There once was an older man who went out jogging. He was running around a track that circled the high school football field while the team was conducting their practice. When the football players began running their sprints up and down the field, the man said to himself, “I’ll just keep running until they quit.” So they ran. And he ran. And they kept on running. So he kept on running.
Finally, in total exhaustion the man had to stop. When he stopped, an equally exhausted football player walked over to him and said, “Boy, I’m glad you finally stopped, Mister. Our coach told us that we had to keep running wind sprints as long as the old guy was jogging!”
“It seems to me,” wrote Alan, “that we can sometimes find ourselves in a similar kind of situation when it comes to anger and conflict. We have a disagreement with someone and get into an argument. Voices get raised. Neither side wants to be the first to give in, to stop speaking in anger.”
“Everyone has the attitude, “I’ll just keep on till they quit.” So the other party stays mad. So we stay mad. And on we go, eventually finding ourselves emotionally and even physically exhausted by the ongoing animosity.” Let me suggest five principles that will help us control anger in our relationships.
(1) Admit your anger.
For some reason we don’t want to accept that we get angry. Anger is not necessarily bad. Anger may say, “I care.” “I stand for something.” Or “I love you too much to watch you ruin your life.”
The Psalmist affirmed that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). Jesus was angry at those who profaned the temple with material merchandise (Jn 2:13-17). Anger itself is not a sin. There are occasions where anger is justified. When you’re angry, admit it!
(2) Understand your anger.
The wise man was right when he wrote, “Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes” (Prov. 14:29).
How do you express your anger? Do you sulk? Withdraw? Attack?
Learn what makes you angry. Is it lack of acceptance? Feeling unappreciated? Unsupported? Or unprotected? All of these emotions can make us feel like our lives are out of control, cause conflict, and result in resentment.
(3) Deal with anger immediately.
Don’t procrastinate. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Eph 4:25-27).
Unresolved conflict will keep growing. It will turn into bitterness. Then hatred. And finally hostility. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. But when it does, love subsides and anger rears its ugly head.
(4) Take personal responsibility.
Truly, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression (Prov. 19:11, NAS). Before reacting, I need to reflect. “Be quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry” (Jas 1:19). Then I can respond with a measured reply. Instead of an angry outburst.
(5) Rely on Christ.
We are commanded to have the attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5). Follow Christ (1 Pet 2:22). Be guided by the Word of Christ. When we do that, we will be able to control anger through Christ who gives us strength (Phil 4:13). Christ can relieve our frustrations. Heal our hurts. And comfort our hearts. He will help us control anger.
Finally, remember the old man running around the track! When you’re in conflict with someone, don’t say, “I’ll just keep going unit they quit!” Be the first to “give it up”!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman