A Twelve Step Program

“God can help you uncover the source of your anger whether injustice, hurt, fear or frustration. He is ready and able to heal your heart and help you control your anger before it controls you!” –June Hunt

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20

“looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;” Colossians 3:12

The world is a very evil place to live in. One expression of evil is anger. Each day brings international, national, domestic, and personal acts of violence. In anger, someone commits a murder. In anger, someone punches, and hurts another person. In anger, verbal words that wound are spoken. In anger, the mind begins to plot revenge and retaliation.

Any person who struggles with anger, knows how destructive anger can be to self and to others. June Hunt has written a helpful book on this topic, Anger: Facing the Fire Within.  

Of course, the best book on this subject is the Bible. With that in mind, consider what the Word of God has to say on the subject. Consider these steps setting forth some spiritual techniques to avoid unholy anger.

Step One. Avoid using grievous words that stirs up anger. “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

“Dear Lord, in this moment, put a guard on my lips, and on my finger tips so that I do not say, or text, or write angry and meanspirited words.”

Step Two. Cultivate a mindset of controlling negative emotions. “A wrathful man stirs up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeases strife” (Prov. 15:18).

“Dear Lord, like James and John I am by nature, and by choice, a person given to wrath. I enjoy stirring up wrath, despite my weariness with the results of what I have stirred up. Change my nature Lord. I want to be like Jesus.”

Step Three. Remember that being slow to anger is a mark of a great person. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city” Prov. 16:32).

“Lord, I am an impulsive personality. Modern psychology might label me as bi-polar. I have extreme emotions of ecstasy and depression. I go from heights of love and generosity to the depths of selfishness. My spirit is out of control. I plead for the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in my life, for I read of self-control, and I need that Lord. I need that desperately.”

Step Four. Give a gift without the other person knowing what you have done, or do a deed of kindness in response to anger. “A gift in secret pacifies anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath” (Prov. 21:14).

“Dear Lord, today I obeyed your suggestion. I gave a gift in secret without any desire to be known. I did this in a moment of weak faith. I will see what happens.”

Step Five. Understand that the angry person is foolish. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).

The Arizona Republic (4/25/95) reported that when Steve Tran of Westminster, California, closed the door on 25 activated bug bombs, he thought he had seen the last of the cockroaches that shared his apartment. When the spray reached the pilot light of the stove, it ignited, blasting his screen door across the street, breaking all his windows, and setting his furniture ablaze.

“I really wanted to kill all of them,” he said. “I thought if I used a lot more, it would last longer.” According to the label, just two canisters of the fumigant would have solved Tran’s roach problem. The blast caused over $10,000 damage to his apartment building. And the cockroaches? Tran reported, “By Sunday, I saw them walking around.” As Proverbs 29:11 says, only “a fool gives full vent to his anger” (Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2).

“Lord, you know, and I know, I am a proud man. Very proud. VERY proud. You are more blunt Lord, for you call such a person as I am, a fool. A fool is someone who is self-sufficient. I understand that. Still, in my pride I know I am always right, and what to do in every given situation. And that is why I become so angry. Others just won’t listen to me. In my heart, I want to help and correct others, but anger is in my mind, my emotions, my essence. Help me Lord. Help me be self-aware, and agree with your assessment of me. It would be a good start.”

Step Six. Avoid being a friend of an angry person. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go” (Prov. 22:24). Why? Because anger can be contagious.

In his autobiography, Number 1, Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend. Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him.

When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt. “I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!” Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, “We can’t do that!” But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted.

When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too. “What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, “We’ll show that son of a gun! I just killed two of his cows!” Anger can be dangerously contagious. As Proverbs puts it, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man… or you may learn his ways” (Proverbs 22:24-25). (Scott Bowerman, Bishopville, South Carolina. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1).

“Lord, I must confess, I like my friends who have edgy and violent personalities. Some of my “friends” are found in books, in the movies, in video games, in the violence of music, and in the bloody violence of contact sports manifested in cage match fighting. It is barbaric. It is semi-gladiatorial in nature, and when I think about it, I must agree with you Lord, I tend to act out much of the violence I am so enamored with. Lord, help me to find friends, read books, watch movies, and avoid those sports which are designed to hurt others. It is not easy for me Lord. I do enjoy violence.”

Step Seven. Realize that strong divine judgment awaits the angry person who does not repent. “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22). “Dear Lord, I read in the Bible that what a man sows, he shall reap. How I treat others, is how you will treat me. How I judge others, is how I will be judged. Oh Lord, I am in BIG TROUBLE.”

Step Eight. Make anger a matter of prayer. Former White House lawyer for President Richard Nixon, and convicted felon, Chuck Colson, said, after his conversion to Jesus, that his lovely wife would rather spend fifteen minutes praying with and for someone than an hour criticizing them. In as far as the believer learns to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) much anger will be dissipated. “Lord, make my prayers real. I pray a lot, you know that, but I am not changed by my prayers. Forgive me. Lord, teach me to REALLY pray.”

Step Nine. Explain negative feelings to a mature and understanding third party who can advise and lead.  Confess your faults to one another. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

“Lord, if you give me a friend who loves me and cares for me, help me to be honest with myself, and my friend. Otherwise, I will just be confessing something that is untrue, or partially true, and that will just be another whole lie.”

Step Ten. Realize that expectations of others may never materialize.  Therefore, live with the fact that it hurts less to expect nothing, than to hope in vain. Learn to be content.  “Let your conversation [manner of life] be without covetousness [intense desire]; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).

“Lord, you have given me so much. Why can’t I just be content? Oh Lord, take away my endless need to want more, more control over others, more material goods, more emotional satisfaction, more peace. But I do need MORE of You Lord, and I will ask for that. ‘More love for Thee O Lord, More Love for Thee, that is my constant prayer, On bended knees.’”

Step Eleven. Avoid taking offense on behalf of someone when only half of an argument has been heard. “He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17). “Lord, give me the spirit of discernment. Place the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi deep into my heart.”

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.”

It is true that not all anger is sinful, for God is angry at the wicked everyday (Ps. 7:11). Jesus was angry with the Pharisees (Mark 3:5). Paul became angry at Peter’s improper conduct and withstood him face to face. However, most anger is sinful, which is why the command comes to put it off. Therefore…

Step Twelve. Do not defend the indefensible, nor try to justify the unjustifiable. Do not seek for verbal vindication when the heart already knows it is wrong in something said or done.

Remember that anger is a choice of the will. It can be controlled. No one can make another person angry unless that person is willing to be made angry.

Remember the love of God, and try to share His love with others to the same degree, and in the same manner in which you are loved and forgiven by God.

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