Feb 07 - Why Am I An Angry Person

Why Am I An Angry Person

February 7, 2016

Matthew 5:21-22

 

WHY AM I AN ANGRY PERSON?

Matthew 5:21-22

February 7th, 2016

 

Snappy comebacks:

 

Unless your name is Google, stop acting like you know everything.

It must be exhausting being offended by everything?

If everywhere you go there’s a problem.  Guess what?

Please cancel my subscription to your issue.

Bragging only shows how insecure you pretend not to be.

You create your own storms and then get upset when it rains.

You should really come with a warning label.

If I was meant to be controlled, I’d come with a remote.

So you don’t like me treating you the way you’re treating me? Well, what do you know?

Where’s your off button?

 

Do you think they are funny or derogatory or both?  Are they meant to hurt the other person or to make them think?  I think the difference is on the context, when we say them and how we say them.

 

Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount by dealing with two issues that seem to be universal problems – anger and lust. 

 

You have heard that the men of old were told, “You shall not murder,”[1] and “whoever murders will be liable to judgment”.[2]  But I say to you, “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother [calls his brother, Raca][3] is liable to the high council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the fire of hell.”

 

I am convinced that Jesus said what he did, in part because of the shock value.  To many of his hearers, placing anger on the same level as first degree murder, is nonsensical. 

 

Also, in Jesus’ day, no-one was carted before a judge simply for being angry, just as no-one was brought before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, for calling someone a derogatory term like “Raca.”

 

We also have to keep in mind that Jesus himself got angry 1. at those who lacked compassion – for example, those in the synagogue who didn’t want Jesus to heal a crippled man because it was the Sabbath.

 

2. Jesus also got angry at those who used their religious position to enrich themselves.  I don’t think he was necessarily angry at the money changers and animal vendors … those were a necessary part of the temple sacrifices.  He was angry at the high priest and his family who had allowed the money changers and animal vendors into the temple precinct, likely by getting a portion of the profits. 

 

Lastly, the concept that a person puts his eternal destiny into question when he calls someone else a “fool”, also must have seemed irrational.

 

After all, everyone insults others from time to time.  In fact, Jesus himself called the Pharisees, among other things, white-washed tombs, snakes, a brood of vipers, hypocrites, and, yes, he also calls them fools, likely using exactly the same word that he did in our passage.[4]

 

Personally, I think that Jesus was commenting on the feelings and thoughts that can underlie anger and name calling.  When we are angry, it is quite possible that we wish harm on another person. Maybe we even wished they weren’t around. 

 

Jesus didn’t hate the Pharisees nor did he wish them harm.  He likely wasn’t even angry when he called them fools.  (but he was pointing out that they were foolish trying to find loopholes in order to break their word).

 

So our anger can actually reflect something evil in our hearts:  our evil intentions, or the hate and animosity we feel toward another human being.  And so in anger we say words to intentionally hurt another person’s feelings.  We may not hurt them physically, but we use our words as weapons. 

 

Name-calling has been called the lowest type of argument and the lowest form of communication.  I also read the quip, that only stupid people call others stupid. 

 

Of course there is a huge difference between calling someone a fool and killing them … Jesus is not saying that they are exactly the same.  The real point that Jesus is trying to make is that intention is as inexcusable as actual action – something that was in contrast to the Pharisees, who wanted hard and fast rules about what they can and cannot do, and seemed not at all as concerned about internal motivation and standards – the hardness of their hearts. 

 

Jesus made the point, that what is inside a person, the kind of hate that is at the root of murderous thoughts and intentions, are not innocuous.  They are in fact repulsive to God.  So the Pharisees – and by extension – anyone else for that matter, cannot excuse themselves by saying, “I’ve personally never killed anyone,” thinking that as a result God must be well-pleased with them. 

 

In fact, Jesus may have been commenting on the fact that many of the Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because he did not kowtow to them but challenged their authority. 

 

So let’s go back to the issue of anger. 

