Overcoming Anger - Step 9
In Step 6 we discussed the difference between running from sinful anger and running to the life God desires for us. This final chapter is devoted to the subject of “running to” God’s design. You will do most of the writing in this chapter. It is your life that is being stewarded for God’s glory.The goal is that you would find things that you could give yourself to more passionately than you once gave yourself to your anger. But not just temporal, slightly healthier things that would quickly become the next edition of ruling desires; and not things that you give yourself to in private so that they foster selfishness and excess. Rather, eternally significant things that you give yourself to in a community of faith to maintain endurance, temper desire mutation, and become an example to others.As you read through and answer these nine questions, remember God’s patience and timing. There will be some aspects of God’s design that you can engage in immediately. There will be ways you want to serve God that will require you to more mature or be equipped before you are prepared to fulfill them. The main thing is to begin to have a vision for life that involves being God’s servant and actively engaging that vision where you are currently equipped.
Overcoming Anger - Step 8
Are you enjoying where you are? Even if you are not “there yet,” can you identify aspects of this part of your journey that make it significantly better than where you’ve been? Unless you can answer “yes” to this question and take delight in that answer, perseverance will be grueling. Striving without delighting is exhausting.One of the keys to persevering, especially with a struggle as recurrent as anger, is the ability to enjoy an imperfect, in-process life. God does not just delight in you at the culmination of your sanctification. God delights in you right now. He invites you to agree with him; where he has you in this process is good. This provides the emotional stability and security to persevere in your journey.With that as our starting point, let’s ask the question, “What does it look like to continue to follow God from here?”Chances are that you’ve put so much energy into getting “here” that it is not entirely clear how to prepare yourself for life after an intensive focus on change. What do you do when your life is not focused on overcoming anger? That is the topic of this step and the next.
Overcoming Anger - Step 7
We are now squarely in the present tense. Admitting, acknowledging, understanding, repenting, and confessing were all focused on things we had done or experienced (past tense). Restructuring life was all about what we intend to do (future tense). In the first six steps we were protected from dynamic things like the pressures and nuances of daily life. To this point, we have scripted and rehearsed our social interactions but now we are leaving the scripts behind.In order to engage with implementation effectively, we must have our perspective on temptation transformed. There is a tendency to view temptation as failure. If our plan is merely to avoid or prevent temptation (irritating situations), then we will fail and think, “What’s the use?”
Overcoming Anger - Step 6
As we get to the most “practical” part of the study, hopefully you are at a better place spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and in terms of self-understanding than you have ever been before (or at least in a long time). This foundation allows you to enact the plans you are about to make in a way you could not when you felt distant from God, isolated from people, emotionally frazzled, and your self-understanding was filled with lies and distortions.
Overcoming Anger - Step 5
If we became active in Step 4, then we are going public in Step 5. Confession that is less public than the sin which prompted its necessity promotes short-lived change. Confession is when our new allegiance (from self to God) becomes public. Confession is to sanctification what baptism is to salvation – public evidence that a change has occurred and is impacting the core of our identity and how we relate to the world.Confession is often hard for someone who struggles with anger. Anger is about being strong. Confession feels weak and vulnerable. Anger is bold and in control. Confession is humble and patient. Anger intends to make certain things happen. Confession does not know what response it will get. You are being asked to buck this trend in ways that may be scary or unnatural, but that is what change is.
Overcoming Anger - Step 4
This material is not another trip around the “try harder” merry-go-round!It is at Step 4 that you begin to experience the difference. Hopefully, you have a more complete understanding of your struggle with anger than you’ve ever had before. You probably have more ongoing Christian support than you’ve had in previous attempts to control your anger. But understanding, the absence of blame-shifting, community, and direction are not the source of change. God is.Change doesn’t involve white knuckles; it requires the empty hands and bent knees of humble repentance.In order to see the relevance of repentance you must see your sinful anger the way that Bible does – as an offense primarily against God. We don’t view most sins this way. We see that we hurt other people with our sin and assume that God is disappointed in us for failing to love our neighbor (i.e., wife, kids, co-workers, etc…). But we do not think we have sinned against God.Until we see this reality we will not realize that we have voluntarily unplugged from our source of love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Further, we will try to produce these qualities in our own strength and character not realizing how futile and silly those efforts really are (John 15:4-17). We become like the person flipping switches in their breaker box during a power outage. The solution makes sense but there is still no power even when we have taken all the right steps.
Overcoming Anger - Step 3
It is unfortunate that this step will likely not be as satisfying as we would like. We often fall into the trap of thinking that if we understand the “why” better, then the “what” will be easy, or at least easier. There are at least two realities that disrupt this seemingly sound logic.First, sin is not rational, so it refuses to play by our rules of logic. Sin is not a simple behavior that plays by single-variable motivations. Rather sin is a condition and a predator. Sin has its roots in our fallen human nature. Sin is aided and abetted by an enemy who desires our destruction (I Peter 5:8). This means that sin both has the home field advantage and is willing to cheat to win. This is why simple, temporary measures will never be sufficient.Second, our goal must be effectiveness-at-change rather than ease-of-change or our best intentions will lead us back into destructive anger. Satan is always willing to wait for a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) if its interests are not best served in a given moment. The moments when we let our guard down are the times when our intelligent adversary will strike. Anything that undermines our vigilance is an asset to our adversary.But these realities do not make an examination of the history and motives of our anger fruitless. It just means that what we intuitively want from this examination is overly optimistic. What we can gain is a better understanding of (a) what motives drive our anger, (b) the context in which those desires became excessively dominant, and (c) how those desires began to take on a god-like function in our lives.The more honestly and accurately we are able to make these assessments in real time, the more effectively we will be at relying on God and reaching out to our support network for help. The more “foreign” or “crazy” our motives feel to us, the less likely we are to tell others what is going on. The more these things make sense to us, even if we disagree with the values behind the motives, the more willing we will be to ask for help.