Fighting the Works of the Flesh: Outbursts of Wrath
In the 10th post in this series covering the works of the flesh, we look at several strategies we can use to overcome outbursts of wrath in our lives.
Have you ever seen a movie where a character loses his temper? There have been hundreds of movies based on characters who lose self-control and go “crazy.” In the movie industry, characters can get so mad that they react in loud, violent outbursts—and occasionally blow things up! Many movies are built around characters who take their anger out on others and property.
News talk shows get very high ratings when the guests and hosts are so angry at each other that they yell out their opinions at the same time, their faces becoming red.
Though outbursts of wrath may be intriguing as part of fiction, or exciting and shocking on a talk show, they actually wreak havoc in real, everyday life. They not only hurt relationships—they can destroy them.
Lies about outbursts of wrath
Lie No. 1: “Sometimes it’s therapeutic to lose control of your emotions.”
There is a common belief that “letting go” of our temper and emotions can be a good thing. Somehow, the thinking is that you can actually defeat anger by just letting it all out. But it doesn’t really work like that. Wrath usually escalates the more we let it out.
Learning to control our emotions is much more therapeutic than letting them run free and hoping nobody gets hurt. Proverbs 14:29 says, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”
Lie No. 2: “It’s okay to get really angry. Just don’t hurt anyone.”
Learning to control our emotions is much more therapeutic than letting them run free and hoping nobody gets hurt.Proverbs 29:8 mentions, “Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath.” Turning away wrath implies stopping it before we want to hit anything!
God told Cain to “rule over” his sinful anger (Genesis 4:7). Cain’s refusal to control his wrath led to his murder of his brother Abel. The sad reality is that uncontrolled anger can escalate to hurting people.
God commands us to grow in the fruit of His Spirit of “self-control” (Galatians 5:23)—not to lose control.
Anger control strategies
1. Examine yourself for the warning signs of someone not in control of his or her anger.
Some of the signs are very obvious, such as physically hitting another human being. But other signs include actions like:
- “I scream at my kids because they never listen to me and constantly disobey me.”
- “I push, shove and yell at the person I’m guarding in basketball, because he fouls me too much. I also yell at the stupid ref because he is missing too many calls.”
Some people justify yelling in anger at their small children as being necessary in parenting. Others seem to lose all semblance of their Christianity when they walk onto a basketball court. If constant yelling, “flying off the handle” or “going from a 1 to a 5 in an instant” are ways people describe us, then we should look at our lives seriously.
2. Examine and deal with the primary event, catalyst or emotion that could lead to an outburst.
What led you to anger? Was it hurt feelings? Was it a perceived or real injustice? What was it that led you from being fine one moment to being completely out of control the next?
Whatever it was, anger and outbursts of wrath are usually not the godly and appropriate reaction. Sometimes righteous indignation comes into play, but this is definitely the rare exception, not the rule. Ask yourself, “Why am I getting angry?” That is what God asked Cain before he murdered Abel, but Cain refused to look deeper and make changes (Genesis 4:6).
When you feel anger swelling up inside of you, step away and cool off. Two tips for gaining control of yourself are:
- Immediately pray to God in your mind, finding a private place if possible (Colossians 4:2; Philippians 4:6). Ask Him to take the spirit of anger from you and to help you grow in self-control.
- Meditate (think in a focused manner) on positive, godly thoughts (Philippians 4:8).
3. Learn to hate outbursts of wrath.
There are many reasons to hate outbursts of wrath. The fruits are never good: physical and verbal child abuse, spouse battering, complete disrespect and disregard for other human beings, manslaughter, awkward stares as friends and family members see a side of us that is scary and violent. The list of why outbursts of wrath should be hated could go on and on.
God has laid out the expectation that we control ourselves at all times—especially when anger is involved. An outburst of wrath comes from a loss of self-control and always leads to destructive results.