The Heart of Anger
What's really at the root of your anger? Chip Ingram looks at the way Jesus dealt with his anger and gives some practical advice for dealing with emotions that destroy.
About the Guest
What's really at the root of your anger? Chip Ingram looks at the way Jesus dealt with his anger and gives some practical advice for dealing with emotions that destroy.
What’s really at the root of your anger?
The Heart of Anger
Bob: Chip Ingram remembers a particular evening when he was angry; and rather than trying to resolve conflict, he used a formula that a lot of guys use to try to fix things.
Chip: ESPN, cheddar cheese, Triscuit®s and Diet Coke®—we’re going to deal with this issue. As I stay up an hour, I’m ticked off—I don’t even know I’m ticked off—but I go to bed; and I wake up, and I’m in a bad mood. My daughter was young, at the time. She walks out into the hallway, and I just looked in her room: “Annie, make your bed right now.” She just looked at me—like, “Dad, I just woke up.” I said, “Don’t talk back to me!”
And Theresa yells, “Honey, what’s with you?” I said: “I’m dealing with something right now with one of our kids. I’ll talk to you in just a minute.” You know—the air of this godly man. And then my son walked out of his room. I didn’t even look in his room: “Hey, have you had your quiet time yet? Are you going to be a man of God or not?” He looked at me like, “Hey, Dad, I haven’t even washed my face.” “Don’t talk back to me, son!”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Have you ever had innocent victims who have found themselves scared because of your anger about something completely unrelated to them? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I see Doctor Anger is back with us again today.
Dennis: Doctor Anger?
Bob: That’s my new name for him.
Dennis: Chip Ingram?
Bob: Yes. I’m just going to call him Doctor Anger from now on.
Dennis: Bob, this—once again, we’ve found a new level of insulting guests.
Bob: No, actually, that’s a compliment; don’t you think?
Dennis: Is it?
Chip: I want you to know that, a few years ago, I was on this program. People, after that—we did a program on love, sex, and lasting relationships—
Chip: And Bob was in his moment here—I probably got angry and didn’t express it.
I probably stuffed it; but he said [With a suave voice], “Yes, okay, now, Doctor Love is going to say something.” So now, I get people emailing me saying, “Hey, Doctor Love.” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, now it’s Doctor Anger.
Dennis: You would prefer Doctor Love, I think, to Doctor Anger.
Chip: I think so.
Dennis: Yes, I think so, as well.
Chip: But I’m lovingly angry about this, but I’ll deal with it.
Dennis: Well, I’m just glad you came back for another broadcast, Chip. Chip has written a book called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy. He’s a pastor and an author of more than a dozen books. We have been talking about anger and understanding how it impacts relationships.
Chip, if you were training a young man and a young lady, who were about to begin their marriage, and you wanted them to know how to properly navigate the subject of anger in their marriage, where would you start?
Chip: I would start with Scripture. I would say, Ephesians 4:26. Let’s look at, beginning at about verse 25, all the way through 32, because it talks about attitudes, it talks about honesty, it talks about speaking the truth—
—in that is this “Be angry,” which is a command, “and yet do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
I would just say: “You know what? You all are going to be angry at one another. That’s just life. Everyone is. The question is, ‘Will you learn to communicate it appropriately?’ That means that you don’t spew it out and alienate the person, or intimidate him, or hurt him. You don’t stuff it down and get ice cold on him, and you don’t leak it out— sarcastically, or being late, or—”
Basically, the leaker is someone who figures out what your buttons are, and they push them. So, if you like everything neat, they’re sloppy. If they want you to be on time, then you’re late. So those are the ways that we express it. I would just say to this couple, “Learn to communicate your anger”; and then, I would give them that verse. Then, underneath it, I would give them a tool.
The tool would go like this—it was on our refrigerator for two years. That’s how much help we needed. I got this from our marriage counseling: “I feel angry when you blank,”
“I feel hurt…” or, “I feel frustrated…”—but it’s an anger-emotion statement: “I feel blank when you…” So: “I feel angry when you come home late,” “I feel hurt when you pay more attention to the kids than me,” “I feel angry when we decide we’re going to spend so much on the budget; and then, you come home and spend it in the areas we didn’t agree on.”
