Anger: One Letter from Danger

Part seven of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #6 – A Successful Person Knows How to Control His Temper

By Kevin Riggs

My children play video games, but I monitor what they play and how often.  I admit, however, there is one thing that happens when my son plays certain games that causes me to twinge a little. Periodically the game will not go the way he wants, and out of frustration he will say to no one in particular, “Oh man, l got killed,” or, “I’m going to kill you.” There is something about hearing the word “killed” that makes me uncomfortable.

The Sixth Commandment

Commandment Six reads. “Thou shalt not kill.” The Hebrew literally says, “No unlawful killing.” The prohibition is killings that violate justice, premeditated killing, or killing with malice and forethought, murder.

Commandments One through Five make me uncomfortable because I know I am guilty of breaking them. But this Commandment is different. I read this Commandment and start to relax, thinking, “Finally a Commandment I have not broken . . . or have I?” I have kept the letter of the law, but have I kept the spirit behind the law?

The Sixth Commandment teaches that all of life is precious, but human life is priceless. Every human being— regardless of age, race, intelligence, health, ability to contribute to society or criminal record—is created in the image of God.  I am not an animal, and neither are my ancestors! We all are people in whom God Himself has breathed life.  Therefore, human life is to be treated with highest respect.

Habit #6

Everyone agrees—at least in theory—that the willful, premeditated, unjust taking of another human life is wrong. If this were all Commandment Six had in mind, I would be home free, but there is more behind this Commandment than murder.  What habit of a highly successful person can be drawn from the Sixth Commandment?

The answer is found from the words of Jesus, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Based on Jesus’ words, the sixth habit is as follows: A highly successful person knows how to control his temper. Proverbs warns, ‘A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”  An old Chinese proverb states, “The fastest horse cannot catch a word spoken in anger.” I can’t count the number of times my anger has killedthe spirit of a family member, friend or coworker. I can think of numerous times my spirit has been murderedby someone’s anger towards me.

The Truth about Anger

I know what you are thinking because I thought the same thing: “Uncontrolled anger is bad, but how can it be equated with murder?” Ephesians 4:26-27 gives guidance to understanding how.

Anger, in and of itself, is not a sin.

Ephesians says, “ln your anger do not sin.” Anger is an emotion given by God that can motivate me to do what needs to be done. God expresses anger toward sin.  Jesus became angry when people turned the church into a marketplace. God cannot sin, and Jesus did not sin in His anger.

My problem is that while anger is not a sin, I usually sin in my anger.  When I don’t control my temper, it becomes easy for me to lash out in anger, saying things I don’t mean, killing the other person with my words. The anger may not be a sin, but the way I respond when angry can quickly become a sin.

Settle the issue immediately.

Have you ever gotten angry with someone and gone to bed angry? What happened? If you are like me, you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, then woke up irritable and grouchy. That is why Paul wrote, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

In other words, when I feel myself becoming angry, l need to resolve the issue as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean I say the first thing that comes to my mind and overreact. What it means is that need to take time to cool off, regain my composure and then express my anger in a calm, acceptable manner.

Easier said than done, I know. But anger is like a ball submerged in water: I cannot keep it down forever. Sooner or later it will surface, and if it is not constrained, it will explode to the top. When angry, I need to resolve the situation quickly to keep my anger from turning into bitterness and hatred, two well-known sins.

Satan uses anger to destroy relationships.

The Bible says, “Neither give place to the devil.” When I fly off the handle, saying things I don’t mean, and then don’t seek immediate resolution choosing to let things simmer and boil, Satan will use that opportunity to step in and destroy my relationship with the other person. My goal is reconciliation, not blame casting or argument winning.

Jesus said, “Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Jesus taught that it doesn’t matter if I was the one who did the offending or if I was the one who was offended, it is always my responsibility to take the first step toward reconciliation.

Reconciliation starts with sincere, complete, heartfelt forgiveness. Even though I may never forget what the other person did or said, true forgiveness doesn’t bring up the past, reopening old wounds. This type of forgiveness is as much for my sanity as for the person whom I am forgiving. When I refuse to forgive, I murder the relationship, and the Sixth Commandment states, “Thou shalt not murder.”

When I am guilty of losing my temper, my only recourse is to repent, asking God to forgive me. I may also need to go and ask forgiveness from the person I have offended. If someone has offended me, it is still my response to seek reconciliation. I need to remember to attack the problem not the person, and to express my anger in an appropriate way.

Maybe the reason Jesus equated anger with murder was because anger, left uncontrolled, is the first step toward murder. Have you ever in the heat of anger said, “I could just kill you?” or, “l wish you were dead?” Even though you didn’t mean it, you can see how anger and murder are connected. Anger is just one letter short of danger.

Do you consider yourself a success? Do you know how to control your temper? Are you guilty of breaking the Sixth Commandment? Do you need to repent?

Article adapted from Contactmagazine, July 2002