I Could Talk A Lot About Anger… but What’s the Real Problem?
Editor’s Note: On Monday, I wrote a Memorial Day tribute. Since the Biblical Peacemaking series is about to come to a close, I wanted to write the next post in this series instead of in the Biblical Garden of Love series. This is Part 5.
I Could Talk A Lot About Anger
I have struggled with having a short fuse. I have battled anger issues. I have often failed.
Monday night was a particularly emotional night. My husband disappointed me, and at first, I tried to be gracious and to tell him why I was upset respectfully. But then he hurt my feelings again and all my kindness fizzled. I won’t go into details, but our conversation ended in my tears and lashing out at him, complaining bitterly. My attempt to be the better person, my righteousness failed miserably.
But notice, I said my attempt, my righteousness. This really wasn’t an attempt to be selfless and to love my husband. It had been an attempt to get him to love me, to superficially patch things up so that I would be happy and satisfied.
Apart from God, I have no righteousness. Apart from God, my anger cannot be controlled. Apart from God, I will not truly love my husband the way I should.
But what’s the real problem?
Detaching the Loose Caboose
Anger is like a group of criminals boarding the train at the caboose and then allowing them to continue into the rest of the train. If you’re able to stop anger at the source, detach the loose caboose, you are preserving the rest of the train and protecting yourself from danger. The angry tongue is like a caboose that’s on fire and then not fighting to put it out. If you’re able to control the fire and put it out at the source, you can preserve the life of those on board the train. You cannot hope to preserve peace, to protect the life of your marriage if you are not willing to cut off anger at the source. I’d like to suggest detaching/letting go of two things from you life.
#1 Let go of self.
Anger is rooted in pride. Think back to the last time you were upset and became angry. Were you upset/angry because the other person wasn’t getting what they deserved, because they weren’t being treated fairly/justly, because they weren’t receiving the love/attention/care they needed from you? Probably not. You were upset/angry because you weren’t getting what you thought you deserved, because you were being treated unfairly or unjustly, because you weren’t receiving the love/attention/care you needed from the other person and the other person was in your opinion 100% at fault.
Proverbs 13:10 warns us, “Where there is strife, there is pride…” Replace the strife with anger. Doesn’t most strife begin because we are angry that something isn’t being done the way we want/expect/need? And why do we feel we deserve these things? Often it is because of pride.
Don’t get me wrong. Love, care, and respect are all equally important needs in a relationship, particularly a marriage. But when we elevate it from “I need love,” to “I need love and I will do whatever it takes, including fighting with my spouse to make sure I am getting the love I deserve,” we are exposing our pride.
1 Peter 3:8-11 says, “Be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”
Practical Ways of Battling Pride
> Seek to be like-minded with your spouse. When you communicate your needs/desires/feelings/fears with each other respectfully and honestly, you are opening yourselves up to being on the same page. When you disagree with your spouse, instead of becoming angry, kindly work toward a solution. If you need to, take a few moments apart if it will help you calm down. Detach the loose caboose; cut your rising anger off at its source. When you are like-minded, you are unified and it becomes more difficult for Satan to wedge his way in and tear you down.
> Love one another unconditionally. Love begins in the mind. Protect your mind/heart from anger by thinking positively about yourself and not dwelling on the negative. Watch your words. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle [loving] answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Finally, demonstrate love through what you do. Remember the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” Do unto your spouse the way you would want to be treated [Luke 6:31].
>Have compassion. The best piece of marriage advice I’ve ever received was this: Be continually gracious with your husband’s sin, and be continually ruthless with your own sin. Remember your husband is a sinner and you are also a sinner. Extend the same grace to him that God has extended to you.
> Be humble. Look to the example of Christ. Matthew 11:29 says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Humble yourself because you are also a sinner, because you also deserve punishment, but Christ took it upon Himself and spared you from death. Humble yourself because Christ came to be a servant, not a king, and He calls us to serve others; He calls us to serve our husbands. Humble yourself because you will only find true rest in Christ – not in seeking justice for your wounded heart, not in putting your husband down or criticizing him, not in lashing out in anger.
> When your husband hurts/offends/neglects you, instead of hurting/offending/neglecting him, seek to bless him. Love him anyway. How many times have you walked away from the Lord to do the wrong thing? Did God banish you? Did God strike you dead? Did He angrily hash it out with you? No. God sent Christ into the world to die, to take our sins upon His shoulders, to suffer the punishment so that we didn’t have to, so that we could be reconciled. Seek reconciliation in your marriage. Pursue peace with your spouse. Work at blessing your husband.
> Control your tongue. James likens the tongue to a fire, that “corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life…” [James 3:6]. Your words can give great life but they can also do great damage. May this be your prayer: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” [Psalm 141:3].
#2 Let go of discontent.
Anger is rooted in a discontent heart. The older son in the story of the prodigal son was discontent with what he had. He became angry when his younger brother returned home, a brother who had taken his inheritance early, insulting his father, a brother who had squandered his wealth, but was welcomed home with loving arms by their father. The older brother felt he deserved better, that he deserved more than the younger brother.
Think about the reasons why you are discontent. Do you feel you deserve better? Do you compare yourself with other people and want what they have? Do you believe that you are better than others?
What happens to unchecked discontent? It grows into anger, and eventually unchecked anger can sprout into deep-seated bitterness. Hebrews 12:17 says, “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time” [MSG].
Your heart is precious. Your marriage is invaluable. Guard your heart and fight for your marriage. Uproot the weeds of bitter discontent before they grow into uncontrollable anger.
Practical Ways to Fight Discontent
> Practice personal gratitude. Sing to God with “gratitude in your heart” as Colossians 3:16 says. Keep your heart focused on the Lord and serving your husband.
> Demonstrate gratitude toward your spouse. Focus on the positive. Praise your husband when he treats you well, when he goes out of his way to love on you, when he remembers to take out the trash without being told.
> Forgive readily. Don’t dwell on the negative. Don’t bring up past faults.
> Practice joint gratitude. Make it a point to pray for grateful hearts in your marriage. Tell each other what you’re grateful for often. Avoid complaining negatively to one another. Don’t neglect devotions time – worship God together with gladness in your hearts.
> Allow your husband to lead. This is a tough one. As women, we often want to jump in and take over when our spouse is doing something wrong, when he is failing. But taking a step back, breathing (don’t forget this!), humbling yourself before the Lord and praying is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. Taking over strips the God-given role from a man. Praying that God would change/fix/make your husband better isn’t holy either. Instead, focus on getting your own heart right before the Lord, in trusting/allowing God to work in your husband’s life and bring about His will in His own time, even if it takes your husband longer to get something through his “thick skull” than you’d like. Humble yourself, wait patiently, and love unconditionally.
I’d Love to Hear From You…
What strategies do you have in place for battling anger? What other things do you think fuel anger besides pride and discontent? How has humility and/or gratitude played a part in enriching your marriage? Feel free to share stories of when you’ve battled anger/pride/discontent in your marriage and God helped you to overcome it.
1. Jump on the Peace Train Intro to the Biblical Peacemaking Series
2. How to Divorce Proof Your Marriage Part 2D Putting Off Selfishness and the Best Marriage Tip I Ever Received
3. How Selfishness Nearly Cost Me My Marriage Part 2C How Selfishness Breeds Discontentment
To see other posts in this series, click here.
Other related BHE posts:
1. The Secret of Being Content battling envy
Other related CMBA Member Posts:
For more thoughts on battling pride,