Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Resilient Resources on sale now.
About this series
Withstanding the Storms of Life
What’s the key to standing strong in the storms of life? How do we keep getting up no matter how many times the waves of trial and discouragement knock us over? One word – Resilient. Chip and Ryan Ingram team up on this series from James, Chapter 1, to remind us that God has given us all the resources we need to come out on top, regardless of what’s going on. If you’re looking for inner strength and outward power to withstand the toughest of circumstances, “Resilient” provides the guidance you need, to not give up or give in.More from this series
Our life-changing response to anger begins when we replace, listen carefully, our reaction for reflection. And here’s the key question, and I want to spend the rest of my time walking through this with you. Here’s the question: what is the root issue behind my anger? In other words, why am I really angry? Is it injustice? Is it I’m hurt? Is it I’m frustrated? Or is it some insecurities?
And I’m going to develop each one of these very briefly. And what I want you to know is here’s A, B, C, all right? Just please, in your mind’s eye, just lock in and think, I’ve got to be resilient. I can’t respond to what is happening to all these things. Gosh, there’s political division, there’s racial division, there are health issues, there are economic issues. And anger is just actually poisoning my mind and my heart. Okay. Why am I angry? Am I hurt? Am I frustrated? Is it injustice? Is it just my own insecurities?
And then what you need to do is you need to use what I call the A, B, C method. Are you ready? A: acknowledge that you’re angry. B: backtrack to the original cause or emotion. And then C: consider – what should I do? That’s a process.
So, let me give you three specific issues that tend to be underneath the surface. If you and I were sitting in a room together, I would have a napkin and I would draw a picture of an iceberg and I would put a wavy line over the very top of the iceberg and I would write the word anger on the iceberg. And then underneath of it, I would put the real issues behind anger.
And there are many, but there are three foundational issues that cause you and me to spew, to leak, and to stuff. So you ask the diagnostic question: what is behind my anger? And here’s the first question: am I hurt? What specifically do I feel? What unmet need do I have?
When we are hurt, and it can be real or it can be perceived. It can be as little as a comment that someone says or devastating that someone emotionally or relationally or physically hurt you. Or it could be what happened in a job or in a meeting.
A lady wrote me a letter who was one of those people who said, “You know, I’m really not a person that has anger issues,” and she writes. She goes, “The talk on anger brought out a lot of things that I have been sorting through and I have struggled with all week.
I had a scenario at work last week that caused me to become very angry. A coworker was working on a project that I knew a lot about. I felt I had a valuable insight to offer and I wanted to make sure that the best alternative was presented and chosen.
“Evidently, I had overstepped my boundaries because the manager, in polite words, told me to shut up and butt out because it was not my project. I immediately clammed up and fumed inside. I am the stuffer-type. It wasn’t until later that I realized my feelings were hurt and I wasn’t even sure why. Now when I look back, I realize I took it as a stab against my self-worth. For someone who seeks the approval of others, this was a devastating blow. I felt rejected. And when they disregarded, especially, my valuable advice.”
And then she writes, “It’s amazing, I never realized anger is a coverup for hurt or insecurity. I should have put two and two together because whenever I am angry, it’s usually because my feelings have been violated in some way.” And then she finishes her letter to me. She goes, “I love it when I see these startling revelations. It’s tragic on the one hand as I’m now realizing the severity of my problem. But on the other hand, I can now take crucial steps of healing, recognizing the problem is the first step.”
And this is what I have seen, and I have seen so often that people, they have anger issues, some of you don’t even know you have them, others are spewers and you know you do and then you say, “Oh, I’ll never do that again,” and you feel so bad and you feel so guilty and you tell people, “I’m so sorry.” And you’re very sincere and then you do it over and over and over again.
And some of you are leakers. And, “Oh no, I’m just sarcastic and it’s the way I grew up and our family is that way. And that’s how we express affection.” And I just want to tell you, all that is a bunch of baloney. The fact of the matter is, there is unresolved issues and anger is the tip of the iceberg and so many of us feel hurt, but we don’t know how to get our hurt out and deal with it.
And so, we either bury it or we pass it on sideways or we just get fed up over time and then we spew. So, let me give you a tool. This is the tool I call the “I feel” message. I’m always grateful when I get to share a tool that I got in marriage counseling many years ago, in our early marriage. Theresa and I did not know how to communicate, and we had no idea how to resolve anger.
And we were with a biblical counselor and just a tremendous guy and we couldn’t resolve anything. We couldn’t communicate. We couldn’t talk about anything that had potential conflict. I was a talker, talker, talker and she was a clam-upper, clam-upper, clam-upper.
And so, if we had a disagreement, she would just turn one way in the bed and I would turn the other way in the bed and we would do that for two or three nights and then we would get up one day and just pretend it didn’t happen and get nothing resolved.
