because in His forbearance, He left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate justice. God is just. Sin has got to be dealt with. He’s mad at it. Like you get mad at it. He’s angry. He did it to demonstrate justice in this present time so He could be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
I would like to suggest to you, that God has an anger issue. And God had to solve His anger issue. The way God solved His anger issue toward us was He sent His Son. And I don’t know how much you know or where you are coming from, and I think sometimes we think, “I went to a little camp and I prayed a little prayer and I believe in Jesus whatever that means.”
Let me give it to you straight. You are under the wrath of God and He’s angry and knows all your sin and all mine. And the only solution was fully God, fully man, Jesus came, born of a virgin. He lived an absolutely perfect life, did miracles, raised people from the dead, fed people, taught about the kingdom, told that He would die, raise three days later, and said, “You can only find life in Me.”
Not though religion. Not through rules. Not through trying hard. Not through morality. The gateway to abate the just, wrath of God, is He would hang upon a cross and when He would turn away in fulfillment of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
He was an actual offering. And God took your sin and my sin and the sins of the whole and He placed them on Christ and then He moved back and with His breath of anger went, “AGGHHHH!” And all this wrath and hatred for sin was placed on Christ in that moment and was finished.
And you were forgiven. And I was forgiven. And whosoever would believe and trust in that work on that cross by faith receives salvation. And those who reject that have been provided forgiveness but will not receive it because of the hardness of their own heart. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to condemn the world. I came to save it.”
But those who walk in darkness and turn away, He came to His own, and those who were His own would not receive Him. Question: have you received the solution to God’s anger issue with you?
I didn’t ask if you went to church. Didn’t ask if you read your Bible. Didn’t ask if you gave a little money. I didn’t ask if you are a little bit moral than the next guy. Have you, at a point in time in your life, recognized that God is angry with you and rightfully so?
And the only remedy for that anger is the work of Christ so God could be just, fair. What the holiness of God demanded, the love of God provided, through the cross. And that’s what it means when it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe, put trust in Him, would not perish, but have everlasting life.” Have you ever received the free gift of salvation? It’s as simple as saying, looking upon that cross, your sin, God’s wrath, and recognizing, it’s been covered.
I can do nothing on my own. I admit I am a sinner, I ask You now to forgive me, Lord Jesus. I want to put my faith in Your work and in proof of resurrection, that Your work would cover me and atone for me and that You would take me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
And I now, You are the truth and the life and the way and I now will have access and relationship to the Father forever and ever and ever, eternal life is not just length, it begins at this moment. There is no more condemnation. Now, you are a son or a daughter of Christ.
Have you ever done that from your heart and said, “The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back”?