"Building Better Relationships" part 5
Taming Your Temper
by Greg Hanson

[VIDEO – ANGER from SermonVideos.com]

The question is not, "do you get angry?" We all get angry. The question is, "Do you get angry over the right things and express your anger the right way?" Even God gets angry; He just gets angry over the right things. There are good reasons to get angry, and there are bad reasons to get angry. Do you get angry for the appropriate reasons? And when you do get angry, do you express it in the right way?

This is week five in our "Building Better Relationships" series. So far, we've talked about how love is the foundation of any healthy relationship as well as the backdrop for this entire series. The best relationships are founded on love.

We then talked about forgiveness. First, we talked about offering forgiveness to others when they offend or hurt us. Then we talked about seeking forgiveness when we're the ones in the wrong. And what we discovered is that, whether we are the ones being offended or being offended, we are to take the initiative to go the other person and attempt to seek a reconciliation through forgiveness.

Last week, we honed in on the words we say and how we say them. We all say things we regret from time to time, but God wants to help us get a handle on that. He wants to teach us to control our tongues. Words are powerful... they can destroy a relationship, a reputation, and a person. But they can also build up and encourage others. So we saw what the Bible has to say about learning to restrain ourselves from saying things that are destructive and only saying what is good and helpful. If it doesn't have to be said, don't say it. If it's only going to tear down, don't say it. If it's gossip, don't say it. Only say what is good and helpful.

And that brings us to this morning. Today, we're going to talk about anger and how it impacts on our relationships. While there are good reasons and bad reasons to get angry, we want to be able to recognize the difference and keep our anger under control.

So let me ask you, how do you tend to express your anger? Because some people just let it all out. Whenever they get ticked off over something, even just a little thing, they blow up. They're like skunks; they make a big stink about it and spray in every direction.

On the other hand, some people keep everything shoved down inside. They have a problem with anger, too, but they just do a pretty good job of hiding it. Problem is, that's not healthy either. And someday, their anger will build to a point that they explode, too.

Which way do you tend to express your anger? Do you let it fly or shove it down inside? Or maybe you do neither. Maybe you've discovered a better response to anger, which is what we're talking about this morning.

I'm going to give you six steps to resolving your anger problem and responding to it in a much more positive, more productive, and more godly way. If you want to tame your temper, the first thing you must do is...

How To Resolve Your Anger Problem:

1.    Decide to get it under control.

Are you detecting a recurring theme in this series? We started out by saying that love is a decision... a choice that you make regardless of your feelings. Same thing with forgiveness... forgiveness is a choice you make, even if you don't feel like forgiving. The words you use, you choose to use. And when it comes to anger, you decide to get angry or not to get angry.

Do you doubt that? How many of you were angry earlier this morning? As a parent, I can tell you that kids can push you to the breaking point very easily. Whether you give in or not, though... that's your choice. But have you ever been angry at your kids or at your spouse or anyone else on Sunday morning, and the minute you come though the doors here you set all that aside? Suddenly you're all smiles and shaking hands and congenial. What happened? You made a choice to not be angry, at least for the time you're here.

Same thing when the phone rings. Have you ever been in the middle of a fight and then the phone rings? How do you answer it? "Hello? I'm fine, thanks. How are you? How are the kids... beautiful day..." What happened? You made a choice not to be angry.

So if you have an anger problem, start by deciding to get it under control. Realize that it's a choice you make whether you get angry or not, and decide that you're not going to be so quick to get angry.

Proverbs 29:11 (NLT)
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.

Now, does that mean that there won't still be things to incite your anger? Even though anger is a choice and nothing can actually "make" you angry, does that mean that there won't be things that tempt you to become angry? No, those triggers will still be around. You'll still encounter them. But you just choose to respond o them better..

Really, what we're talking about is becoming more godly--more Christlike--in the way we handle our anger. And what does the Bible say about God and anger? Sure, it shows that He gets angry at injustice. But in terms of relationships, check out these verses...

Psalm 86:15 (NLT)
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

So God is slow to get angry, and if we're to become like Him we'll be slow to get angry, too.

And I want you to notice a very important connection here. Being "slow to become angry" is almost always connected to having a great degree of love. Several times throughout the pages of the Bible you see this: God is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.

So again, you see how love is the backdrop for what we're talking about here. When you are loving, you will automatically be slow to become angry. That's just the way it works. When you love, you're going to be patient. 1 Corinthians 13 says...

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind... it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

When you love, you're going to be patient and kind. When you're not a loving person, you're going to erupt in anger much more easily. So decide to love, decide to be patient, decide to be slow to get angry.

2.     Remember that there are consequences.

Angry people say and do stupid things. They hurt others, they hurt themselves, and they end up regretting it. When you give free reign to your anger, there will always be consequences.

Proverbs 14:17 (NLT)
Short-tempered people do foolish things…

There will be consequences for your relationships...

Proverbs 15:18 (NLT)
A hot-tempered person starts fights…

If you constantly live on the verge of getting angry, you're going to say things and do things that tick other people off. You're going to start fights and destroy relationships. Even the people you don't fight with will eventually get tired of pussyfooting around you and leave.

There will be consequences for your relationships, and there will be consequences for your reputation.

Proverbs 14:29 (NCV)
…People with quick tempers show their foolishness.

People who let their anger determine their actions make themselves look like fools, they do silly, stupid, embarrassing things, and they destroy their reputations in the process.

So there are consequences for your relationships and your reputation. And there are consequences for you spiritually.

Proverbs 29:22 (NLT)
An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.

So when you're angry, you're much more prone to sin. You see that again here...

Ephesians 4:27 (NLT)
...Anger gives a foothold to the devil.

