Breaking the Anger Habit, Part 2

In this series, I’ll show you, in a very practical way, how to stop reacting in anger and start responding in meekness to the people and circumstances that irritate you. You will be able to overcome anger as you identify your sin, yield to God and pursue meekness.

Yield to God

  • What rights am I clinging to?
  • What is the root of my anger?

At this juncture, most believers cry out to God for help. Expecting instant deliverance—a quick and easy miracle—they plead with God to take their anger away, but nothing happens.

Does this sound familiar? Then listen carefully. God can’t take your anger away instantly because it’s tied to other things. Its roots go down deep and you must uncover those roots and deal with them first.

The primary root of anger is self. In most cases, we become angry because someone or some circumstance infringes on what we perceive to be our rights.

Let me illustrate this concept.

Example #1

Five-year-old Mary refuses to get dressed for school. “You’ll be late if you don’t hurry up,” her mother warns. But she doesn’t listen. In fact, she runs in the bathroom and locks the door.

“Let me in,” Karla demands. But once again, the defiant child refuses to obey. By this time, Karla is losing her cool. She’s running late to work and the little imp doesn’t seem to care.

A minute later Karla returns with a key and opens the door. Mary is at the sink, applying her mother’s lipstick, which is now everywhere but on her lips.

Certainly Mary needs to be punished, but how? Out of anger or love? That will depend on whether her mother clings to her rights.

Yes, she has a right to her child’s respect and obedience. Yes, she has a right to be on time to work. She even has a right to protest when her lipstick gets mangled.

 But, anger will creep into her behavior if she demands those rights. She may even abuse her child. How Karla behaves will depend on who’s at the helm—the spirit or the flesh.

The flesh is apt to say, “You can’t be late for work, Karla. What will people think? You have to preserve your reputation for being punctual and together.”

If Karla listens to the voice of self, she is apt to lose her temper and feel guilty about it later. Karla must stop measuring her self-worth by how well she performs.

Example #2

Consider the husband who gets angry every time his wife asks him to do something around the house. “I have a right to relax on the weekends,” he reasons.

But this argument has some holes. What about his wife’s time? Clearly he is assuming his time is more important than hers—that he needs free time more than she does. And “self” is feeding these assumptions. If self is to blame for most outbursts of anger, how do you squelch it? By following Christ’s example. Bring your so-called rights to the Cross and leave them there. Stop clinging to them. Let them go.

Instead, trust God. He won’t let you down. He promises: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’ (1 Peter 2:6 NIV; see also Isaiah 28:16).

Trust God—build every minute of your life on Him—and He will guard your time, your money, your talents, your reputation and more.

As you yield your rights, remember that you are not doing anything Jesus hasn’t already done for you. He is our Creator, our King, and the perfect Lamb of God. And yet, he gave up His rights as such so He could save you. He gave up honor and respect, regality and angelic protection—to name a few! And we are to follow His example.

In Paul’s words, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant—and He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:5-8).

If Jesus “emptied Himself” and gave up His rights, so must you and I. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow ME. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it,” (Matthew 16:24-25).

Yielding your rights to God isn’t a one-time proclamation; it’s a daily consecration to the Lord. You must do six things:

  1. Ask God for grace, which is the will and the desire to obey Him, and He will supply it. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that…you may have an abundance for every good deed…” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
  2. Cry out in shame and humility as you compare your pride and selfishness to the meekness of Jesus.
  3. Confess your weaknesses to God. Before you can do this, you must find out what makes you mad. What right(s) do you fight to protect? In what areas of your heart does self still dominate?
  4. Pray for strength on a daily basis. You can’t store up self-control for future temptations. It is a fruit of the Spirit that comes from abiding in Christ. If you ignore God all week, that is not abiding. So if someone provokes you on Saturday night, don’t expect self-control to be available on-call.
  5. Stay humble. The minute you take pride in your victories over anger, satan will attack you at your point of weakness.
  6. Lay down your rights daily.

Come back next week to read more from this classic teaching series