When you can get that on the table, with an “I feel” message—that’s about what it did to me—that’s not attacking—versus: “You should never do that again!” “You are just like your mother!” “Why didn’t you talk to me?” That’s a father talking to a child, or vice versa, the man to the woman. That’s just like gasoline onto the fire of anger. So, the “I feel” message was how we learned to communicate it. I would give that to a couple and say, “If you can learn to do that, you will address 90 percent of your anger problems.”
Bob: Let me ask you about Ephesians 4, where it says “Be angry and do not sin.”
There’s a similar passage in Colossians 3, where Paul says: “Now you also put these all aside, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech. Don’t lie to one another.” It sounds pretty absolute and categorical there—that somehow we’re to put aside these emotions that come up. What’s he trying to instruct us in, there?
Chip: I think the issue there is—part of those are emotions and part of them are sinful motives. There’s malice: “I want to pay you back!” There are a couple different words for anger in that passage—some that are a long fuse of resentment, and the other is a different word for exploding on people. In the context, those are about: “How do you do relationships with people in a way that reflects Christ likeness?”
At the end of the day, you could almost say: “Love looks like this; and the opposite is malice, anger, slander because love builds up, understands, and thinks the best. Those [other] things tear down—those things are all the kinds of things I want to do to even the score/pay back.” I think that’s at the heart of them.
I’m not sure it’s just an emotional issue as much as: “What’s the heart relationship?—am I really loving this person?” and, “What’s putting a barrier in my love for them?”
Dennis: If you look at some of those words that Bob was quoting from Scripture there, those words have, at their core, wanting to really hurt another person.
Bob: Bring harm, yes.
Dennis: Yes, exactly.
Bob: And I think, too—and I’ve always found this interesting—you look at the model of Jesus and when anger emerged in His life. It seemed like it was always around the subject of religious hypocrisy. It’s interesting, to me, to observe Jesus seeing sinners sinning; and He didn’t really get angry about that. In fact, He had compassion, or love, or grace, or mercy for sinners as they sinned in front of Him; but when people were professing to be followers of God and were hypocrites, nothing brought out the anger in Jesus like that.
Chip: It’s interesting as you think of that. I was recently reading—where the man with a shriveled hand—it’s so ironic. It is like, “Now I wonder if he’s going to do it on the Sabbath or not.” I mean, that’d be the worst thing to do—to love someone, heal them, take care of them. The means had totally become the end. Then, Jesus—of course, you know the story. It’s interesting—He never even touches him. He speaks and the man opens his hand; but there’s that little line in there where Jesus is angry with those leaders, knowing what they’re trying to do. It really is an amazing picture of what makes God angry.
Bob: The thing that strikes me about all of that is when I look at my own anger and say, “How does my own anger parallel the anger of Jesus?” Too often my own anger is about whether my rights, my needs, my wants were violated.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: It’s about whether you did something to me, rather than about: “Is God’s reputation / is God’s holiness under attack? Are people misrepresenting God here?”
I think a lot of marital conflict really has this selfish core—that we have to dig down underneath the anger and go, “That’s where the real issue is.”
Chip: I couldn’t agree more.
Dennis: As I look at these three ways that we, as human beings, handle it—I want to go back to the young married couple, who are starting out their marriage together. Maybe one of them is a spewer; maybe, one of them is a leaker or tends to stuff—
Bob: And you asked me this, earlier in the week. I’ll—
Dennis: You’re going to tell? You’re going to share, here on the broadcast, which one you’re most like?
Bob: I’m probably a leaker more than—really—I stop and think about it. There aren’t a whole lot of things that push my buttons, but if something—I had something, just this morning, as a matter of fact. I got an email from a coworker, and it made me angry.
It was—I’ve been working on this project for a while, and we’re about to complete the project. This coworker sends me an email and says, “I think we ought to just ditch this project,”—I just got—I got angry—“I think it is off-mission. I don’t think it’s what we ought to be about. I think we should just ditch the whole thing.”
Dennis: Wow. Give me the name of that coworker. [Laughter] I know the mission! It’s the right mission!
Bob: Well, I sent him an email. I said, “This makes me angry.” I just said, “You just have to know, this makes me angry.” But then, it was all the next stuff that I wanted to say. I wrote about six different drafts of that email—
Dennis: There you go. There you go.
