Friday, May 11, 2007

What Causes You to Get Angry? (Pt.1)

Yesterday I asked two questions, “What is anger?” and “How is it manifested?” Today, I want to ask a third question: “What causes you to get angry?”

The first cause is pride. When we survey David’s anger at Nabal it was not only because of Nabal ingratitude for David and his men for helping Nabal’s servants but also because David’s “name” and “reputation” was hurt. This was a form of pride. This is also one of the most difficult issues to address in our life because we don’t always see it as pride. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 1 Samuel 18:5-9 tells us that Saul had this problem with David.

A second cause for anger is harsh words. How we answer one another can stir up anger. 1 Samuel 25:3 says that “Nabal...was harsh and evil in his doings.” Verse 12 says, “So David’s young men turned on their heels and went back; and they came and told him all these words.” I could just hear David’s men as they shared with David Nabal’s harsh words. Regardless of how we are treated we are to respond differently. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” “Soft” in relation to speech means “gentle,” “kind,” or “mild.” It is a response without anger or harshness. “Answer” in this context refers to a response or reply to what someone, perhaps in anger, has said. The words “Turns away” translates a causative form of a verb meaning ‘to turn back.’ The thought is that the anger of the first speaker can be set aside or calmed by a gentle response. “A harsh word” is literally “a word of pain,” that is, one that causes pain, and the expression refers to a word or utterance spoken sharply or heatedly. (William D. Reyburn, A Handbook on Proverbs, p.328). Proverbs 25:15 also says, “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.”

The third cause for anger is selfishness. 1 Samuel 20:30-31 says, “Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” Saul’s anger was motivated by his jealously of David as seen in this passage. This too is nothing more than pride and selfishness.

A fourth cause of anger is unrealistic demands. This provokes or exasperates a person to anger. A good example of this is found in Genesis 30:1-2 which says, “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Rachel’s inability to have children and the envy she had toward her sister had caused her to lash out at her husband. Jacob’s was exasperated. This exasperation is what Paul says not to do toward our children. In Ephesians 6:4 he says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “To anger suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually builds up a deep-seated anger and resentment that boils over in outward hostility” (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p.317).

There are eight ways that we “provoke [our] children to wrath”: overprotection, favoritism (favoring one child over another), pushing achievement beyond reasonable bounds (this causes him to see that nothing he does can please his parents), discouragement (never complimenting or encouraging him), failing to sacrifice for your children and making them fee unwanted (they are made to feel like an intrusion), failing to let children grow up at a normal pace (rushing them through their childhood years), physical and verbal abuse, and using love as a tool of reward or punishment (giving it for reward and withholding it for punishment) (MacArthur).

Do you see some of these causes in your life? If so, you need to actively pursue replacing your response with one of gentleness. I will consider some other ways in which we provoke in my next blog.

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