Craig Smith - Anger
Well, hey. Welcome to Mission Hills for week number two of our Potholes Series. If you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. What we’re doing is we’re gonna search for wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible to learn how to sort of identify and avoid those potentially destructive potholes that we can encounter in the road of life. Last week, we took a look at the pothole of laziness and its real source, apathy. Today, we’re gonna tackle the pothole of anger. And I realize just knowing that we’re gonna talk about anger makes you feel one of two things right now. Some of you are a little uncomfortable because you know you have a problem with anger. We won’t do a hand pole at this point. But you know who you are. We struggle with anger a little bit. That’s certainly me. I know I have a little bit of a struggle there.
And some of you are feeling excited because you know somebody who has a problem with anger, it’s not you, you’re off the hook. You’re just like, “God, this is just resources I can use in somebody else’s life today. That’s awesome.” But here’s the honest truth is I’m not sure that I’ve ever met anybody who doesn’t have at least a little bit of a struggle with anger, it’s a pretty common thing. And maybe you’re not necessarily destroying things in anger, but you get angry about the wrong things, you make decisions, I mean we all struggle with it a little bit.
And so Danny just had to take a little bit of a poll, let’s see how we kind of all pan out in terms of things that make us angry versus other people. Can we pop that poll up here? Let’s see what got. All right. So number one, telling kids the same thing over and over. Actually, there was a prediction yesterday from the worship team that that was gonna be the one because they’re like it’s the end of summer, so people are like ready for the kids go. Okay, so talking. Next one below that, my personal favorite, sitting in traffic and other drivers. That is a tremendous test of my own sanctification. Relationships. Next one after that, and then frustrations at work and only 11.9% and 12.1% of you are upset that Tom Brady just won’t retire. I’m actually really glad as a pastor that you’re not losing a lot of sleep over that particular one. I know it’s bothersome but glad you got it in perspective with these other things. Yeah, we all have things that make us angry.
And, unfortunately, I think in a weekend here where we recognize that our country’s experienced, not just one, but two new mass shootings, I think we have to recognize that we live in a culture that has a problem with anger, right? And then the solution to that, I mean, so there is a multifaceted solution, unfortunately, but one of the things we know for sure is that we’re not gonna solve anything by making it worse ourselves. And so as the people of God it’s really important that we get a handle on what God says about how to deal with anger. So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and start making your way to the Book of Proverbs. We’re gonna start in Proverbs 29 today, and while you’re going there, let me just say this, I think it’s important that we understand that anger is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, anger is simply an emotion that God has given us. It’s an emotion that we share with God. God himself does get angry about things. Anger is not inherently sinful or bad or wrong.
The reality is honestly that anger can be good. This isn’t as hard for us to imagine. But here’s the deal. Anger can help us overcome apathy. Do you know that? We talked about apathy last week, and we realized that apathy is really it’s inadequate motivation to overcome the obstacles to action. So we see something right that needs to happen. We see someplace that the darkness needs to be pushed back, we see some wrong that needs to be righted. And we have these obstacles to action. Well, anger can actually be the energizing force that forces us over those obstacles to do good, to do right. And so anger can be a positive thing, that the problem is that anger becomes destructive when it stops moving us to fix problems, and it starts moving us to create them, right?
That’s when anger becomes a problem. And so what we’re gonna do today is four things number one, we’re going to understand why anger is such a potentially destructive pothole in our lives. We’re gonna understand what exactly is it about anger that makes it so potentially destructive? Second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna define exactly what anger is because a lot of times we don’t really have any understanding of what it is. And here’s the deal. If you can’t define it, you can’t monitor it. And if you can’t monitor it, you can’t manage it. Right?
So being able to manage anger ultimately starts with summarizing what exactly it is. And so we’re gonna define what exactly anger is. The third thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna reject some bad ways of dealing with anger, some bad, false, unbiblical ways that we probably all have bought into on a little bit. On some level, maybe we were taught them explicitly or we just sort of picked them up growing up, but they’re not really helpful, and they’re not healthy. And so we’re gonna reject those. And then the last thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna adopt some right biblical strategies for dealing with anger. So that’s kind of the goal for today, we’re gonna start with an understanding of why anger is such a potentially destructive product. And we’re gonna start in Proverbs 29:22. It says this, “An angry person stirs up conflict. And a hot-tempered person commits many sins.”
Two different pieces there, it says an angry person stirs up conflict. And what that means is anger can cause us to create and to escalate conflict. Anger can cause us to create conflict or to escalate some existing conflict way beyond the bounds of what is meaningful or right or reasonable at that particular point. So it can cause us to create conflict. And here’s the thing, when we’re upset about something, we can create a conflict out of nothing. Can I get an amen on that one?
Anybody ever had the experience you’re like you’re mad at somebody at work or you’re mad at something that happened at work or at school and you come home and you pick a fight with your brother, or your sister, or your mom, or your dad, or your husband, or your wife, or your kids? And they didn’t really do much of anything, but you were already mad, right? And so you created a conflict because you know maybe you’ve had that same experience, you’ve been on the receiving end of it, right? That you know, somebody came home and suddenly they just blew up over absolutely nothing. And turns out it’s because they were angry about something else. Yeah, when we’re angry about something, we can create a conflict out of nothing.
We can also escalate conflicts, right? We can take something that’s really small and we can make a big deal out of it. “I’m the king of this. I’m so good at this you guys. Like I’m the king of making mountains out of molehills when I’m angry. It’s just I have an…it’s a natural gift. It really just is.” And here’s why that is though. It’s because anger amplifies irritation, right? Anger amplify, you know you get irritated, but it’s a small thing. But anger amplifies that irritation till it becomes a much, much bigger deal. I remember probably the worst fight that I’ve ever had with my wife. The biggest conflict I think that I’ve ever had. It happened several years ago, we were back east, we were on a speaking tour. And we had the kids in the car. So it happened in front of my kids, which makes it all that worse. And then here’s what started it, we’re driving and this is in the early days of Apple Maps. When they didn’t give you turn by turn directions. They just kind of plotted the whole course and you had to sort of zoom in on the map. And so Coletta is navigating because there’s no Siri to tell me what to do.
And so we’re driving along and she goes, “Hey, okay, there’s a turn coming up, coming up, coming up.” That was it. I was like, “Well, why are you telling me now?” She’s like “Well, that road wasn’t on the map, it literally isn’t here, the map doesn’t have it.” And I was like “Well, I think you’re probably not zoomed in enough, you got to zoom in because if you don’t zoom in enough sometimes it doesn’t show all the roads.” And she’s like “Oh, okay, I’m sorry about that.” And now here’s the thing I was already mad. It was probably the kids’ fault. I don’t remember exactly what did it. But I was already a little bit mad. It was a very simple thing. But I was like abnormally really inexplicably angry by “Hey there’s a turn. Argh”
Okay, so we fixed it, we got on the road, we’re going along she goes, “Okay, there’s another turn coming up. It’s coming up.” Now that was it. “You did not just…how did that happen again?” And she’s like, “That road wasn’t on there.” And which I get it. It makes sense. Because again, that was like a dirt road, that last one, so it was even smaller, you gotta be zoomed in even further. And so it was so…here’s the thing. It turned out this massive I was mad at her than she was mad at me and I said things I shouldn’t. And she did and it just it fell apart and I absolutely blew it as a husband. I blew it as a father, it was just the worst. And you know what started it? Failure to do this right on the phone. That’s it.
She just hadn’t expanded it quite, that’s it. That was what started, that’s what got me so hot-tempered. It’s what caused it. Because here’s what happens is the anger causes to create or to escalate conflicts because anger amplifies irritation, right? Anger amplifies irritation. Now this Proverb also says that, “A hot-tempered person commits sins,” no big surprise there. The point is that when we’re angry, we’re much more likely to do something wrong, we’re much more likely to say something we shouldn’t say, something really harmful, destructive, something sinful. Anger causes us to commit sin. But why is that? It’s because anger reduces thinking. Right? Anger reduces thinking. And I think we all know that sort of intuitively. But I think it’s interesting how modern science keeps confirming things the Bible has known for thousands of years.
That, you know, the way God made us, our brains is that, you know, he gave different tasks to different parts of our brains. So we have different parts of the brains that handle different mental activities, right? And so one part of our brain is called the prefrontal cortex, right? The prefrontal cortex that’s in charge of thinking, it’s in charge of sort of like rational analysis and decision making. It’s in charge of sort of find a memory processing and that kind of thing. There’s another part of the brain called the amygdala, that’s in charge of the more sort of survival stuff, the fight or flight responses, you know, so either I fight back to keep myself protected or I run away, the amygdala is in charge of that. But here’s the thing, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are not separate parts of the brain. They’re interconnected. And it’s a little bit of an either-or situation the way God built us, if the prefrontal cortex, the thinking side is kind of online and really in charge, the amygdala is not doing all that much. But if the amygdala becomes online and in charge, the prefrontal cortex stops doing all that much. Now, guess which part of the brain is sort of in charge when we’re angry. It’s the amygdala.
So here’s what happens literally, physiologically, it’s a physical fact that when we get angry, the amygdala takes over and the prefrontal cortex activity goes down. But the prefrontal cortex is where thinking happens. So when we get angry, it reduces our thinking, we stopped thinking as much and this is why I’m sure none of you have ever done this. But this is why other people sometimes say things they would never say regularly when they were angry, right? This is why you never done this, but maybe somebody’s done this to you, you bring up things that you shouldn’t be bringing up because they’re subtle, you know, something in the past that honestly, you know, yeah, you had a conflict over it. But you know, forgiveness was asked, forgiveness was given, it was processed, it was raw, it was put to bed, it’s done, and then all of a sudden, you end up bringing it up again. Nobody, right? Nobody, nobody?
You know why that happens? Because the prefrontal cortex is in charge of the finer memory processing. The amygdala is not remembering that whole business of oh, yeah, forgiveness, grant or resolve. The amygdala is just looking for rocks to throw. It’s like, “I’m throwing that in the prefrontal cortex. I know it’s not a good idea, but I’m not in charge, okay, whatever.” Because literally anger reduces thinking and this is why, now I understand, by the way, I’m not saying it’s okay. All right. And I’m not saying that it’s out of our control, God has actually given our spirits the ability to sort of, on some level, decide which parts of our brain are doing the work. Okay, so we have some strategies that we can adopt to keep this from leading us to destruction. But I do think you need to understand that this is why the word of God says that a hot-tempered person commits many sins because anger reduces thinking.
And if we’re not really careful, this is maybe a worst part of it. If we’re not really careful, not only does anger cause us to create and escalate conflict, not only does it cause us to commit sin, but it creates a context in which there’s gonna be more anger, which leads to more conflict, which leads to more sin, right? And it kind of spirals out of control. And we’ve probably all had that experience, right? Check this out. This is the Book of Proverbs 30:33. “For as churning cream produces butter,” I like it already, right? I like me some butter. “As churning cream produces butter and as twisting the nose produces blood.” All right. “So stirring up anger produces strife.” This has to be my all-time favorite Proverb, right? I mean, what boldness to compare, you know, stirring cream to get butter and twisting somebody’s nose until you get blood? That’s awesome.
And you might go like, that’s a weird comparison, right? But did you catch the common denominator? It’s a circular motion. See, when we churn cream with a paddle to make butter, we’re doing a circular motion, when you twist somebody’s nose to produce blood, it’s a circular motion. I mean if you get it all the way around, by the way, lots of blood I think is what happens at that point. Right? And it says in the same way, the person who stirs up anger produces strife. It’s all about the circular motion. What he’s really telling us is that anger can be a real circular issue, right? And we’ve probably all experienced this, right? Like, you know, I am angry at this person. And so now they’re mad that I am angry at them. And so you know, they say something and I’m mad that they’re mad back. And because I was mad first, how dare you be mad now? And so now I’m a little bit mad and I say some things and they’re mad you said those things. And it just spirals and many of you have had this experience, right?
What we’re really being told here is that anger is a feedback loop. And that anger creates destructive feedback loops. That’s what we’re being told, anger creates destructive feedback loops. What is a feedback loop? Feedback loop is a self-reinforcing cycle. It’s a cycle that if somebody doesn’t get in and break the self-reinforcing cycle, it’s going to spiral into a place of destruction. We’ve probably all heard these, they’re called feedback loops in audio systems. And what happens is, that’s that horrible squeal that comes out of a sound system when a microphone gets too close. Because here’s what’s happening. The microphone picks up sound, feeds it into the system, the system amplifies it, sends it out the speakers, which is picked up by the microphone, which sends it back into the system which amplifies it, which sends it back into the speakers, which is picked up by the microphone, which sends it into the system, which amplifies it and it just cycles until you’ve got this horrible streak going on. That’s probably good enough, right?
That can destroy sound systems, it can destroy human eardrums. It’s a destructive feedback loop. Well, what the Bible is telling us is that anger creates destructive feedback loops. So what do we do? Well, something has to interrupt the cycle, somebody has to disrupt the self-reinforcing nature of that. So how do we do that? Actually, how many of you went to kindergarten? Chances are, if you didn’t hear this from your parents, you heard it in kindergarten, one of the best pieces of advice when it comes to anger, which is, when you’re angry, count to 10 and take some deep breaths. Anybody heard that? That turns out to be really sound advice and has a solid psychological foundation. But more importantly, it’s got a solid biblical foundation. We could go to so many Proverbs that talk about the power of holding our tongue, the importance of holding our tongue, the wisdom of holding our tongue, that people who are able to hold their tongue are just much more successful in life. Why is that? Especially when we’re angry, here’s what’s happening.
