Sometimes when I experienced anger, I had no idea where that came from. It was years later, until recently that I discovered that post-traumatic stress disorder caused all of it.
Anger is typically started and fueled by one of four sources: hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration. With these roots, anger is a secondary response to one or more of these four sources. Probing into buried feelings from your past can be painful. Therefore, it can seem easier to stay angry than to uncover the cause, turn loose of your “rights,” and grow in maturity. We must have perseverance because …“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)
The causes of anger:
- Hurt – Your heart is wounded. Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away. Joseph was the undisputed favourite of the twelve sons of Jacob. Feeling hurt and rejected by their father, the older sons became angry and vindictive toward their younger brother! Genesis 37:3–4.
- Injustice – Your right is violated. Everyone has an inner moral code that produces a sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or others (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart. King Saul’s unjust treatment of David evoked Jonathan’s anger. When Jonathan, son of Saul, heard his own father pronounce a death sentence on his dear friend David, he asked, in 1 Samuel 20:32–34.
- Fear – Your future is threatened. Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened, or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan for your life. Saul became angry because of David’s many successes on the battlefield. He was threatened by David’s popularity and feared he would lose his kingdom. 1 Samuel 18:5–15, 28–29.
- Frustration – Your performance is not accepted. Everyone has a God-given inner need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations of yourself or of others is a major source of anger. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, but Cain’s offering was clearly unacceptable. Cain had chosen to offer what he wanted to give and not what God said was right and acceptable. When Cain’s self-effort was rejected, his frustration led to anger, and his anger led to the murder of his own brother – Genesis 4:3–5, 8.
God wants us to check the true source of our anger. Is it hurt, injustice, fear, frustration, or a combination? Then we have to check whether we are using anger to try to get your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security met.
- Have you been hurt by rejection of any kind? If so, check …Are you using anger to intimidate or coerce someone into remaining in a relationship with you?
- Have you been the victim of a real or perceived injustice? If this might be true, evaluate …Are you using angry, accusatory words to cause someone to feel guilty and obligated to you?
- Has something occurred that causes you to have fear? If so, evaluate …Are you using anger to overpower and control someone in order to get your way?
- Do you feel a sense of frustration because of unmet expectations? If so, evaluate … Are you using angry threats and shaming words to manipulate someone into meeting your demands?
In searching your heart, decide that you will not use anger to try to get your needs met. Instead, repent and enter into a deeper dependence on the Lord to meet these God-given needs. Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”