The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

My problems with anger run deep. I know anger is my default response to any emotional stress or turmoil, and there's been so much lately that it's built to a breaking point. I had serious problems for a while. A while back, I had a disagreement with a girl. It wasn't the resulting argument that got me, but when she made the comment that I had to have been raised in ignorance to believe as I do. I heard it as an attack on my family, and I wonder if she was right about me being ignorant. I crushed the cup I was holding and got up and left, nearly knocking down a close friend while storming out. I knew If I didn't leave, I was going to end up hitting this girl, and I was taught that a guy who will hit a girl is no man at all. I went and punched a heavy steel door that has been there since the school was built. It was so loud, several of the guys came running down. No one noticed my badly bruised (but not bleeding) hand, and they all assumed that I had slammed the door behind me going in. The next night, a friend said something just joking around that brought all the bottled up anger from the last night back. I grabbed him by his collar and threw him against the door. I had him pinned against the door by his neck and was about to bash his face in, but as I moved to swing, a girl stepped in front of me. No matter how much I wanted to hit him, I could never hurt a girl. I wonder how far I would have went if she hadn't done that. I remember how loud the noise was when I punched that door, and that was about to be one of my best friend's face on the receiving end. He and I got to talking about it a couple nights ago, and that night he thought I was playing around. I wasn't.

I hurt a friend in a spat last month, but there wasn't even a hit. I locked up his arm and threw him down, and the landing busted his knee wide open and I hurt his shoulder. The guilt from that ate me alive for two weeks. If I had of hit him full force with his head forced against that steel door that night, it would have been serious damage. If I had hurt him that badly, I believe the guilt may have just killed me. He's one of the best friends I could ever ask for.

I hate all this bottled up anger, and I'm starting to wonder if I need professional help. I'm normal most of the time, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by anger. One thing that I remember is the fear in a guy's face when I lost it the night the girl and I argued. Part of me that I can't get rid of loved causing that fear, and thrives on being angry. I was a punching bag for so much of my life, and the roles were finally reversed. I finally had a respect, granted it was out of fear, but at least people took me seriously. The fact that part of me feels that way terrifies me sometimes. What if it becomes who I am?


Answer

Almost any time anger is an issue, it is due to a person trying to control what cannot be controlled. You get mad at your friends for what they say, but of course you can't control what other people think, say, or do. So you turn to violence thinking that intimidation will cause the other person to keep quiet; after all, fear quieted you down when you were younger. But it isn't right or good. The part of you that likes this is that one which wants control. You see that you are controlling someone's emotions when you see fear in his eyes. You are no longer the little kid being control by some adult whom you fear, now you are the one in control. If you keep going down this path, you're going to lose yourself. "The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates" (Psalms 11:5).

It may seem like you have control, but it is actually a lie. Sure, you cause fear in others, but you lost control of yourself. "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls" (Proverbs 25:28). You have no defenses left against sin. And the fear you create in someone else didn't change anything. That person still has the same opinions and thoughts and you know they are still there. Nothing was solved.

Instead, you add more problems to the mix. If someone is doing wrong by what they say, doing wrong with your fists is trying to solve a wrong with a wrong. "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? -- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8).

You may not realize it, but your angry responses actually causes other people to respond to you in anger. "An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression" (Proverbs 29:22). So rather than solving problems, you are creating additional ones in the future.

Most of this you guessed, I'm sure, but I want it to get it out in the open where things are headed. On the positive side, I note that you do have control, even when you are angry. You are able to stop yourself from hitting a girl, so you are not as out of control as you fear.

The goal, then, is to gain control over your emotions. Right now you are reaching for anger too often and too quickly.

"Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools" (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

"A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated" (Proverbs 14:17).

"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32).

Right now, you only look at others from your point of view. You see how their words affect you, but you don't really understand the other person, especially not why they would say such things to you. "The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression" (Proverbs 19:11). "Discretion" is using your intelligence and knowing what is going on. You see with knowledge comes some control over situations. If you understand, then you see alternatives that can be taken and you'll realize that violence isn't going to solve this particular problem.

One of the needed elements to change this is corrective discipline. There needs to be consequences that come when you lose your temper to encourage to not lose it. For now, here is what would like you to do:

  • Each time you realize that you are about to lose your temper, you are to go for a fast walk or run until you are no longer angry.
  • Each time you do lose your cool, you are not allowed to hit anything or anyone. Instead, you are to do 50 push-ups, 100 crunches, and 100 jumping jacks.
  • If you actually do hit anything, touch someone in anger, or hurt someone, then you are to do push-ups, crunches and jumping jacks in sets of 25 until you are physically exhausted.

I'm not there to make you do this or remind you that you need to do this. However, I think you have the ability to make yourself do these whether you feel like it or not.

Thank you for your willingness to listen. I've told two friends my story and one a part of it over the past few times. It's hard for me to swallow that if I die, even though I get to go to heaven because Jesus died for me, I've nothing to show for my life. There's not a whole lot my older friends and relatives could be proud of, except my academics, and I have not left a good example for my younger friends and relatives. I think it's that guilt, and the fact that just telling theese things helps, that motivated me to tell them. Plus, when I told my friend, he was kicking himself for his own anger issues.

Anyway, they all had the same basic response that went something like: "It's not what you've done, it's who you are. What you've done makes who who you are and I wouldn't have you any other way; I still think you're a good person. I know you can keep it from happening again" and so on. I know they meant well and were trying to get my head out of all this regret, but it still wasn't what I needed to hear. I needed help, not consolation.

I will definitely take your advice and discipline myself. One fear I have, especially with a recent fight, is this: What of it happens again? When I realized later what almost happened, I was terrified. So back to my fear, what happens if I loose it and do that again, and hurt someone? It's difficult for me to think about, but truthfully, he definitely would have been in the hospital and it may have been much, much worse.

Thanks again for your help. Honestly, I was scarred to talk to any of my church leaders about this. I definitely wasn't going to tell my family. They have no idea that I have such problems with anger, but I don't know how long it will be before they find out. I hope that they don't have to.

The goal between the two of us is for you not to lose your grip on your temper. Yes, lots of bad things could have happened. Fortunately they didn't, so we will now work on making sure there isn't any repeats or even getting close to it. That is why I suggested a scaled set of consequences. And contact me if you slip so we can make adjustments.