Last updated on August 28, 2020
I understand one thing now: Anger leads to foolishness because you do something that you feel is going to help, but it doesn’t help at all. The only thing I want to understand is how to think things through when I’m angry; should I just stay silent and go away when I’m provoked?
I lost my temper today. It was this morning. I was talking to classmates of mine. One is a guy I talk to the most, but he doesn’t accept Christ as his Savior, and he acts like he’s the best most of the time. I believe this is part of what bothered me. During the conversation we were talking about dancing. This guy told them he knows how to dance, and I made a joke about funny dancing steps and the girls said that they only like guys who know how to dance. The moment I lost my temper was when they said that guys who don’t dance are “stiff”, and this “friend” (all right, he’s no friend, he’s just a classmate who irritates me) started laughing at me.
Anger is deceitful. It tries to make me think it will give me the power and the words to do the right thing at the right time, but it doesn’t. Instead, it makes me look like a fool. I really want to know what to do at moments like these. I don’t believe this guy is my friend, he’s just someone I shouldn’t walk with, but this thought might be the result of anger, that’s why I’m telling you this, so you’ll give me advice.
After they said those things I thought: Bah, who cares!
Then I saw another classmate of mine, and I went to talk to him. I felt dumb because I was angry and even more dumb because I didn’t know how to answer. I ran away using the other classmate as an escape route.
My question is: What should I do? I feel like being alone, you know? I want to do everything by myself. I believe I want to do everything by myself in order to feel powerful. I don’t know. Is it right to be alone and try to do everything with my own power? I believe it’s wrong somehow.
I was just waiting for the moment I lost my temper to write to you; it would come sooner or later anyway.
When you are in the midst of being angry, it is hard to think, which is one of the reasons we try to avoid anger. We make enough mistakes when we do think. We don’t need additional handicaps. But now that the situation has passed, it is time to look at the causes.
What was it that made you angry?
- Was it because someone you think as being less than yourself, because he isn’t a believer, made you feel inferior?
- Is it because you were embarrassed by the girls?
- Is it because you were embarrassed in front of the girls?
The one common element that I see is that your pride was wounded in some way. Pride isn’t something worth defending. “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). It is our pride that makes us targets.
Last night we were studying II Corinthians and were talking about how Paul dealt with his detractors. One of the slanderous things being said against Paul, apparently, was that he wasn’t serious enough. Instead of directly denying it, Paul accepted it in a sense. “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me” (II Corinthians 11:1). He then proceeded to make his detractors look foolish with his “little foolishness.”
Perhaps this would not work for you, but let me illustrate one way to turn this around, but it only works if you can conquer your pride. When the girl said she only liked guys who can dance and guys who can’t are too stiff, you could have replied with an exaggerated look of sorrow on your face and said, “I guess now I’ll never be your husband! (Sniff)” and walk away stiff jointed like a robot. It deflects the insult because in a way you accepted it and the reaction from others is to defend you, even if all they say is “quit kidding around.”
In regards to your friend, rather than be annoyed at his pride while being an unbeliever, you should have pity for him. Here is a person who is lost, but he can’t see it because of his pride, or he is using his pride as a shield to cover his uncertainty. As Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (II Corinthians 5:11).
Still, as you learn how to conquer impulsive anger, it’s going to hit you because you can’t think of everything in advance. Leaving the situation is a perfectly good way to handle it. I had a friend that when he got angry, he would go for a walk. You could tell how mad he got by how long the walk took. The walks gave him something to do and were an outlet for his adrenaline. It gave him time to think. You weren’t dumb for walking off, you were taking the better route. If you stayed you might have said or done something you later would have regretted.
Well, I thought about it and I believe what made me angry was:
- The fact that the three of them had a quality I didn’t have
- The fact that the three of them were comfortable with calling me stiff indirectly
- The fact that this guy gets most of the things he does right, and when he laughed at me, it felt like: One more thing I got right, I dance, you don’t.
And, yeah, I felt embarrassed because the girls tried to say that men who don’t dance will never get a girlfriend, which makes me really infuriated. I don’t like people who create stupid, false rules like these. I’m a guy who doesn’t dance, then it’s possible that there’s a girl who also doesn’t dance, and things will be okay. I’m not less just because I don’t dance!
You’re right, the problem is my pride. I try to value myself through pride in order to not feel less than others. And I believe I wanted to think of him as being less than myself, I was just looking for an “advantage” (being a believer).
Whoa, now I get it! Anger and pride make things even worse:
- Anger seeks for control of the situation, but in the end, you have no control at all.
- Pride seeks for honor, but it is like that house in Matthew 7 that was built on the sand; pride doesn’t protect you from anything.
What to do then? Today I was in class and I saw him, but I didn’t even want to talk to him. He’s “always right,” and he “always knows what to do.” It’s awful! I feel like I don’t know how to do a thing when I’m next to him. The teacher gave everyone another assignment: We had to design a structure and while she was still giving us the instructions he was saying, “I just had the best idea.” And he explained it to me, I was thinking, “Oh man, not again…”
When the teacher said we could leave to draw and come back later, I took my chance and left the room as soon as I could. I just wanted to be alone and to think for myself. It took almost two hours, but I got an idea.
I believe the problem comes from the fact that most of the time he helped me with other assignments (and he always took the lead), and pride strikes me again. I start to think, “I should handle things by myself. Look at him, he does everything by himself, and he even helps others! And here I am, striving to have a single good idea!”
Thanks for telling me about the escape tactic. It works wonders to get away and take a walk when I feel angry.
Oh, and sorry if I take up your time Mr. Jeff, but I pray for you every day. You’ve been a real blessing. I could never talk to someone like I talk to you, and you always know what to say.
Thanks for your help and patience!
I enjoy talking to you and others, so don’t ever feel bad about it. I find that it helps me as well in getting my thoughts organized and keeping my knowledge of the Bible fresh.
So what you find is that you have a problem with pride and jealousy. Your statements about anger and pride are really perceptive. What I find interesting is that your friend also has a problem with pride; it is what is behind his need to tell others about what he has done. But it really doesn’t matter. If you are a painter, there is always someone who can paint better than you can. If you are a musician, there is always someone who can play better than you can. Your friend is talented. OK. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t good at what you do. Good doesn’t mean you must be the best. There was a commercial years ago for a rental car company that said something like “We’re number two, but we try harder.” They accepted the facts, but they didn’t let the facts hold them back.
Paul had a hard time with false teachers going behind his back claiming that he wasn’t a real apostle. One of Paul’s points was “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (II Corinthians 10:12). It isn’t a sound judgment to compare yourself with the standard of other people. People are a mixture of good and bad points, but they are not the standard of right and wrong. You are always going to find people who are better or worse than you are, but all that matters is what God thinks of you. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
Be glad that he had an idea. Be glad that you came up with an idea. Yes, it took you longer to think of one, so what? You still got the assignment done in plenty of time. And I suspect you got a decent grade on it too. You have been rating yourself against the wrong standard (the other young man).
In the same way, I look at the girls and feel sorry for them because they are so shallow. How does the ability to dance tell you anything about another person? “Sure he treats me like dirt, but oh can he dance!” That is a young lady who is going to be very disappointed in the man she eventually marries unless she happens to get lucky. See things for the way they are and don’t let others dictate the standards for how you should see yourself.