In part 1 we learned how controlled anger is like a campfire. When used to give ‘tough love’ or to stand up for someone/something, it can provide hope. However, this post will focus on the opposite end of the spectrum: how uncontrolled anger is like a wildfire.
“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering–fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” –Genesis 4:2b-8
Like a wildfire, uncontrolled anger can cause us to think irrationally and act out with violence. Cain was jealous of Abel and his jealousy grew into anger. He did not control it, nor did he wish to. Instead, he allowed it to govern his actions and he killed his own brother over an offering. Later in the chapter, we also see that his pride kept him from admitting he had done something wrong, replying to a question God posed to him in irritation, stating he wasn’t his brother’s keeper. Thus, not only did Cain murder his brother, but he also lied.
If Cain had been our close relative — such as a cousin we grew up playing with — we would probably feel several different emotions upon discovering his actions. The first would probably be disgust, for how could someone do such a thing to their own little brother. Second, grief, for we had lost someone in our family. Thirdly, hurt/betrayal/mistrust, because if Cain would lie about this what else was he willing to lie about. The last emotion is probably one, though, that hits us after the disgust passes and the shock wears off: constant fear. If Cain was willing to kill his own brother over something such as that, what else would trigger his anger and what would he be willing to do when it happened?
In today’s world, murder isn’t the only outcome of uncontrolled anger. Arsonists start fires; crowds riot; vandalism occurs; and abusers attack those closest to them. Anger that is entertained for the wrong reasons can lead to awful scenarios. It can also lead to harsher emotions such as hate, which — in itself — can lead to awful scenarios as well. Hilter’s hatred of Jews is a good example of how horrifying hatred can become. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one who tried a genocide out of uncontrolled anger.
“When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.” –Esther 3:5-6
Haman’s story ended quiet differently than Cain’s. Cain gained a wife, a son named Enoch, and built a city all the while cursed by God for what he had done. Haman, on the other hand, was impaled, for Mordecai was considered the most honored of the king and his niece, Esther, was the queen. When the king found out Haman’s plans, he had sentenced him to death. Cain had only killed his brother; Haman wanted to murder a whole group of people.
Our own uncontrolled anger can be torturous. If we start a fire we don’t plan on containing, we can get burned in the process, maybe even scarred. Holding grudges for a wrong, burning bridges because in the heat of the moment the sight of the one we’re angry with makes us sick, shouting things we don’t mean at the one we love the most. All these things which are caused by uncontrolled, sinful anger can leave us lonely. No one wants to be around someone who has anger issues. Such a personality trait can make it hard to be trustworthy.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” –James 1:19-20
When we allow anger to spread wildly, letting it control our actions and our thoughts, we are tempted to hate and hate is the opposite of love. We were made to love and to be loved. We are to share in each others burdens, lifting each other up instead of tearing each other apart. Anger is such a powerful emotion and it’s so easy for us to give into at times that it is wise not to place ourselves nor linger in a situation that will cause us to be angry.
I know for some it’s easier said than done. I have two or three relatives who have had short fuses, one of which was able to lay it down after salvation even though at times he is still tempted to resort to old ways. It isn’t a pretty sight when they “blow up”. I’m not saying anger should be suppressed, though. God is not surprised when we are angry and, in some cases, He understands. When we are angry or upset, He wants to hear about it.
It might be even better to rant and blow off steam in prayer rather than take it out on the person you’re angry with, because God knows it’s coming, He knows when you feel it, He won’t be surprised nor reject you as a result of your action, and He’ll forgive you when you’ve thrown your tantrum and are asking for forgiveness. It would be more difficult for the person you took it out on than God to welcome your presence again without suspicion of what you might do next. Anger shouldn’t be suppressed because if it is it will only build. Releasing it in a safe way — like randomly screaming in the yard (it’s okay to freak your neighbors out once in a while; it keeps them on their toes) — until you can learn to control it is probably the best option so that you don’t hurt anyone that you love. Like other emotions, we should control our anger, not let it control us.
I pray that if you have issues with anger that the Lord is helping you grow in such a way that the wildfires become less and happen in fewer instances. I also pray that if you aren’t someone who has to deal with these issues in their personal life that you support and encourage someone you know who is struggling with this. Anger sometimes stems from a painful wound that has yet to heal. With God’s guidance, you might be the one who helps heal it. Finally, I pray as well for the one who reads this who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior. Please, if you don’t have that relationship with Him, reach out to Him in prayer, ask to be forgiven of your sins, proclaim Him as your Savior, and welcome Him into your heart. If you take that leap of faith, I guarantee it’ll change your life. May you have a blessed day.
“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. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” –Ephesians 4:26-32