And so he said, “You need to learn to attack the problem instead of the person.” And so, we nodded our head like good people do in counseling. “Oh, good, that sounds like a great idea.” Okay, now, here’s the tool. It’s called an “I feel” message. So, we had a little 3x5 card and in bold print on the refrigerator for two years – yes, two years – “I feel…when you…”
So, “I feel hurt when you come home late for dinner when I have worked all day to fix it to say I love you.” “I feel hurt when you reject my affection when I feel very close to you and you seem cold and irresponsive.” “I feel,” you get it? “frustrated.” “I feel mad.” “I feel sad that we don’t talk more deeply and more openly with one another.”
You see, no one can deny your feelings. That’s different than, “You ought, you should, you never.” Those are killer words. So, if you are hurt doesn’t get addressed, it will go somewhere. And so, we had to go into training and we had to learn “I feel” messages.
And by the way, sometimes you’re not ready to say them to your boss or your mate or someone that you might think right now either you’re not ready or they’re not safe. Do you realize there is someone that you can give your “I feel” messages to that can take whatever you can give Him? It’s called the Lord Jesus. It’s called God.
If you would open up the psalms, twenty-five to thirty percent of all the psalms, guess what, they are called lament psalms. That’s the formal name. And they go like this, “God, I feel angry! I feel ticked off. Where are You? Why did You allow this to happen? That’s not fair, this stinks, I’m absolutely ticked off. How come the bad people get good stuff and the good people get bad stuff? And why didn’t You come through?” I mean, they are gut wrenching.
And it’s interesting is they share that lament and those feelings honestly. Then there comes this point where they get some perspective and God begins to speak. Let me encourage you to share your hurt with the Lord.
The second diagnostic question behind your anger is, first, am I hurt? The second question to ask is: am I frustrated? See, anger is inseparably linked with our expectations. The first step to examine is: how realistic are my expectations? You see, unconsciously, we have expectations like, “Life ought to be fair.” “You should love me.” “You should never mad or get down on me.” “I should be happy.” “I must be fulfilled.” “My job should work out for me all the time.” “My kids should always be well-behaved.” “My husband should be kind and considerate.” “My wife should be affectionate and caring.”
In other words, we have these expectations that we lay there, and then when they are not filled, guess what, we feel frustrated. Well, frustration is sort of a mild way to say that you’re angry.
Killer words when you’re frustrated, and not that any of you would really have words like this come out of your mouth – I’m just kidding – is you know when you get in a real argument with a friend, with a coworker, or with a mate? “You never!” “You never do this! You always do this! You’re just like your mother! You’re just like your brother.” “You ought to! You should!”
Those are killer words. Always, never, every, ought, and should. Ought and should are what parents say to children. Always and never are never true. I mean, no one never does anything and no one always does anything. And so, what they do is they, they’re just attacking words. They are labeling words. They shut things down.
And so, I would encourage you to just say, Lord, will You help me eliminate those words from my vocabulary? And you say to yourself, Well, what do you do then when you really get discouraged and frustrated?
Let me, tool number one is, “I feel” message. Tool number two is a desire versus “I demand” expectations. A demand is: “You ought, you should, why don’t you? What’s wrong with you?”
“I desire,” it goes something like this, “I would really like to spend more time together and have some times where we can really talk.” I desire. “It would be great if you could come home earlier. I notice when you’re home for dinner, it really perks up me and the kids and it’s really important to us.” “I desire that this year we could really block off some time and take a real vacation. I see that you are working really hard.” “I wish that when you call a meeting that late at night and I’m out of town, that you wouldn’t have the expectation that three thirty in the morning when I’m in another country or on the east coast, that you’d expect me to be there.” You’re saying that to your supervisor.
I wish, I desire, it would be nice. Those are messages that people can digest. When you poke, when you attack, guess what, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, how many of us have been, “You ought! You should!” Here’s how a lot of conversations go in homes or among friends or even at the workplace, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No! No! No, no, no, no, no.” And the person responds, “No, no, no, no, no. Nah. Nah. Nah, nah, nah.” “Well, no, no, no! Nah, nah, nah. Nah, nah, nah.” “No!” Right? I mean, it’s nuts.
And what happens is you have two people that are far apart, wounds, scars. Be quick to hear, be slow to speak, right? Be slow to anger, for it doesn’t achieve the righteous life that God desires.
The question is: why am I angry? A: am I hurt? B: am I frustrated? C: am I feeling threatened? When someone uses harsh words or calls you a name or gives you an angry look. Or someone cuts in front of you in traffic and then makes a gesture that is probably not saying, “We’re number one!” When you hear angry voices when someone insults you or when someone violates your space or even physically hurts you or attempts to, you feel threatened. That’s normal. When you feel attacked, you feel exposed.
Each of these times, it’s interesting how God gives us biblical examples and in this one, it’s interesting, in 1 Chronicles chapter 15, verse 29, it’s about King Saul. And he’s the king and he has all the power and he just, he hears songs about David. He hears songs about, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousand.” Well, instead of, “Wow! I recruited him, I helped train him, he lived in my house. What a great success my life must be to empower a young man like David.” No. He is threatened. He perceives it and takes it as, “My territory. My power.”
And when we’re insecure, whether it’s real or whether it’s just perceived, when we fear that we’re being exposed or when we feel inferior or we fear rejection or we feel like we are less than, all of those things we feel threatened. The word is insecure. And those things cause us to respond in anger if we don’t process and ask, “Why am I angry? What is going on here? Who is firing the darts? Is there something learn? Whose approval do I need?”
As I think through just asking these questions, I think of Joseph’s brothers, right? They try to kill him and they decide to sell him. Well, they were mad. But why? Because they were hurt. “Dad treated Joseph different than us.” And so there was hurt. No one likes to be treated that way. And so they respond in anger.
Remember Naman the guy who came from Syria and he wanted to be healed. And the prophet didn’t even come out and talk to him. He just said, “Hey, send a servant out.” And said, “Hey, why don’t you go dip in the Jordan river?” And this guy has come all this way and brought his camels and donkeys and thinks he’s going to pay for it. And the text says he was livid. He was frustrated. He was livid. Why? Because his expectation was, the text says, “Well, I thought he would come out and say some holy words over me. There are lots of rivers. I could have gone to a river in Syria.” And thank God, he had a servant who was sane and said, “Hey, boss, if he would have said, ‘Do x, y, or z, something really hard, you would have done it. Why don’t you at least go try this?’” And of course, he did, and he was healed.
But all I want you to see is that over and over in Scripture, anger and the root causes of anger are the things that can destroy relationships, can bring us down. In fact, they are the core of not being resilient. Unresolved anger issues, not getting to the root problem means that you won’t be resilient.
Anger is something that can cycle. You get stuck in it. Resentment. The Scripture talks about, “Don’t let a root of bitterness grow up and by it many be defiled.”
We are living at a time in our country right now with political issues, racial issues, socioeconomic issues that resentment and bitterness, blaming, a deep-seated kind of anger can poison your soul. And I can’t say this anymore bluntly or honestly: repent of that. Do not allow you to have an us-versus-them.
Every person in the world is made in the image of God. Democrat, Republican, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian. Okay? Rich people. Poor people. This political party. This movement. We don’t – we cannot have a broad brush that puts people in categories. You don’t want that for you, don’t do that to anyone else.
What I would say by way of an aside is you will never overcome those kind of issues unless you get some proximity. You have to get close and get to know a real person with real feelings with a real life that is different than you. Can I encourage you? Don’t post things on Facebook. Don’t be negative. Don’t be critical. “Live in such a way, let your light so shine before men that they could see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven, holding forth the Word of God,” the apostle would say, “that you could be a beacon of light in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation.” God wants us as believers to bounce back from what is happening, be difference-makers, be the light, be the salt.
Finally, I would just say that anger can be turned from your arch enemy, you know, the horse that keeps throwing you off and causing damage, to being a faithful ally. In fact, the Bible actually commands us, are you ready for this? Ephesians 4:26 and 27 commands us, “Be angry,” in other words, be angry, the right kind of anger and the right kind of things, “and yet, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Message: deal with it. Resolve it. Look under the hood. “…and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Think about that. There is probably few areas that allow demonic activity to begin to fester in people’s minds and souls and hearts like unresolved anger. God doesn’t want us to blow up, to bottle up, or to leak out. He wants us to be angry and not sin. He wants us to take the power of the wild stallion of anger and tame it, to use it as a tool to motivate us to righteousness, a tool to see areas that He wants to change deep inside of the core of our being. He wants us to learn to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. To become like Him and bless and love those around us.
Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters right now that in this moment Your Spirit would bring to mind how they deal with their anger, whether they spew, whether they leak, whether they stuff or as many people wrote to me, “I do two or three of these.”
And, Lord, would You help us to understand that You understand what’s going on, that You want to help us, that anger poisons our soul, ruins our relationships? Lord, please help us. I pray for those that have deep, unresolved anger issues, that You would give them the courage to get help and find a great Christian counselor, a pastor, an older friend.
Lord, I pray for those that stuff and feel down and depressed, that maybe the light would come on and they would realize they have been really angry about some things or to some people and they never realized it until right now. Would You help them to get out a sheet of paper or a journal and just start to process “I feel”? And begin to write it out and allow You to bring to their mind and get it out of their insides and on to something objective?
And, Lord, I pray, since we are all going to feel angry and be disappointed and would You give us the grace to bring our anger to You? You can take it. To be honest with our emotions before You and then get Your perspective and then be the men, the women, the students who You want us to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.