How to Use Anger Constructively

Every leader can handle anger constructively by following three steps:

1.  Look Under Your Anger

6 So the LORD said to Cain,”Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?

God says to Cain… Look under your anger. Ask yourself Why you are angry.  God says to Cain, can you pause before you react to even ponder the question, “Why are you angry?”   God tries to slow Cain down to think… to ponder…to identify.

If you are like me, you not only don’t take time to look under your anger, but if I could answer the question why, the reply would be… “Because someone or something MADE ME angry.”  We answer the question, “Why am I angry?” by focusing on others’ behavior or surrounding circumstances.  We blame or trace our anger to others not conforming to what we want.

God says we need to look deeper…under our anger. He even hints at the way to do it it. By saying “why has your countenance fallen…your countenance is your face.  But notice that when your face falls, that is often an expression associated with sadness, rather than anger. God says, look under your anger to find your sadness.  Cain, “You were sad before you were mad.”

I had a couple share with me a few years ago their inability to grasp the psycho-babble of a marriage counselor who told them to use I statements, rather than you statements.  I asked what they meant? She said, “I used to say, “You’re a jerk.” Then I changed to an I statement, “I think you are a jerk!”  I laughed, that didn’t seem to help huh? Of course not, its still focused on the other person’s bad behavior which inflames your anger and generated anger in your spouse. What if instead, you said, “I really wish we’d spend more time together, rather than “You’re never home.”  What if you said, “I was really hurt when you walked away” rather than “You’re such a jerk for never talking this through.”   She said, “Oh, that’s different.”

One inflames your anger and it becomes more destructive, the other looks under your anger to what’s really going on, and defuses it constructively.

Under our anger is some hurt from an unmet need. Notice that the Bible Account shows us that UNDER Cain’s anger was a feeling of being disrespected.

And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Until we look under our anger, like God told Cain to, we will never be able to see step 2…

2. Look Ahead of Your Anger

(NKJV) Gen 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

(NASB)  Gen 4:7 sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

God warns Cain that his anger will lead him up ahead to danger.  In fact the word DANGER has the word ANGER right in it.  God says, look ahead, sin lies at your door.  Your feelings are leading you to say or do something you are going to regret.  The Hebrew word, lies is r???? is used here in the figure of a crouching animal.   God is saying, if you don’t look ahead of your anger, you won’t see that pain, regret, doing something you don’t want to do… is crouching… is preparing… to ambush you.

God is telling Cain that when you are angry, you need to look “ahead of your anger” Look ahead as if you are about to be pounced on. Slow down. Speak slowly. Be careful. Anger dulls our senses to not see the next trap. The awaiting danger ready to pounce on us.   Anger is not wrong.  Not bad. Even here God distinguishes between Anger and Sin (doing something wrong).

6 So the LORD said to Cain,”Why are you angry?… 7 And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.

Later in the New Testament, the part of the Bible written after Jesus was born in the A.D. timeframe, Paul makes the same distinction:

Ephesians. 4:26 Be angry, and do not sin

Do you see that Anger is an emotion? Anger is normal, natural and healthy at times.  BUT it can lead us to do bad things, say bad thing -if we don’t look AHEAD of our Anger.

3. Look Over Your Anger

(NKJV) Gen 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

God tells Cain to “do well” and he will be accepted. He tells him that he must “rule over” his anger.   How do you “do well”?  And “rule over it?”   God is showing us something profound about anger.  Anger always shows you that you are “under” the rule of something.   God says you need to get “over” this.  Because right now you are “under” the rule of something besides me.

I might be under the rule of:

  • Needing Control... Therefore when I lose control, I get angry.
  • Envy... Therefore I get angry when others have more opportunities than me.
  • Career… If I get my sense of identity from my career, and it is threatened in any way, it triggers anger and insecurity.
  • Acceptance… If I desperately need others to like me, I am under “acceptance’s rule”  And I will get exceptionally angry and upset at Gossip, being embarrassed, or publicly called out.  Why? I am “under” the rule of something.

Until I realize that I get my sense of meaning, identity, and comfort from something that i must have. Something that I feel I can’t live without. I am under it’s rule. And the problem is that whatever that “thing” is that we are under. It never accepts you. You can never know if you’ve done enough. God says, “Do well and you will be accepted…”   The problem with putting anything and everything besides grace as the center of your life, is that none of those things can or will accept you and offer you the acceptance you long for.   Career is nice, but you can lose it, and you are only as good as your next bid deal. Your kids are great, but if you feel accepted only when they behavior, you’ll get angry whenever they are wobbling.  Instead, God says, the way to handle anger constructively is to “Rule OVER it.” To get out from UNDER IT. To find acceptance from God.


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Comments read comments(2)
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Doris Homan

posted January 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Great insight; very practical

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posted January 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

This looks really good. I will be back to read it and maybe print it for others.

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