Bob: —in my mind. Those six different drafts—
Dennis: Never send those six drafts.
Bob: —were all snarky and snide. One of them was: “I’ll just turn the project over to you. You can go to everybody and explain to them that you think the right thing to do is to shut the project down; alright? Go ahead!”
Dennis: Here’s the principle I’ve learned about responding to an email that makes you angry.
Dennis: Don’t. I’ve written a lot of emails, in my life, that I have never sent. I have never regretted that I hit the delete button; but I have written others in response to people, and I have hit the send button—
Bob: When there was still a little passion in your—
Dennis: Oh my goodness. You can’t begin to answer someone’s objections with the multi-facets of how they may present it in an email by responding in an email, let alone unpack how you’re feeling.
Bob: And may I just say here, email is probably the least effective way to try to carry on communication when there is any anger in the issue. I mean—that is the time—forget the emails—it’s time for face-to-face; don’t you think?
Chip: Absolutely. Yes, I think probably more people have been hurt in— you know: “What’s behind the email?” You read in all kinds of stuff when we’re looking through our own lens.
I would say, at this point, we want to help people remember: “Sometimes, your anger is really legitimate; and it really comes from an unmet need or a hurt.” I think of the biblical example of Joseph’s brothers—where Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. His father is showing favoritism. The brothers are resentful. They’re not getting the love they deserve. They’re not being treated fairly. Well, guess what? The dad was wrong, and Joseph didn’t exactly handle it well. He’s strutting his stuff and got all the easy jobs.
It’s interesting—in the text, it says: “because of that, his brothers’ anger and their jealousy raged against him.” As a result, then, we hear the story—they sell him. Two wanted to murder him. But that anger had a real issue of an unmet need, where a father needed to be giving something to the other sons that they weren’t getting.
There are some people that feel this anger. They think that the problem is the anger; and like an iceberg, they need to look under the surface and say: “Is there an unmet need? Am I feeling rejected? Is there a lack of connection in my relationships; maybe, with some other men?” or, “Do I feel apart from God?” or, “Is there something that I tend to look at life in a certain way because of some very genuine unmet, God-ordained needs that I haven’t received?” Then, these people play out their anger on person, after person, after person.
My heart’s desire is that people would realize, when we’re talking about anger, it has become—this is really weird—but doing this project, writing this book, teaching through this—anger has become one of my best friends. When I’m angry now, it’s like the Holy Spirit says, “Chip, I’m going to show you something in your soul, or in your heart, you wouldn’t know any other way.”
Dennis: The red light on the dashboard—
Chip: It really is.
Dennis: —it’s going off. It’s flashing, and it’s telling you to dig deeper and find out what’s wrong. That occurred to you, one night, when you came home and you found everybody sleeping.
Chip: And I was so—I mean, how can you be mad at your wife for being in bed asleep? But it was a rough day. You know, you have those nights where—I’d had a couple of those kinds of emails, and I had a board meeting that could have gone better, and I was tired, and feeling sorry for myself.
I just had this picture: “I’m going to come home, it’s a little after nine. Theresa and I are going to talk, and she understands. She loves me….” The house is dark; and back then—this is a number of years ago—my youngest son was like 17. What 17-year-old, in your right mind, is asleep at 9:15? “That’s illegal! Get up out of bed and have fun with your dad”; you know? I went from room to room.
Then, finally, I did what most people do. You eat and turn on the TV. That’s how you deal with your emotional issues—you know. It’s semi-healthy: ESPN, cheddar cheese, Triscuit®s and Diet Coke®—I mean, we’re going to deal with this issue. As I stay up an hour, I’m ticked off—I don’t even know I’m ticked off—then I go to bed; and I wake up, and I’m in a bad mood.
My daughter was young, at the time. She walks out into the hallway, and I just looked in her room: “Annie, make your bed right now.” She just looked at me—like, “Dad, I just woke up.” I said, “Don’t talk back to me!”
And Theresa yells, “Honey, what’s with you?” I said: “Hey, I’m dealing with something right now with one of our kids. I’ll talk to you in just a minute.” You know—the air of this godly man. And then my son walked out of his room. I didn’t even look in his room: “Hey, have you had your quiet time yet? Are you going to be a man of God or not?” He looked at me like, “Hey, Dad, I haven’t even washed my face.” “Don’t talk back to me, son!”
Chip: I know.
Dennis: Were you a pastor at the time?
Chip: I was a pastor at the time, but—
Dennis: Just wanted to clarify that.
Chip: —in great need of prayer. I was doing many services, you know. So, I was really worn out—poor me.
Dennis: I understand.
Chip: I get there and Theresa goes, “Honey, what’s wrong?” I said, “What do you mean, ‘What’s wrong’?” She noticed that I was a little rough around the edges. I was still—it was like, “Is this the way you’re going to treat me?
“I’ll tell you what. If all you’re going to do is question my decisions, as a father, I’m just going to go to work. I’ll get some coffee on my way.” And I went out. I didn’t slam the door because I’m a Christian, and I didn’t yell at her because I’m a pastor.
I went and got in my car—started my car, and I’m teaching this material for the very first time. The car is running. All I can think of is: “Anger is a secondary emotion. So, I wonder what’s going on.” It was like: “Oh, my. I feel hurt. My wife didn’t come through for me. It wasn’t willful, but she didn’t come through for me. My son didn’t come through for me. I felt really lonely and rejected, and I went to bed that way.”
And then, I had a decision to make: “Am I going to just go off—pretend nothing happened? Hopefully, we can patch things up later—give it a quick ‘Hey, I’m sorry, Honey. I think I was a little…’ or am I going to deal with this?” This is what I was saying. This is when the life change started to happen. I sat in my car, with it running for at least ten minutes, thinking, “So what am I going to do?—
‘Hey, Honey, I know you were in bed, and I know I’m a grown man; but I felt very insecure last night. I had these deep emotional needs that were not met. So, I got mad at you. I’m sorry.’” That sounds like a weenie.
Bob: Sissy boy!
Chip: Yes, what guy is going to do that? I thought, “Gosh, humble yourself in the sight of God and He will lift you up.” I walked in. I didn’t put it quite like that—I said, “Honey, you know something—I came home...” I told her a little bit. I said, “I’m really sorry, but it wasn’t about you.” And I went to each of my kids and said, “You know, I can’t explain it completely, but all these emotions were balled up inside.”
Guys, I’ll tell you—here’s one that will encourage you. My wife put her arms around me, gave me a hug, and said: “Tell you what. My whole evening’s free. I really want to hear what’s going on. This probably didn’t happen just over a day or two. I love you.” My whole day was different, but the problem was not my anger. The problem was a deep, unmet need; and it probably had been building for awhile.
Dennis: But if you’d have mishandled it, at that point—
Dennis: —and gone on to work—at that point, that issue is alive with each of your kids and your wife. Marriage is made up—it’s made up of a jillion of these little encounters and disappointments—when we miss each other and our needs—and we have no idea. But if we don’t handle it, it’s not like it’s buried, and it dies, and decays—it’s buried alive and remains alive in that relationship. If you get enough of these issues—wrestling around under the rug, where you swept them—you have a major issue in your marriage.
Chip: Mine was a wound I didn’t recognize. So, what happens? We do—I mean, it’s just this pattern—so, I wounded her; and I wounded both my kids. At some point in time, you have to stop and recognize what’s going on. That’s why I said anger has actually become a friend. If you can get slow to anger—if you can feel it, and be aware of it, and start asking the right questions—some really exciting things actually change inside.
Bob: I think you’re really helping folks here to say: “Can we peel back? Can we look at the symptom and ask what’s going on underneath?” I think of dogs snarling. A dog is over in the corner, growling and snarling: “Why is that dog snarling? It looks like he’s angry. What’s really going on?” Well, the dog is probably frightened—probably feeling threatened. The dog has probably been hurt before and feels like, “I’m back in that situation, and the only way I know to protect myself is to snarl.”
As I’ve talked with couples at our Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways, and we’ve addressed the issue of anger, I’ve said to both, husbands and wives, “If somebody is snarling and you can ask the question: ‘What’s underneath that? Where’s the fear? Where’s the hurt? Where’s the threat that this person is feeling?” or better yet—if you can ask it about your own heart and your own soul—now, we can begin to do some business.