 

Anger is a natural emotion that is created in our minds when we are faced with a fight-or-flight situation.  A threatening situation generates both fear and anger.  Fear prepares a person for flight – for running from a threatening situation.  Anger prepares a person for fight – for attacking or defending. 

 

[We can experience exactly the same emotions of fear and anger, as if we were threatened ourselves when someone or something threatens our spouse or children.]

 

As such, anger, or fear for that matter, can be a powerful system that identifies and warns us of danger or threat, and gives us the energy to do something about it. 

 

However, in our day and age, and in the society that we live in, we rarely face a situation where we or our loved ones are physically threatened.  There are situations, of course, where our life is in danger – when a reckless driver forces us into oncoming traffic, or someone threatens to punch us, for example – but usually those situations are usually few and far between. 

 

So, much of our anger and fear are directed at non-physical threats – the threat of emotional hurt, for example. 

 

Perhaps our independence is threatened, or

the control we want to have over others is threatened, or our pride is threatened,

or our self-worth is threatened,

or our sense of justice is violated,

or our expectations are not met,

and on and on it goes.

 

Even if a perceived threat is just imagined, the power and fear it can create are just as powerful and real as if the threat was real.  Think of a time when you were walking in the dark as a child and imagined some threat – possibly from vampires, werewolves or something else, hiding in the dark, ready to attack.  The fear is real. 

 

Or imagine when you play a scenario in your mind where someone, who previously has denigrates you, yells and screams at you, or threatens you with physical harm.  Even if it isn’t happening, we can find ourselves getting as upset as if it really was?

 

So anger can be legitimate at times.  The problem with anger is that it can lead to sin.  The worst of these sins is violence:  Road rage, domestic violence, physical attack.

 

Anger could also be pointing to an underlying sense of resentment or bitterness or hurt, that makes us easily upset, - people have to be careful around us, because the smallest thing can set us off. 

 

Or, we could find ourselves being angry most of the time.  We are deeply unhappy, we are perpetually discontent or grumpy, so that even minor inconveniences, frustrations, irritations and annoyances become big issues for us.

 

Or, we may have a problem with our temper.  Whenever we are angry, we end up losing it, we fly off the handle, we fly into a rage. 

 

Like when my wife gave me a pamphlet on anger management … I lost it.  Just kidding.

 

Proverbs has something to say about having a temper.

 

Fools give full vent to their anger.        Proverbs 29:11

 

Ironically, when you consider our passage this morning, the Bible calls those who can’t seem to control their anger fools.  Fools do foolish things.  And just giving full vent to one’s anger is a foolish thing to do.

 

A quick-tempered man does foolish things. 

Proverbs 14:17

 

One could add – a quick tempered man says foolish things because his mouth is working faster than his mind.  How many things have been said in anger that a person regretted saying … and it can never be unsaid. 

 

A hot-tempered man stirs up conflict.     Proverbs 15:18

 

You bet he does … or she does – even if punches aren’t thrown. 

 

A man with a terrible temper must pay the penalty.

                                                                        Proverbs 19:19

 

Will Rogers put it this way: "Whenever you fly into a rage, you seldom make a safe landing."

 

One of those penalties of having a temper is the destruction of relationships.  Another penalty is losing the respect of those who see us losing it.  It can mean losing one’s job, as was the case with a former Canucks coach.      

 

One of the issues with anger, is that we often are unaware of why we are reacting in anger, what threat we are reacting to … so our outbursts appear to be irrational, even infantile. 

 

So, if we are prone to anger, if we have a temper, if we lash out in anger, if we use it as a weapon, that those around us are victimized by it … and we realize that it is not nearly as innocuous or innocent as we would like to believe, then hopefully, we’ll stop making excused for it and try to deal with it. 

 

And, by the way, we are masters at making excuses.  Particular when it comes to blaming others for our anger:  “It is your fault I’m so angry.  See what you made me do” – classic misdirection of what’s really going on. (Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – the devil made me do it!)

 

One of the ways that we can begin dealing with anger issues, is trying to figure out why we are so angry or impatient.  Why is it that we have just torn someone to shreds on facebook? Why did we just overreact?

 

And I don’t mean, that we’re looking at the obvious surface causes, - we are angry because a person cut us off in traffic, or because we hit our thumb with a hammer, or because our spouse seems no longer interested, or because we’re impatient because we’re in a hurry.  I am thinking of more about the reasons for why we overreact in anger in those situations. 

 

We flip the person in the car the bird.  We throw the hammer – and we may think to ourselves, “why is it OK when Thor does it but not when I do it?”  We throw all kind of insults and accusations at our spouse?  What are the root causes that underlie our propensity to be angry?

 

1. What About My Past?

 

Trauma of any kind in my home of origin

 

One of the root causes of anger is deep inner hurt, resentment, or bitterness that originated in our home of origin.  All parents make mistakes.  Even if they are good parents, they make mistakes.  If they are bad parents, they make a lot of mistakes. 

 

I had a dad who could get really angry at the drop of a hat.  I had a nanny who raised me from birth, but who was incredibly strict and domineering.  Maybe you had a parent who drank too much, or parents who were emotionally distant, or who withdrew their affection, or parents who were at war with each other, or who had a messy divorce, or who were too busy at work to spend time with you, or who sent you to boarding school, or who simply abandoned the family, or friends who rejected you.  It left you with a host of insecurities and fears.

 

And on it goes.  Favouritism, violence in the home, false accusations, alcoholism, and a host of other factors can damage a child and create an angry adult. 

 

Unfortunately, in some families there is the danger of sexual, physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse.  If you’re a victim, the result is almost always anger. Abuse injures us, it injures our inner sense of justice, it leaves us feeling helpless, victimized and angry.

 

As we grow into older children, our identity becomes more wrapped up with our friends and with it, with our appearance, intelligence, height, athleticism, and so on. 

 

If we were already a bit insecure, and we are mocked or ridiculed during that time, it is a devastating blow to our self-esteem.  Ridicule mocks our identity.  So, when we grow older, we might go on the attack whenever we perceive a slight – even if there isn’t one. 

 

We can become extremely sensitive to anyone who might criticize us, point out a flaw in our appearance, disparages us in any way, questions our ability, or in some other way threatens us by making us feel insecure again.  We become defensive.  We lash out, not only to defend ourselves, but to attack and punish the other person who we think is threatening us. 

 

 

Sometimes, if an individual reminds us of a person who has hurt us in the past, we may immediately form a negative opinion of him or her.  We pre-judge them simply because we associate them with our pain.  We generalize as we think everyone who is similar to him or her must be equally as bad or untrustworthy.

 

When I have conversations that go beyond sports and the weather, I am always surprised how many of us have issues with either our mom or dad, even if they were good people. 

 

Getting beyond anger means uncovering the things that injured us, without constantly blaming others for my own bad behaviour.  “I am mean because my father wasn’t as supportive as he could have been.”  Even if that’s the truth, there are ways of getting over it, and many have.

 

a.     Trauma of any kindin my home of origin – can bring about anger in adulthood

b.     Guilt at failing to live up to my sense of right and wrong can also bring about anger in adulthood

 

We can also be filled with anger because of the guilt that we carry around from the past.  As children we are particularly sensitive to injustice, whether we are the receiving end or at the end that dishes it out. 

 

Maybe we were mean to someone we love.  Maybe we were the bully in school.  Maybe we lied and stole from our parents.  Maybe we tattled on our siblings. 

 

Some of what we did may seem insignificant to us now, but at the time we violated our own inner sense of justice and fairness, our own sense of right and wrong.  And the more sensitive our conscience we had as a child, the more guilt we experience.  And unresolved guilt can manifest itself in anger when we grow up, because deep down we are still angry with ourselves – we haven’t forgiven ourselves.

