“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.”
“A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.”
I’ve been quick-tempered for as long as I can remember. I easily let my emotions get the better of me, especially anger. As a teenager, I prayed my mood swings and overreactions would miraculously go away. As a young adult, I prayed the same, all the while working hard to keep from raging inside and out. When I became a parent, I finally realized being angry is a powerful emotion and a terrible way to live. Now in middle age, I’m increasingly aware of what I missed along the way after seeing red for so long. But I’m also grateful God’s grace gives me a new opportunity every day to respond rather than overreact.
Can you relate? Whether you let it out loudly or veil it behind eyes of stone, anger is a universal emotion that can sabotage your spiritual and relational vitality. Unchecked anger easily gets misguided and compounds, often with explosive (or implosive) consequences. Sure, it’s selfishly gratifying to dig in that you’re in the right, others are in the wrong, and it’s your duty to fight it out until everyone’s on the same page. Humans like to brood over what could have been, should have been, and would have been if only so-and-so had done things perfectly or given you what you felt you deserved from the start.
Regrettably, anger tends to backfire as it grows. It metastasizes like cancer. In Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father knows this and lovingly invites his older son to stop resisting and let go of his resentments. But the older son’s anger had him seeing red, not his forgiven brother. He couldn’t think clearly because perceived injustice clouded his mind and heart. The older brother dug in his heels, refusing to celebrate and reconcile. He legitimately believed he was doing the wise thing, but biblically, according to God’s ways, he was playing the fool. The father didn’t let the older son’s stubbornness stop him from calling him back into community.
By God’s grace, you and I can be angry without being destructive or becoming bitter as we go through life. “But I’ve seen red for so long” can be how it was, not who we are. It’s never too late to turn to Jesus for his perspective and peace when our emotions try to take charge.
Anger is normal and needs to be talked about. Connect with a close friend or counselor about how this powerful emotion impacts you spiritually and relationally, and how you’d like it to affect you differently as a follower of Christ.