I am not talking to you right now- I am talking to myself. This topic is one I can claim to be an expert about: not because I have overcome it, but because I still do it all the time, and you know what they say: practice makes perfect.
Except this is a perfectly awful thing to be good at doing.
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Not all anger is bad because there are things that we should be angry about: injustice, hypocrisy, blasphemy, and when people do things that hurt other people.
Shaul tells us that being angry is not bad, but we should not sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26), so if and when we feel that “rise” coming, we need to show the sort of compassionate patience that is a Fruit of the Spirit (you’ll find those listed in Galatians.)
The type of anger I want to talk about today is not justified anger with people when they do wrongful things, but when we are angry with people who aren’t even there.
We get angry when people with us do something to us or to others, but rehearsing our anger is when we are all alone!
Sometimes we rehearse our anger (which I do all too often) as we review a past event, and sometimes it happens when we are preparing for some future event. We think of the comments that were or might be made, what we want to say, and what the other person may say in response to us. The conversation goes on and on (now remember- this is all happening just in your head) and soon you find your blood pressure rising, the discussion becoming more passionate, and next thing you know you are totally pissed at this person, who isn’t even there.
That is what rehearsing our anger is all about, and it is not only a useless waste of energy, but it actually creates the same physiological responses that being in a real argument would do.
Some people may say, “C’mon, Steve- I am just venting and doing so when no one is there is safer than doing it when they are there, right?” Well, yes, to a degree, but in my experience that there is no such thing as “getting it off your chest”; in fact, my experience is that venting doesn’t release the anger, it enhances it. Anger is an all-consuming fire, and even when it dies down, there are embers that could burn for days, or months, or even years. Venting is like trying to put it out by throwing gasoline on it.
And in my case, my anger is not always righteous; the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in me makes me righteous before God but that’s because it is the righteousness of the Messiah in me. When I don’t pay attention to what I am doing and don’t allow the Holy Spirit to lead my actions, I am acting on my own, in the flesh, and my flesh is not righteous. That is when I find myself rehearsing my anger.
It is usually in the car when I am driving somewhere and let my mind wander to past events. It is also in the middle of the night, when I am having trouble sleeping or when recent events are still gnawing at me. The embers that I didn’t even realize were there suddenly burst into flame.
When we rehearse our anger we are sinning. Why? Well, for one, you can be certain that a degree of pridefulness is involved. We allow our anger to control us and we lose our compassion and forgiveness.
We are bearing false witness since the argument in our head is making someone say something that they haven’t really said. We are putting words in their mouth, which is essentially giving false testimony.
And the worst part of it is that by rehearsing our anger, we remove any opportunity for the other person to make atonement. Rehearsing the anger is a means of being able to “tell them off’- how often when we do this do we allow them to ask forgiveness? The point of this fire we have stoked is to burn brighter so we make sure they can’t make it all better.
In our rehearsed anger we want them to be, to say, and to do exactly those things that, in real life, we don’t want them to be, to say, or do. When we rehearse our anger we take away someone’s opportunity to make atonement, and by doing this we are trampling the blood of the Messiah into the dirt.
And that does not glorify God or Messiah Yeshua.
So nu? how can we stop this self-destructive behavior?
One way is to gain more humility, and thereby the ability to just let it go. Give it up to God, faithfully believing he will handle it, just as we are told in Proverbs 20:22. That doesn’t mean asking God to make the other person stop what they do, it means asking God to help us stop doing what we are doing! Giving it up to God, totally, means if we find ourselves starting to rehearse our anger, we stop dead in our tracks and say, “Oops, sorry Lord- this is not mine anymore, it’s yours.”
Another way is to learn forgiveness. The pain of being wronged will never go away until you forgive, really forgive, the one who caused the pain. Once we learn to forgive as God forgives (sound familiar? think Matthew 6:9-14) then the embers will be doused completely because the sin would have been forgiven, and forgotten.
When we forgive and forget, but never forget what we forgave, then we never really forgave, in the first place.
Jewish wisdom tells us you can’t stop a bird from landing in a tree but you can keep it from building a nest there. When you smell the smoke, turn off the heat. Proverbs 26:20 says “Without wood, a fire goes out; without gossip, a quarrel dies down.” The only way to stop a fire is to take away the fuel so we must turn our thoughts away from anger and instead turn them towards something pleasant, something that will be fun to do, and I don’t mean imagine wringing their neck!
One really good way to not rehearse your anger, which is also a very righteous thing to do, is to pray for that person. I have found that when I pray for someone, all my bad feelings towards them disappear.
Overcoming rehearsing our anger is a hard thing to do, especially for me as I have been doing it all of my life, but as Yeshua told us, that although something may be impossible for a human to do, with God all things are possible.
I trust that God will grant my prayer to stop rehearsing my anger; I just don’t know when it will happen so I’ll keep doing my best until he steps in and finishes the job.
Thank you for being here, please subscribe, share these messages with others and I always welcome your comments.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!