 

As adults we often redirect our guilt by being critical of the faults of others.  We become judgmental, we condemn, we get angry at the people who fail to live up to our expectations, our standards and ideals – even though we have not lived up to them either.  

 

So, we can become incensed at someone who cut us off in traffic.  It violates our sense of proper road etiquette.  But the reality is, that we’ve cut others off in traffic in the past and excused it with being in a hurry.  The guilt we feel at having violated our own standards is redirected as anger toward those who violate our standards. 

 

We can be in total denial about our own faults:  A relative once told me that he is so glad that he wasn’t anything like his parents.  But when I pressed and asked him in what ways, he ended up describing his own worst faults to which he was completely blind.  At the time I thought to myself, “how self-deluded can you be,” but the reality is, that many of us are in self-denial about who we really are.

 

While we may have forgotten the painful events in the past, the hurts we received never really go away on their own.  Similarly, the guilt that we carry around doesn’t simply disappear.  They lie dormant until they are triggered by something that touches us where we still feel pain and guilt.  And when that happens, we typically become defensive and lash out in revenge.

 

So it helps to know the root cause of my anger.  For example, I might begin to realize that the reason I overact, get angry and mean, when I even sense that my wife is trying to control me, is because I am still angry with my overprotective or controlling mother – or I try to control my husband because I resented how my dad controlled my mother.  

 

Sometimes it helps to recognize the reasons why people in my past were hurtful individuals.  Often it is because they have not dealt with their own past.  For example, if I know that my father is a control-freak because he has not deal with his sense of helplessness during a war, this knowledge may help me to understand him and potentially forgive him for trying to run my life. 

 

The problem is that discovering the root causes of my anger, and trying to understand the persons who have hurt me, on their own may not make me less angry.  That is why psychotherapy was a failure.  Simply digging around in the past and discovering the source of my own dysfunction and problems on their own won’t necessarily solve anything.  Something more is needed.

 

I need to deal with the hurt or guilt … sometimes by telling the offender that he or she has hurt me, but beyond that, by forgiving the people who have hurt me, and, just as importantly, forgiving myself for the times I injured my own ideals and sense of right and wrong.

 

That is not the same as condoning what others did or what I did.  Nor is this the same as putting myself back in harm’s way.  It is trying to heal by letting go of the rubbish that is and will continue to trip me up if I don’t.

 

One of the reasons why so many Christians can look back to their conversion as a turning point in their lives is because, for the first time in their lives, they see themselves as OK.  As loved.  As forgiven.  And in turn, they forgive themselves for the ways they violated their own conscience.  And beyond that, they can forgive those who have hurt them. 

 

Unfortunately, there are also those, whose faith just makes them more judgmental and miserable because the guilt just increases if they see God as a demanding and judgmental – as always disappointed with them.  When that happens, it truly is a tragedy.

 

[Here is something else that we may want to try if we have a temper.  I was reminded of this the other day when I watched a TV show where a family was taped when they were fighting.  When they had to watch the video, they were completely shocked and embarrassed that they could behave in this manner. 

 

Whenever we are angry, we can attempt to step outside ourselves and actually look at what we are doing and listen to what we are saying.  What just came out of my mouth?  What do I look like when my face is twisted in anger and rage?  If we are really able to do this, it will actually deflate the anger because it will shock and embarrass us.]

 

1. What About My Past?

 

Trauma of any kind in my home of origin

Guilt at failing to live up to my sense of right and wrong.

 

2. What About My Expectations?

 

We often get angry when our expectations are not met.  And we all have expectations.  We expect others to do what we ask of them.  We expect others to treat us with respect.  We expect others to do their part around the house.

 

So, for example, everyone has certain expectations of their partner.  The other person has to do the dishes, or the laundry, or the cooking, or the garden work, or the house repairs, or the finances, or the cleaning, or feeding the animals, or cutting the grass. 

 

That is their job … not because we talked about it and came to an agreement, but because I decided that this is their job – after all, my mother did all those things, or my father did all those things, so why shouldn’t they do it?

