In recent years Dr. Ben Carson has not only become famous for his being the world’s premier brain surgeon, but also a presidential hopeful. What many do not know is that because of an uncontrollable temper as a child, Dr. Carson's career was almost over before it began. In his autobiography, Take the Risk, Dr. Carson writes about the day he invited God to help him deal with this critical character flaw.
One day as 14 year-old boy Carson got into a scuffle with another neighborhood boy. Young Carson became so enraged that he pulled out a pocket knife and tried to stab the other boy. Amazingly, Carson’s knife blade hit the boy’s belt buckle and it snapped. Horrified by the realization of what he almost done—commit murder—Carson ran home with tears streaming down his face.
Carson wrote, “I burst into our empty house, locked myself in the bathroom, and sank to the floor, miserable and frightened. I could no longer deny that I had a severe anger problem, and that I'd never achieve my dream of being a doctor with an uncontrollable temper. I admitted to myself there was no way I could control it by myself. ‘Lord, please, you've got to help me,’ I prayed. ‘Take this temper away! You promised that if I ask anything in faith, you'll do it. I believe you can change me.’”
Carson continued, “I slipped out and got a Bible. Back on the bathroom floor, I opened to the Book of Proverbs. The words of Proverbs 16:32—‘He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city’—convicted me, but also gave me hope. I felt God telling me that although he knew everything about me, He still loved me. I knew that because He made me, He was the only one who could change me.”
Someone has rightfully said that “unchecked anger is a temporary form of insanity.” Paul helps us to understand something important about anger—there is a difference between appropriate anger and inappropriate anger—the difference between resentment or rage and righteous indignation. In Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
According to Paul, anger is not necessarily wrong. As Christians we should be hot under the collar about certain issues that involve injustice and evil. Remember when Jesus showed righteous anger when he cleansed the temple of religious hucksters and money changers?
But, what makes the difference is why you got angry and what you did with those feelings. Sinful anger is a choice and when it gets that far it’s because we’ve allowed it to fester. Max Lucado writes, “Resentment is when you let your hurt become hate. Resentment is when you allow what is eating you to eat you up. Resentment is when you poke, stoke, feed, and fan the fire, stirring the flames and reliving the pain. Resentment is the deliberate decision to nurse the offense until it becomes a black, furry growling grudge.”
The essence of Paul’s teaching on anger is to diffuse the ticking bomb before it explodes. Deal with anger promptly, privately and peacefully. If you’re married don’t go to bed each facing the wall. If you’ve got a problem with friend or co-worker take them out to coffee and talk it over rather than letting it simmer. If you are really mad at someone and can’t even stand to look them in the face, then start praying about it and ask God to soften your heart.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should resolve our personal conflicts privately before we ever try and worship publically, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mat. 5:23-24).
The reason we have to attack anger is because the longer we stay bitter the more it opens the door of your life so that the enemy can come in and wreak havoc! Sinful anger invites Satan in to occupy a space in your heart. Once Satan begins his dastardly work he will use that anger steal your joy, kill your spiritual growth and destroy your inner peace. The cost of harboring anger is much, much greater than swallowing your pride, and humbling yourself to work it out.