When we’re angry, the amygdala is online, the prefrontal cortex is going down, the thinking is going down, right? The very moment you decide, I’m not gonna react, I’m going to wait, that’s a rational decision. And what you’re basically doing is you’re signaling to your amygdala, I don’t really need you, and you’re telling your prefrontal cortex “Wake up, I’m looking for rational thought here. I’m not gonna react, I’m gonna choose what I do and what I don’t do.” That’s an important signal.
When you start to breathe intentionally and deeply, that actually begins to reduce adrenaline production. Your amygdala is in charge of adrenaline production. So when you begin to breathe deeply, you’re telling your amygdala, “I don’t need the adrenaline, thanks very much. Get out of here.” It’s like oh, you really don’t need me. And then when you begin to count counting as the rational thinking activity, and you’re saying I want the prefrontal cortex working, you’re engaging that part of your brain, and when the prefrontal cortex begins to come more online, the amygdala goes, “Oh, I’m out of here.”
Now that doesn’t resolve the conflict, it doesn’t take the anger away. But what it does do is it puts you in a position to stop making things worse, to stop reinforcing the cycle until it leads to destruction. And so it turns out that your kindergarten teacher, it turns out that some of those lessons given to us as very small children, profoundly wise advice. Breathing and counting to 10 when we’re angry can disrupt the feedback cycle of anger. Really, really powerful truth. Right? Now, here’s the thing. That’s a tactic. It’s a good tactic, but it’s just a short-term tactic for dealing with anger. What we really want is we want long term strategies for dealing with anger. And so I think the first place that we go to begin understanding a long term strategy for managing anger well is we need to make sure we understand what anger is. A lot of us have never really thought about, we’re like what do you mean anger, I’m just I’m mad, right? I’m enraged. I’m furious. I’m whatever it is. We get different words for it.
But we don’t really understand what exactly it is. There’s a couple of Proverbs that I think give us some very powerful insight into what anger is. We’ll start with Proverbs 6:34 says this, “For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, his anger, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.” Now, before we go any further, I just want you to understand that’s not a criticism of the husband. Okay? This is not an unreasonable, irrational jealousy or anger. This is part of a series of Proverbs that are warning people against committing adultery. And so we’re intent to understand that adultery has actually happened here. Okay. So this is not the husband who just gets you know, furious because the barista at Starbucks smiled at his wife a little too long, right? That’s not what we’re talking about here. Cheating has actually happened, adultery has actually happened. And what I want you to notice, though, why it is that the husband’s furious or why he’s furious, why he’s angry. And the answer is because he had an expectation.
He expected that his wife would be faithful to him. He expected that other men would leave his wife alone. That was his expectation, but it’s not what he experienced. And so we got angry. Check this out. This is Proverbs 14:35 says this, “A king delights in a wise servant. But a shameful servant arouses his fury.” And again, understand this is not a criticism of the king. It’s not saying that his anger is irrational or unreasonable. But what we wanna pay attention to is what made him angry, what made him furious? And the answer is he had an expectation that his servants would act wisely, that they would use the resources carefully that had been trusted to them, they would use those resources to accomplish the purpose for which they’d been entrusted. But that’s not what he experienced, his servant used them in a foolish way. And you’re seeing a pattern here? Expectation and experience. So here’s what I think anger is. Anger is the frustration about the gap between the expectation and the experience. Does that make sense? Anger is frustration about this gap between I expected this but I actually experienced this, there’s a gap between that, anger is the frustration about that gap.
Now, sometimes the expectation that drives that is conscious, we’re aware of it. Sometimes it’s unconscious, we have no idea we have that expectation. It’s just kind of hardwired into us. Maybe the way we were raised, we sort of expect things to be that way. We’ve never really thought about it. So it might be conscious, it might be unconscious. Our expectation might be reasonable. It might be a very unreasonable expectation, also possible. The expectation might be expressed, we might have talked about it. Other people might have known exactly what we expected, or it might have been unexpressed, we didn’t let anybody else know we had that expectation. But by the way, this is a little bit kind of a bonus truth for today.
One of the most powerful sources of conflict in relationships is unexpressed expectations. And the greatest sources of conflict in our relationships is unexpressed expectations. Because here’s what happens when we have an expectation, but we haven’t expressed it chances are that nobody’s gonna make any adjustments to meet it, because they didn’t know that it was there, right. And if we don’t express an expectation, there’s very little opportunity to decide whether or not the expectation was reasonable or unreasonable. It’s just that kind of an operation. This is why in counseling for premarital counseling, or even for marriage counseling, one of the most powerful exercises we do with people is help them kind of work through what their expectations are, especially those ones that are under the surface, and they put them out on the table. Because unexpressed expectations is one of the greatest sources of conflict in relationships.
But by the way, this is also why, for you parents of young children, this is why toddlers are so angry so much of the time, right? You know, we have that phrase terrible twos, you know, why? Because at that stage, they’re beginning to have much more complex expectations, not just desires, right? Not just a physical need for something, but actually a much more complex desires that leads to expectations of how things should be. But they don’t yet have the language to express it.
So they have an expectation, but they can’t express it. And we’re so helpful as parents, right? We’re like, “What do you want? What do you want? What do you want?” And they’re like, “I don’t have words, mom, I don’t have the words.” But they have the expectation, right. And of course, the greater the gap between expectations here and so the greater the gap, the greater the anger, right.
Now, here’s the thing, even when the expectations are unconscious, we don’t know about them, unreasonable, they’re not valid, and unexpressed, nobody else knows about them, they’re still there. They’re still operating. So if you think for a moment, at the last time that you were angry about something, I guarantee you, what you’re gonna ultimately discover is there was an expectation that had gone unmet. Maybe it was unconscious, maybe it was unexpressed, maybe it was unreasonable, but it was still there. Okay, so what do we do? Well, let’s start with what we don’t do. Here’s three things we’re not going to do when we’re angry. Number one, we’re not going to vent it. Okay? We’re not gonna vent and I think there’s this idea out there, that you know, anger doesn’t go away by itself so the best thing we can do is just like blow off some steam, right? You know, yell and scream, punch a wall, kick a puppy… No, not a puppy. A cat maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, right? No, no, not even a cat. Right?
But you understand what I’m saying, there’s this idea that if…we just got to give full vent to it. And then it’ll go away. Right? Here’s what the Word of God says about this. This is Proverbs 29:11. “Fools give full vent to their rage. Fools give full vent of their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Why? Again, science is just now figuring out what the Bible has always known. And the reality is this, is what we’re discovering from scientific studies more and more these days. The more angrier we act, the more angry we, guess what? Feel. The more angrier we act, the more angry we feel. So giving full vent of our anger doesn’t make us less angry, it actually makes us more. Because really what we’re doing again, physiologically what we’re doing is we’re not giving vent to our anger, we’re giving control to the amygdala and it’s like “I’m in charge.”
But we don’t want that. That’s not good. Okay, so what do we do about it? Well, I’m gonna ask you to kind of put a pin in this thought for a moment. I’m gonna share it, we’re gonna impact it in just a second, but this is an incredibly important truth for dealing with anger and here it is. Wise people don’t vent their anger, they vet it. Wise people don’t vent their anger, they vet it. And what I mean by that is they study it, they analyze it, they dig into and figure out what’s causing it. And then they deal with that cause rather than with the emotion itself, okay? Put a pin in this thought we’ll unpack it in a second.
But wise people don’t vent their anger, they vet it. Venting anger, we’re not gonna do that. That’s not healthy. Another thing that people often do that we’re not going to do is we’re not gonna stuff it. Okay? A lot of people seem to have this idea and maybe you were raised in a household that said, you know, any kind of anger is bad. If you’re upset about something, you’re the one being sinful. Well, that’s not necessarily true at all. But it leads to these behaviors that say, I’m just gonna shove it down. I’m gonna, put it away and then it’ll go away. If I just don’t deal with it. It’ll go away. But you know what, that’s not true.
When we stuff our anger down, it doesn’t go away, it rots. And it turns into bitterness. And that bitterness begins to poison every relationship. And every interaction that we have. Stuffing anger doesn’t destroy it, it just causes it to rot into bitterness. The Bible is pretty clear that we’re supposed to go to the people that we’re in conflict with or we’re upset with and we’re supposed to deal with it. We’re supposed to bring resolution. In fact, this is such an important thing to understand. Ephesians 4:26 says this, “In your anger, do not sin.” Some more literal translations could actually render it. Be angry. There’s nothing wrong with being angry when something wrong is actually taking place. If there’s a legitimate gap between expectation and experience, be angry, and yet do not sin. Don’t let it lead you to doing wrong.
