I don’t know about you, but it takes a while for me to get angry. But like most people, I have buttons that certain people know how to push and that other people – unfortunately for them – stumble upon. Once I get mad, good and mad, it takes me a while to dial down out of my I’m-hurting-you-a-million-ways-in-my-head mindset.
My mind goes into Angry Birds mode. Ever play Angry Birds? In case you haven’t, the game involves catapulting birds – each one a specialized weapon – at naughty pigs. The Angry Bird method of retaliation is effective and efficient and a little bit gratifying.
But sadly, some of us respond in anger like an Angry Bird that’s been wronged by an evil, smirking pig. We release our bomb birds – KAPOW! – and the ugly words we utter leave potentially irreparable damage. We return evil for evil in a sneak attack with our boomerang bird so our intended target never sees what was coming. The object of our wrath suddenly can do no right, so we attack on all fronts using our scattershot bird. Finally, we resort to the kamikaze bird, behaving in a way that is not only devastating to the person in our line of sight but also to ourselves.
In your anger do not sin. – Ephesians 4:26a
This tells me anger in itself is not the problem. Anger is natural and sometimes justified. (If you’re not angry, for example, when you hear about child abuse, you may need to check your pulse.) But it should move us to pray and also to examine ourselves. See, the very things that infuriate us about others may be the very things that hold us back from victorious living in our own lives.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. – Romans 2:1
That co-worker who just spoke harshly to you – have you ever been sharp-tongued? That family member who just completely disregarded your feelings – have you ever been so engulfed in your own feelings that you trampled on those of others? That cruel person who was caught spreading gossip about you – have you ever been part of that machine that spews lies? That person who cheated you – have you always been completely honest in all your dealings? Allow a bucket of humility to douse your anger.
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26b
What happens when we let the sun go down on our anger? Think about a pitcher of fresh-brewed tea that’s allowed to sit overnight. (Here in the South, tea is a food group.) The flavor intensifies to the point of bitterness. Anger is like that too: Left unchecked, anger darkens and strengthens and embitters.
If our goal is to become more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, then how do darkness and bitterness achieve that end. Oh, that’s a pretty simple answer. They don’t.
For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. – James 1:20
You’re not only not being like God, you can’t be God. Only God sees the motives of the heart. Only God can judge. Only God can issue vengeance.
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” – Hebrews 10:30
So we leave wrath and retribution to God, and we chose instead to emulate His forgiveness.
Be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
That may not seem to provide immediate gratification when all you want to do is catapult your best Angry Bird at the one who has ruffled your feathers. But in the long run, it’s the approach that makes us more like the Savior who has paid the penalty for our many sins. So my advice: Don’t uncage your Angry Birds – unless it’s with your thumbs perched on a screen.