As great and godly a national leader as Moses was, he also had an anger problem.
His anger got him into trouble on more than one occasion. No, not for hitting a woman; we have no record of him ever doing so, but for actually allowing his anger to turn into murder. Early in his adult life, Moses struck an Egyptian and also a rock that God had told him to simply speak to. Moses lost his anger once and it actually kept him out of the Promised Land. There is a long and unfortunate history of men’s anger getting the best of them.
The Anatomy of Anger
Anger is not just emotional; it is also biological. It is fired up in our souls and in our brains. In situations that set us off, an automatic warning system is alerted within the human body. Neurologists would say our “amygdala is hijacked.” Suddenly, a set of words, a certain tone, an unexpected event, even a familiar fragrance, is perceived as threatening and the body marshals all of its defenses. The bloodstream rushes with a fresh explosion of adrenalin that increases the heartbeat, heightens the blood pressure, dilates the eyes (enhancing peripheral vision), and pumps energy into the muscles. Complete with sweaty hands and a dry mouth, a body is transformed to an alarm reaction state. When that occurs it is not the initial emotion or biological impulse, but the reaction to both of those factors, for which each of us are responsible. Is it any wonder Solomon wrote: “He who controls his own spirit is better than he who takes a city.” (Prov. 16:32)
Like burner settings on a gas range, anger can fire up within the soul at various intensities or stages. Psychologists concur, after repeated studies on human behavior, that there are five levels of intensity to anger. The first stage of anger is IRRITATION, characterized by a feeling of uncertainty or uneasiness due to some unpleasant disturbance. INDIGNATION is the second stage, which constitutes a reaction to something that seems unreasonable or unfair. When anger reaches the next level, WRATH, it fuels the system with a desire to avenge or defend oneself. It is at this stage that anger finds that it must be expressed in some way. FURY is the fourth stage of anger, characterized by violent acts and sometimes even a temporary loss of sanity. The highest level on the range is RAGE and, once a person allows his anger to peak this far, it reaches explosive proportions and manifests itself in absolutely brutal actions. At this point, the “fire” is out of control.
What’s A Man to Do With His Anger?
So, what is a man supposed to do with his anger? Gordon MacDonald urges men to face the fires within:
I was taught from a score of sources that a Christian never became angry. So the rule by which I lived was to never show or admit to anger. What I did not know was that the anger was, nevertheless, there. It was deep in the archives, festering, seething, whether or not I chose to acknowledge it and name it.
Since the anger could not express itself in expected ways — sharp words, a raised voice, intense activity — it found other ways to get out. I discovered to my embarrassment that I’d acquired a withering glare. My facial expression said as much as words could ever had said. Sometimes in anger, I withdrew into silence and punished the other person by leaving her without a clue about what was wrong. I showed irritation at safe objects: the dog, an errant driver in traffic, a person on television — someone who would never know or never fight back.
What I and others have had to learn is how to say, “I am very angry about this. And here is why!”
The enraged actions and unbridled words of a life in which anger is allowed to boil speak volumes. Tragically, Moses’ determination to publicly vent his anger had circumvented something far greater…the privilege of leading the people into the promised land. Here’s how God dealt with Moses: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (v. 12b)
DAD REMEMBER, grown-up anger will never overcome little kid anger. You cannot build character in your kids by simply out-shouting them. They need leadership by strength of spirit and firm direction. “In quietness and confidence is your strength.” (Is. 30:15)
MANAGER REMEMBER, anger blasts of bossism will never breed creativity nor enhance productivity. Anger in the workplace breeds resentment. Employees run best on the fuel of visionary leadership, clear expectations, strong accountability and space to grow.
HUSBAND REMEMBER, bits of anger stored away may not only break your sense of security — it may break a marriage. Learning to love each other enough to tell one another the truth gives a marriage something to grow on. Points of anger, feelings of resentment and roots of bitterness never just go away or heal themselves. They shut down souls and are a “cancer” to marriage and must be carefully diagnosed and removed.
Anger unleashed? Oh yes, for a few moments, Moses’ was. But, for a lifetime, he would live with the consequences of his actions. Moses, born into such a royal environment, died in a tragic manner; actually separated from the land of promise. Separated from his people. Separated from his family. Why? “…because you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah…and because you did not uphold my holiness…” (Deut. 32:51). In other words, because of what you did with your anger.
Our angers need to be honestly discussed before they ever have a chance to be terribly displayed.