For a mountain climber, a foothold doesn't have to be very big. Just a tiny shelf jutting out of the cliff is enough. Paul says your anger is like that... it give the devil a foothold and enables him to make progress in your life, destroying you in the process. Here's another passage...

James 1:19-20 (NLT)
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

So anger works against the righteousness God is trying to produce in your life. There are definitely spiritual consequences. When you lose control of your temper, you lose control of everything.

3.     Think before you speak.

In other words, put your mind in gear before you put your mouth in gear. When you are angry, even if you're not given to shouting matches, it's easy to let those snide little comments sneak out. You know, the sarcastic comments you utter off the cuff that are like daggers aimed at the heart. You think you're being clever but you're really just being mean.

We talked about this a bit last week. How much does your anger determine the words you say and how you say them? Do you give full vent to your anger, or do you recognize it as a good time to keep your mouth shut?

Proverbs 29:11 (Amp)
A [self-confident] fool utters all his anger, but a wise man holds it back and stills it.

[OBJECT LESSON - PUPPET (make sure it's a big-mouth one that also has feet)]

Let me show you something. As some of you know, my wife has a number of puppets and has used them here on occasion. Well, I'm not much of a puppeteer myself but I brought one along with me today.

Look at this... Mouth wide open... look how easy it is to insert the foot. Now take a look with the mouth closed. Not so easy, is it?

Okay, that's a stupid little object lesson but it has a point. When you get angry, it's a lot harder to put your foot in your mouth when you keep your mouth shut.

Does that mean you never talk about your anger? No, of course not. But it does mean that you delay it a bit. You hold off until your emotions have cooled a bit. You wait until you can actually have a civil conversation rather than a shouting match. You hold back all the hateful, hurtful comments in order to address and resolve the issues at hand.

4.     Find better ways to express your anger.

Anger itself is not sinful. But letting your anger control what you say and do inevitably leads to sin. So the trick is to maintain control of it and find better ways to express it.

Ephesians 4:26 (GN)
If you become angry, don’t let your anger lead you into sin.

What does that verse tell me? It tells me that it's possible to get angry and still not sin. Or it can lead you right into a hornet's nest of sin. It's all in how you express it.

So what's a better way to express your anger? It's not in yelling, it's not in giving the silent treatment, it's not in acts of violence, it's not in holding onto bitterness and resentment, it's not in denying it and holding it all inside, it's not sending the other person on a guilt trip. You know what all of those responses do? They just make the problem worse. They produce more and more anger. So what's the solution? What's the better way to respond and express your anger?

Proverbs 15:1 (NCV)
A gentle answer will calm a person's anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger.

Here it is from The Message paraphrase...

Proverbs 15:1 (MSG)
A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.

"A gentle answer." "A gentle response." When you respond with gentleness, it's going to defuse the anger that the other person might have against you, and it's also going to defuse your own anger. When you calm your words and you calm your tone, it's going to automatically calm your anger.

So don't deny your anger, don't hide it, and don't keep it bottled up... acknowledge it and express it gently.

That's why it's so important for you to keep your mouth shut when you're in the heat of anger... when your emotions are boiling over. At that point, you're incapable of responding gently. So wait long enough to allow temper to cool a bit and until you can respond with a gentle answer. Maybe it'll only take a minute, maybe it'll take 10 minutes, maybe an hour, or maybe longer. But don't speak out of your anger; wait until you can respond in a calm, gentle, respectful way.

Remember a few months ago when we were looking at all those objections that people might raise about the Christian faith? Sometimes people really attack Christians with their skepticism and arrogance and even hatred. But do you remember the verses we looked at the whole way through that series?

1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

So you respond to skeptics in a gentle and respectful way. And notice the last sentence: Even if people are speaking against you and accusing you and insulting you and attacking you... you still respond with gentleness and respect. You might feel like you've got to go on the offensive to defend yourself, but you don't. They're just making themselves look foolish. You don't have to join them.

Okay, four down. Here's number five, another very practical way to resolve your anger problem:

5.    Avoid situations that empower your anger.

If you know that certain people and certain places and certain situations tend to trigger your anger, then avoid them. It's so simple, but why do so many people miss this? If you don't want to be controlled by your anger, avoid the things that empower your anger.

Back in Proverbs again, Solomon made this point in terms of hanging around the wrong people.

Proverbs 22:24-25 (MSG)
Don't hang out with angry people; don't keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious—don't get infected.

Solomon was known for his wisdom, and you can see some of that wisdom expressed in those words. You don't want to be angry? Don't hang around people who are angry. That wisdom was on display earlier in the chapter, too, when Solomon wrote...

Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

If you're smart, you're going to see the potential danger and avoid it. In terms of our discussion this morning, you're going to see the situations that make you angry and avoid them.

6.    Let the Holy Spirit transform your temper.

We just looked at a passage that said not to hang around hotheads because it's contagious and you'll end up like them. Well, that same principle applies when it comes to the Holy Spirit, too. The more you hang around Him... the more you allow His presence to flourish in your life... the more you'll become like Him. You'll become more godly.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In other words, everything that anger is not. That's what the Holy Spirit wants to produce in your life if you'll let Him. But that's the key; you've got to let Him. You've got to invite Him to do it.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

God's in the transformation business. You have trouble with anger or with any other character flaw? God wants to help you with that by transforming you into the person He meant for you to be.

Romans 15:5 (NCV)
May the patience and encouragement that come from God allow you to live in harmony with each other the way Christ Jesus wants.

God can and will provide you with all the patience and encouragement that you need to overcome your anger, get it under control, and live in harmony with others. And that's good news. Let Him do that in your life.


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson