A series on the topic of Anger.
Kinda funny, kinda sad too, and probably familiar to some people out there who are married. Eighteen years ago on my wedding day, I was standing at the altar looking down the aisle at my beautiful bride. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is great! I love me and now my soon-to-be wife is going to walk down this aisle and love me too!” Later that very evening at the reception, we had our first argument as Mr. and Mrs. If you asked my wife, she would admit she thought something similar to when I was standing at the altar. These selfish thoughts created an opportunity for many of our initial conflicts.
In this article (as well as this series) I am discussing the times when we get angry for the wrong reasons and express it in the wrong ways.
So does anger expose what we want? It sure does!
Our anger exposes our allegiances, which points to what we care about, what we love in that moment. Is it God or something Me-centric? In this way, anger is diagnostic, it points to what we love/like/want/demand in that moment.
How does anger expose my allegiances?
First, what is an allegiance? It is loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.
So how do you find your allegiances?
To help you find out: Think about the last time you were angry. Now ponder these questions:
- Where were your loyalties lying?
- Where and what were your commitments to?
- What were you all about? Right then, in the heat of it?
We do what we prioritize. And many will fight over it.
Do you know we are all worshipers at heart?
Worship is not just singing at a church service, it is more than that; it is directed adoration. Worship was meant to be directed towards God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Here is a good working definition of worship: We are always directing our love, respect, and adoration towards something. Worshipping either God, or someone/something else is hard-wired into us; it is part of what makes us human.
Think of it like this: It is like a garden hose that is always on “full blast.” It is not a question of “IF” it is on or off (it’s always on) but at “WHAT” is the hose pointed.
We are always doing something with our worship; it is never passive.
God designed worship to be directed at Him, and He would bless us with His presence.
What happens when our worship is not directed towards God but something ME-centric?
We call this idolatry. Jeremiah 2:13:
“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.“
What is idolatry? See, we have a flawed relationship with God, don’t we? Not by God’s doing, but by ours, from the fall (Genesis 3). We all have a free will to direct our worship – meaning we have the drive and opportunity to choose other things besides God to love and adore. God designed us to be in relationship with Him, but we often choose to love something/someone else. Often these other choices are irrational, poor/cheap substitutes that are only temporary and cause pain; we choose a delusion or an illusion over God. There is also a selfish component, right? Why worship a God whom we cannot control? Instead, “Let me try to worship/love something I can control.”
The phrase “worship disorder” could serve as a short definition of idolatry.
Note: A good resource to consult to help unpack worship and idolatry is Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. (Used versions of the book are available. This is an affiliate Amazon link.) By Mike Wilkerson. Especially chapters 5 and 6.
What is at the center of your solar system?
We do what we value. What I say and do tells the people around me what I am about; what my priorities are. Please prayerfully meditate on these things, and if you don’t like what you see, then please refer back to the awareness technique we learned from the 1st article and practice the 4 steps to slow down and increase your awareness towards your anger. Then use the 2nd article to help detect when we wrap our hand around a particular desire and demand it, even above God’s will for us.
Does anger expose what I love? Like? Want? The short answer: Heck ya! Why?…
Because it is tied to what we are worshiping in that moment, anger always exposes our desires, likes, and wants. And that reveals what we’re loving. Remember, we do what we value.
To help you when you’re angry next, ask yourself these questions:
- What are you motivated by?
- What do you love? In that moment?
- Am I honoring others or manipulating others?
So, a good question to ask yourself now is: what do you love?
When we are motivated by a love for God and people, we use the things in our lives to express that love. We honor God and others. The 1st and 2nd Great Commandment. Matthew 22:37-40:
[Jesus speaking] “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
When we are motivated instead to love things or ourselves, we often use people and even the Lord – to get them. We manipulate. You can see how this breeds chaos and conflict into our relationships.
Ultimate change needs to happen in the heart, not just behavior modification.
How are Christians conformed into the image of Christ? How do we grow as Christians? How is worship reoriented God-ward facing? This struggle with anger is not hopeless for us because God is using these struggles to expose our allegiances, our functional gods, in order to refine us.
Back to the story of my wedding day: Some 18 years later, my wife and I are learning that the issue with anger and conflict is within ourselves. When we think like that, we are pursuing elevated desires and motives over loving each other (and God). A good question we ask ourselves is: Are we honoring or trying to manipulate? Still, sometimes we blank out to the fact that we are united to Christ as Christians. I think that is one reason the 1st and 2nd Great Commandment was written, because we need to be reminded to love God and to love our neighbor, thanks to our tendency to love ourselves more than anyone else; in this case, my wife. God has been using my marriage to show me my immaturity and how skin-deep my love for people was then. He showed me where I needed to grow – the places that were not yet conforming to the image of Christ. My wife would agree that we are not the same people we were when we first got married. Praise be to God!
Anger is diagnostic. Our anger exposes our allegiances-what we’re worshipping. It points to what or who we love: God or something Me-centric? And this is a blessing to help us, to be specific in repentance, to come back to our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
In the next article of this series (part 4) we will discuss connecting the riches of Christ to the realities of life, including anger. There is hope: We are not alone in this struggle because we are united to Christ. This has very positive consequences regarding our issue with anger.
If you need more personalized help with this struggle, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for counseling from a biblical perspective at https://www.providencebiblicalcounseling.org/.