But if we just say, “You need to get a hold of your anger, and learn not to do that,” then you haven’t really gotten to the issue; have you?
Chip: No; not at all.
Dennis: And I go back to that young couple—that we’ve been talking about here—as you’re coaching them in knowing how to handle anger in their marriage—what I don’t want them to miss is what you modeled there—which is humility, to admit you made a mistake. You took it out on them—something else was going on.
That—over the long-haul in a marriage relationship—if both the husband and the wife can be willing to bend their wills / their necks before God and say: “You know what? I’m sorry I was selfish. I’m sorry I was disappointed—I took it out on you.” That is the beginning of what the Bible talks about: leave/cleave—become one as the process of commitment works its way out in a marriage relationship, and you work your way through these issues, you really can be one.
And the cool thing is—I’ve been married, now, since 1972—these issues, we still have them in our marriage; but they’re not nearly as big.
Chip: Oh, no.
Dennis: Barbara and I have a working vocabulary around anger—hers and mine—and how we handle it, and how we deal with these things. I’m going to tell you something—the satisfaction here, hopefully on the maturing side of a marriage relationship, really is sweet—not that I don’t blow it / not that she doesn’t either—but that we’re really heading in the same direction together.
Bob: You’re saying you guys have learned how to follow Dr. Anger’s prescription for healing.
Dennis: We have. We have—and Doctor Love’s too. [Laughter]
Chip: You have to get those things together. That’s how it works—Lo-o-o-ve and anger—Doctor Love and Doctor Anger.
Bob: We have copies of Doctor Anger’s book called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy. It’s in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can order the book from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. So, again, online: FamilyLifeToday.com—that’s the website. You can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy of Chip Ingram’s book, Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.
Our goal, when we tackle topics like this, is to try to provide practical, biblical help for couples and for families. We want to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time. I know there are a lot of our listeners—who embrace that as a goal—who see the importance of strengthening marriages and families in this culture. A lot of you have stepped forward to say that you believe in what we’re doing, and you want to help support the ministry. We appreciate that.
This month, during the month of March, we have been asking listeners to consider joining with our team of Legacy Partners.
Legacy Partners are folks who help support this ministry with a monthly donation. We are hoping, during the month of March, that there might be a thousand new families, all across the country, who would sign on as Legacy Partners.
And we’ve seen some encouraging stats over the last couple of days. It looks like that number is on the increase, but we still have a ways to go to get to our goal. So, would you pray about that—consider becoming a Legacy Partner? When you sign on today, we’ll send you a welcome kit that includes the Legacy Partner Cookbook—some great recipes from Dennis and Barbara; from Mary Ann and me; from our team, here at FamilyLife; and from many of our current Legacy Partners.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says “I CARE.” You can enroll as a Legacy Partner, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’m interested in becoming a Legacy Partner.” We’ll get you signed up over the phone. Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your participation with this ministry. We appreciate your generosity.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when Doctor Anger is going to be with us again. We’re going to talk more about overcoming emotions that destroy.
Chip: A lot of people, when they’re angry—they don’t have any idea that it’s an expectation issue. I would open the Bible and say:
Let me share a little story in 2 Kings, Chapter 5, verses 11-12. It was a fellow who was told that there was a prophet from Israel who could heal his leprosy. He goes to this prophet, and he was hoping that he would say some very profound words and heal him on the spot. Instead, he said, “I want you to go down to the Jordan River and wash. Dip seven times and God will heal you.”
He said to himself, “Surely he would have come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and heal this leprosy.” And because he didn’t, it says “He turned and went away in a rage.” Fortunately, he had a servant that said, “Hey, boss, you know if he asked you to do something hard, you probably would have done it. Why don’t we just go ahead and go down to the Jordan and see how it works?” Of course, he is healed.
But how many couples—everything from: “Whose family are we going to visit?”—expectations; “How many children are we going to have?”—expectations; “Where will we eventually live?”or, “Will we have to relocate?”—expectations. The guy goes: “This is the kind of job I have. If I’m going to stay with IBM or Microsoft, I’ll move around four or five times.” Well, that probably wasn’t part of the deal when they got talking—and it is like, “You know, this marriage isn’t what I expected.” That creates anger, and we need to learn to share and get those expectations on the table.
Bob: On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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