And he says this, “Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry. And do not give the devil a foothold.” That’s such a powerful truth. And we could spend a lot of time talking about it, I can tell you some kind of hair raising stories in my own life where I began to realize the literal truth of that, but here’s the principle you’ve got to get a handle on. Unresolved anger creates spiritual vulnerability. Do you hear me church? Unresolved anger creates spiritual…it creates a chink in the armor and allows spiritual forces that are not on our side to get involved. So now because we got unresolved anger and we let the sun go down and we didn’t deal with it, we stuffed it and just let it kind of stay. What’s happening now is that we got us a chink in the armor. And now you know, it’s not just that I’m mad at her and she’s mad at me. But now we have an enemy in our midst stirring things up and making things worse, such an important thing to understand.
This is why stuffing it is not a good way to handle. We’re not gonna do that, we’re gonna reject that idea. Third thing we’re not gonna do, we’re not gonna share it with people who can’t do anything about it. Right? We have this interesting skill that we go, you know, “Yeah, I’m in conflict with so and so. I’m just gonna talk to this person, I’m gonna seek their perspective. I’ll be helpful to get some outside input.” But really what we’re doing is we’re generating support, right? We just want people on our side, we want allies. Right? Here’s the thing, you know, if I am, you know, having a conflict with Bill, so I could tell Sally about what Bill did, now Sally is mad at Bill. And maybe Bill and I get it resolved, right? But of course, Sally wasn’t in that conversation. So Sally’s still mad at Bill and Bill figures it out, right? He can tell. He’s like, “What’s going on?” And she finally is like, “Well, you did this to Craig.” And he’s like, “How do you know about that?” “Oh, Craig told me.” So now he’s mad at me, Sally’s mad at me because I didn’t tell her and Bill’s mad at Sally because she listened and pretty and it’s just this massive mess, right?
You know, here’s the thing, the Bible has a single word to describe this activity of talking to people who can’t do anything about the situation. You know what that word is? It’s called gossip. Here’s what the Word of God says about that. Proverbs 16:28. “A perverse person, a perverted person, a twisted person stirs up conflict. And a gossip separates close friends.” Compares a gossip with a perverted person. So we’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna share it with somebody who can’t. So what are we not gonna do when it comes to dealing with anger? We’re not gonna vent it. We’re not gonna stuff it. And we’re not gonna share it with somebody who can’t do anything about it. What are we gonna do? We’ve already kind of shared the big takeaway piece of wisdom today. Let’s come back to it a little bit. A wise person doesn’t vent their anger, they what? They vet it. Let’s say it together. A wise person doesn’t vent their anger, they vet it. They analyze it, they study it to figure out what’s really going on and then they deal with that part.
Well, here’s what we’re gonna do three steps. Okay, step number one, identify the expectation. Okay, that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna identify the expectation. Remember, anytime we feel anger, it’s because there’s a gap between expectation and experience. So you may not be conscious of the expectation, but as soon as you are aware I’m angry, you’re gonna go okay, that is a clue that I need to go on a search for the expectation that was unmet. Okay?
We’re gonna basically learn that every time we feel angry becomes a trigger to go looking for an expectation, it’s gonna be an expectation search, okay? Now, sometimes we can do that on our own. We can sort of step back, we can take a couple of deep breaths, we can count to 10, we can bring the prefrontal cortex back online, when we go, okay, what’s the expectation? Sometimes we can do that ourselves. Sometimes we really need to do that with the person that we’re in conflict with, which by the way, is a really powerful tool in the midst of a conversation that’s being coming sort of heated because it kind of cools things off. And so you can have this conversation and you go, “Hang on a second. I’m realizing I’m feeling anger.” And the other person’s like, “Yeah, me too,” right? Like, let’s get at… “No, no hang on a sec. I’m realizing I’m feeling anger and I’m wondering what expectation I had that’s leading to that?”
It’s a very interesting thing to throw into a conflict, because suddenly at that point, you’re not attacking, it’s about you, and you’re actually enlisting their aid. Could you help me figure out what it is? And they’re like, “I’ll be glad to help you figure out what’s wrong with you.” No, no, not. No, no. But actually, there’s a certain part of them that’s like, “Yeah, I’d love to figure.” And then as you begin that search, you’re having a very different conversation at that point. Okay, but that’s your first step, we’re gonna identify the expectation that wasn’t met. Okay. Second step, is we’re gonna assess the validity of that expectation. Some of the expectations are valid, some of them are not valid, some of them are reasonable, some of them are quite unreasonable.
But until we identify it, we can’t figure out which is which and we can’t move forward. So the first thing we’re gonna do is identify it, the second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna assess the validity of that expectation. Was this reasonable for me to have this expectation? Now, again, you might be able to do that on your own if you’re breathing and you’re stepping back and you’re taking a moment to get out of the feedback loop. Sometimes you can do that with the person that you’re having the conflict with. “Hey, so I realize I’m angry because this happened. Like, do you think that was an unreasonable expectation?” That can be a really powerful moment because sometimes the person will go, “Well, yeah, actually, yeah, I mean, I don’t…that’s not an unreasonable expectation.” And then they say, “I’m sorry,” and things get better.
Sometimes honestly, if you’re really fair-minded about it, you realize that you’ve been taught but that really wasn’t a fair expectation. And then you get to do the most fun part ever in a conflict. You get to say the three most powerful words you’ll ever speak. Do you know what the three most powerful words you will ever speak are? “I was wrong.” Incredibly powerful. Sometimes we hesitate to say those words because you think that gives power away? “Well, if anybody knows that I was wrong, then they won’t really respect me.” Listen, they know you were wrong. No, like nobody’s surprised by that. Okay.
What’s gonna surprise them as that you know it and you’re willing to own it. And suddenly at that point, you’re respectful. I promise you, I’ve seen this over and over and over again, in my marriage, in my parenting, in my leadership. Those are three incredibly powerful words, “I was wrong.” First thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna identify it. Second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna assess the validity of it. Sometimes you have to go to somebody else for this, by the way, sometimes the conflict’s too heated, you’re not able to get to it quite yourself. And so you might need to enlist somebody else. And I know you’re thinking, “Well, wait a minute, I thought you said don’t talk to anybody else.”
There’s a big difference between telling Sally, “Listen to what Bill did,” and telling Sally “Hey, I’m angry at Bill and I’ve realized the expectation of this and honestly, I’m struggling to decide whether or not that was a reasonable expectation or not. Could you help me work through that?” That’s a very different conversation. That’s not gossip. But even then I would say be really careful because we’re amazingly sneaky in our own heads at like disguising gossip as something else. So be very careful. But do what you have to do to assess the validity of that. And then, this may be the hardest part of it all, we’re gonna address what’s valid and we’re gonna let go of what’s not. Right?
Because there’s probably some pieces of the expectation that we were valid and we’re gonna deal with those. And the ones that are not we’re gonna go you know what I’m just gonna push that offside, I’m gonna let it go. And that’s a really difficult thing to do. I know that’s easier said than done. One of the tricks to it is because, in the midst of a conflict, so many issues have come up, right? That what you have to ultimately do is once you finally identify that expectation, you kind of said that’s the priority. We’re gonna deal with this one. How many you ever had the issue where you’re so far into a conflict, so many things have come up that you look at each other going, “What was this about in the first place,” right?
And there’s so many things at that point and you have to figure that out and you have to go back and go okay, that’s the big issue. Here’s the expectation, here’s what’s valid. Okay, let’s make that our priority. And what happens is a lot of those other issues, honestly, they just kind of take care of themselves, you begin to realize they don’t really need to be dealt with. So what are we gonna do? We’re gonna identify the expectation, we’re gonna assess the validity of it and then we’re going to address what’s valid and we’re gonna let go of what’s not why? Because wise people don’t vent their anger, they vet it. Four questions for you.
Question number one. In what relationship am I most prone to anger? I think this is really helpful to sort of figure out because if you have a relationship where you know you’re most prone to anger, you can be on the lookout for it so it didn’t catch you by surprise and you’re not into the feedback cycle too far before you can begin to be intentional about breaking that cycle. If we already kind of know this is the relationship where I tend towards anger. So, identify that. Second question is this. What mistakes am I most likely to make when it comes to dealing with anger? Am I most likely to vent it? Am I most likely to stuff it? Am I most likely to share it with people who can’t do anything about it? Identify the mistakes and go, “I’m gonna reject those.”
Third question is gonna be, what expectations are driving the anger in that relationship? Oftentimes, the reason there’s so much anger in a particular relationship is because there’s a set of ongoing expectations might be unreasonable, might be unconscious, might be experience, but they’re still there. But there’s a set of ongoing expectations that haven’t been sort of understood and put on the table and talked through. So what expectations are consistently driving the conflict in that relationship? And then finally, what steps do I need to take to assess and address those expectations? Because wise people don’t vent their anger, they vet it. And just real quick before we wrap up. What we’re dealing with here today is what I would call everyday anger management. Okay.
Some of you have more than everyday anger management issues, some of the people listening to this have what probably moves into what we’ve called clinical anger issues. And if that’s you, what we’re talking about from the Word of God that is a great place to start but you may need to take a step further than that to really get a handle on this anger thing. Because it can be an incredibly destructive pothole, destroying your relationships, taking you off mission with Jesus, ruining your career, everything about your life. If you have clinical issues, you need to dig a little bit further into this. You know, we have a counseling center at Mission Hills, so I reached out to Pastor Jerry and I said, “Hey, could you give me a couple of questions to help people figure out whether or not they’ve gotten more clinical anger issues that need a little bit more, you know, sort of homework?” And he said, “Yeah, here’s two questions.” So question number one is this. Have I been hurt in the past in a way that’s causing me to hurt people in the present?
In other words, it’s not just that I’m angry because I had an expectation and there’s a gap between that and my experience, I’m always angry because I was hurt this way in the past, and so I just operate through a lens of constant anger. Okay, that’s an important question. Second question is this. When I’m angry do I physically destroy things? Or do I attack people physically or verbally? Now if the answer to either one of those questions is a yes and certainly if the answer to both of those is a yes, you need to take another step to get a handle on this pothole of anger. And what I would encourage you to do is go on the website, look up counseling, missionhills.org. You can find it there’s little form, you can submit it, you get on a counseling appointment, one of our Bible counselors, they help you walk through whether or not this is a clinical issue or not. And if it is, they help again to develop a plan that you can get a handle on this so that it doesn’t have this destructive influence in your life. But if you think that you may have a clinical issue with anger, I really wanna encourage you to take that next step to deal with it. Would you pray with me?
God, we’re so grateful for your forgiveness, because this is an area where we’re all on a pretty regular basis in need of it. Although we thank you for the possibility of what we would call righteous anger that this potential to be moved to do what is right and to be on mission with you and overcome the obstacles that would keep us from pushing back the darkness and bringing light into dark corners and fixing what is wrong. We thank you that anger could be that but, Lord, we confess, we’ve often used anger in other ways, and we are sorry for that, we just admit to you I was wrong. And we ask for your forgiveness. Lord, we ask that you would, through your Holy Spirit, you’d push deep into us the truths from your Word today that allow us to maybe begin to deal with anger in a way that would bring you greater honor and it would cause less destruction in our relationships and in our lives. Thank you.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you begin praying for people around you, people watching online all over the world who don’t have a relationship with Jesus? And if that’s you, I’d just like to speak to you for a moment. If you’re listening to this, but you know that you don’t have real faith. If you don’t have a relationship with God that comes from faith in Jesus Christ, and maybe you’re realizing as you’re talking through your anger that the reason is because you’ve always pictured that God is an angry God. Or maybe you feel like he should be angry because you’ve done wrong things. And maybe that’s what’s kept you from a relationship with him. And I wanna speak to you an incredibly important truth.
Our sin does make God angry, righteously angry; he has every right to be angry. God created us to be in a relationship with him. He created us to worship him. He created us to work on his behalf in the world and he created us to be righteous and that was his expectation, it was a reasonable expectation. And our sin creates a gap between God’s expectation and our experience, our sin, our jealousy, our pettiness, our bitterness, our selfishness, our insisting on doing things our way and spitting in God’s face. All those you’ve got every right to be angry.
But, and this is so important, what he did with his anger is he sent his own Son Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life, had no sin to make his Father angry, no sin that created a barrier between him and God. And yet he died on the cross because of our sin. He went to the cross to pay the penalty of all the wrong that we had ever done. God poured his anger out on his own perfect, sinless Son so that his anger would be paid and wiped away.
And so what God looks at you with is not anger, what he looks at you with is mercy. He looks at you with grace and he looks at you with love. And that if you will accept what Jesus did on the cross, you can have a relationship that begins now and goes on forever with that good and gracious God. He paid for your sin on the cross and three days later he raised Jesus from the dead, proving that he’d done it. And right now, right here, today, Jesus is offering you the forgiveness that he purchased with his own blood. He’s offering you a relationship with God that goes on forever. And if you don’t have that relationship, but you would you like to have it, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome, fantastic. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me. Wherever you are, you just have this conversation with God in your heart right now, say this to him say
God, I’ve done wrong. You have every right to be angry. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead to prove that you’d paid it off. And I understand, God, that you’re offering mercy and forgiveness right now. I’m ready. Jesus, I’m saying yes to you. Jesus, come into my life. I put my faith, my trust in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.