One of the difficulties in preaching, or writing newspaper columns, is that the preacher or author is constantly faced with a dilemma of not being able to say all he wants or even needs to say on a subject every time he broaches the subject.
That is exactly what happened last week as I submitted for publication my article on “Getting the Best of your Anger.” I realized there was so much more that could be said on the subject of anger than I could possibly say in one, or even two, article(s).
That point was driven home to me just a few days later when I read of an attorney in New York City who was filmed lambasting a cashier in a restaurant there for, of all things, speaking in Spanish!
Apparently this attorney had overheard the cashier speaking in Spanish to some of her co-workers there, as well as to some of the other customers in the restaurant at the time, and presumed there were all undocumented aliens who were accepting free handouts from the government at his (the taxpayer’s) expense.
He was very incensed with them and even threatened to call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities to get them deported.
The entire encounter was recorded by another patron of the restaurant and posted on social media, where it went viral in a matter of hours.
Not long ago, Esquire magazine and NBC News teamed up to conduct a survey of 3,000 people to determine who is angriest in America and why.
They discovered that “Half of all Americans are angrier today than they were a year ago.”
And when they asked, “About how often do you hear or read something in the news that makes you angry?” The top three responses are: 37 percent once a day, 31 percent a few times a day, and 20 percent once a week.
In total, about 88 percent of all Americans are angry at least once a week.
That response bore out in another new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. According to that report, nearly 80 percent of U.S. drivers expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year.
The most alarming findings suggest that approximately 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.
Many drivers reported engaging in the various types of road rage, including (1) Purposefully tailgating (51%), Yelling at another driver (47%), Honking to show annoyance or anger (45%), Making angry gestures (33%), and Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes (24%).
One of the study’s researchers concluded, “Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage. Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
As we have seen, we live in an angry world.
But for the Christ-follower in the real world, we ought not to be angry – at least not for the normal reasons most of us get angry!
The Bible has a lot to say about anger, and even more about how to handle it. Most of us would say we get angry when someone else gets angry with us. Our response is one of self-defense or survival.
But wise King Solomon suggested that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Now most of the time when we read that verse in Proverbs (15:1), we think that “if someone gets angry with me I should answer them with a gentle answer and that will calm them down.”
But in actuality, the truth of that verse is that if I answer an angry person with a gentle answer, it will keep ME from being angry! If I answer harshly, it will only stir up angry WITHIN ME!
I know I have tried to answer angry people with gentle answers, and in many cases those gentle answers have only caused them to be angrier, but my spirit has calmed down when I do so.
It takes strength on the inside to be gentle on the outside.
And that inner strength comes when I recall the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
When I consider the forgiveness I have received from Christ through His death and resurrection for ALL my sins, for ALL time (that’s past, present, AND future!), it is hard for me to get upset with anyone for the little stuff that goes on in our daily lives.
How can I be mad at you when Christ is not mad at me, but forgives me completely?
John Wooden, the famous basketball coach, tells about his dad helping a young farmer drive a team of horses pulling a heavy load of gravel out of one of the gravel pits in his home county in Indiana.
The young farmer had been very harsh with the horses because they could not pull the heavy load out of the pit. But Dad Wooden went up to the horses and began to talk gently to them, whispering and softly stroking their snouts. Eventually he was able to get them to pull the load out the pit so easily that it seemed they actually enjoyed doing it!
John Wooden said, ”I’ve never forgotten what I saw him do and how he did it. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of leaders act like that angry young farmer who lost control. … So much more can usually be accomplished by Dad’s calm, confident, and steady approach…It takes strength inside to be gentle on the outside.”
It’s easy to get and stay angry. It’s hard to be kind and gentle!
But God specializes in the impossible!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.