(This is part 2 in a short series of posts on handling anger responsibly.)
Anger has a wide blast radius. All of us are affected by it and some of us are controlled by it. It causes us to do and say things we would never do and say if anger weren’t present. That makes us anger’s slaves. Others of us have been controlled by someone else’s anger. We refrain from doing what we should because anger is present. That’s another form of slavery.
Some of us have gone beyond being controlled by anger and have become addicted to it. We need it. It enables us to feel. It motivates us to act. Anger is our drug of choice. We want it to course through us. It makes us feel righteous and powerful. It assures us that we are not witless sheep or frightened slaves … even as we bleat in unison with anger and jump to obey its commands.
Being dependent on anger is like living on a houseboat just upstream of Niagara Falls … without an anchor. Unless you do something quickly, you’re going over. Making excuses is not doing something, nor is blaming others for our anger. We need to stop making excuses and start taking steps.
Step one: Understand what expressing anger wrongly does: it rolls out the red carpet and invites the devil to take up residence in your life and home. This is Ephesians 4:26-27: “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
The word the NIV translates as “foothold” has a military feel in this context. The idea is that the devil is looking to establish a beachhead from which he can launch attacks against us and our families.
Anger provides that beachhead. And when anger continues over time, it gives the devil a veritable base of operations in our lives. To yield to anger, to sin in anger, gives the devil place.
But there is another side to this that we need to understand. When we refrain from sinful expressions of anger, we give God place. Listen to Romans 12:19, where Paul uses the same Greek word that is translated “foothold” here: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room (give place) for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” When we are angry but don’t sin, we give God a place from which to launch his campaign on our behalf. The place of anger and temptation can becomes the site of God’s operations in our lives. Turning to God when we are angry can be one of life’s most important turning points.