 

We all have needs that we expect others to meet, especially those closest to us. We expect them to be supportive, to be faithful, to be kind, to be loving, to care for us and do things for us, not to denigrate us, control us, or hate us. 

 

And there is nothing wrong with many of those expectations as long as the expectations are made known to the other person, they are reasonable, and it’s a two-way street. 

 

I’ve already mentioned that our expectations of others may be way higher than the expectations that we place on ourselves.  So, I might expect that others compliment me or speak to me respectfully to me, but I never think to give a compliment myself and I think nothing of denigrating others.  Or I might think that the other person is responsible for everything around the house, even though they work full-time as well.

 

One of the reasons why celebrity marriages often don’t last is because you have one or both of the partners with a sense of entitlement, used to getting their own way, used to being doted over, and as a result inflexible and demanding. 

 

Often we don’t ask ourselves where our expectations come from:

 

Why do I expect him to bring home flowers every week?  Why do I expect her to pick up my dirty clothes off the floor? 

Why do we expect to be coddled when I have problems, but we are impervious to their problems?

Why do we expect the other person to listen to us, but we can’t be bothered to listen to them? 

Why do we expect a person to be cheery when we can grump around?

Why do we expect things to always have to go our own way? 

Why do we expect our spouse to be in shape while we allow ourselves to go to pot?

Why do we expect be able to be in control? 

Why do we expect to make all the decisions?

Why do we expect to be more successful than the couple next door?

Why do we expect others to think as we do?

Why do we expect the person driving in front of to drive faster because we’re in a hurry? 

Why do we expect others to do what we want them to, but we are in no way open to doing what they want us to do? 

Why do we expect to manipulate others into doing what we want with our explosive anger, but don’t accept that kind of behaviour in others?

Why do we expect the other person to read our mind?

To do things the way we do; to not have an opinion; to be like us; …

 

Most often we get angry because others don’t meet our expectations but we never ask ourselves whether or not our expectations are realistic, or even necessary.  We only notice that others consistently fail to live up to our expectations, and so we become annoyed, bitter, and resentful - all low-grade forms of anger that can infect us, poison our relationships, or lead us into confrontation and conflict. 

 

So I think that one of the things we have to do if we are prone to anger, is to challenge our expectations.  And by the way, I don’t think that we shouldn’t have any expectations at all.  Mutual respect should be a non-negotiable in any relationship, and when it isn’t there, then healthy boundaries have to be set. 

 

If we have the emotional and especially the spiritual maturity to look at ourselves, challenge our assumptions and long-held beliefs, then maybe we can figure out how to constructively deal with the situation instead of flying into a rage.  To resolve difference.  To speak calmly. 

 

Part of the whole issue of being renewed in our minds, of being able to change our thought pattersn.

 

Bitterness, resentment and anger is like eating rat poison and then waiting for the rats to die.

 

Some of us may need help in figuring these things out: why we are angry; what expectations are being violated; how can I find the healing I need so I do not have to try to control others with my temper. 

 

As Jesus pointed out to his followers.  Don’t take anger too lightly.  If you have an anger problem … root it out of your life.  This is what the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus … and with that I want to leave you.

 

When you are angry, do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Do not give the devil an opportunity.  … Put away all bitterness, hostility, anger, screaming, slander, along with all evil intentions.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you.  

Ephesians 4:26-27,31-32[5]

 

 

 

 

[1] Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 – the 6th commandment

[2] Exodus 21:12-14 - Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.  But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee.  But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar that he may die. Leviticus 24:17,21 – Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.

[3] “Raca” an Aramaic term meaning “good for nothing.”

[4] Matthew 23:17 – “you blind fools.”  Both here and in Matthew 5 the same Greek term is used, the one we get the term “moron” from.  We don’t know if Jesus used the same Aramaic term in each case.

[5] Colossians 3:8 adds “abusive speech,” to anger, hostility, evil intentions, and slander.