Getting angry very quickly
One thing was very clear when I was growing up, and that was that I got angry very quickly.
My anger never lasted long and I would feel so stupid afterwards. It was like a big explosion. Mostly it was just at situations, not at people. I remember once I was at work, welding something, and I got so angry, I picked up the whole welder and threw it across the room. I never hurt people as far as I can remember, but I would become very angry.
Actually, I was really upset with myself because I knew that it wasn’t right. I grew up in a good Christian home and I knew about God. I wanted to know Him personally. I knew it wasn’t good to live like this, but I didn’t know how to change.
Then I got married, and I noticed that these things don’t just change. I was for sure not going to hurt my wife and child, or other people I met, but how can you help people when you’re like that? I wanted to at least have a good relationship with people, but because of my anger I could never really be sure of it.
Hating your own life
Shortly after I got married and became a father, I heard the gospel explained in a way that I’d never heard before. Verses like 1 Peter 1:16 that say, “Be holy, for I am holy” were certainly something that God had said, and something I’d read, but never in a way that I thought it would be possible, because nobody knew how to do it. But now I heard that “Well, it’s written; therefore, it must be possible.” So, when I heard about hating your own life (your own selfish, proud and sinful nature) and losing it, that changed everything for me. I remember thinking, “Finally, now I can actually do something about these things that plague me!”
Jesus says: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25. That verse really worked in me. He doesn’t say, “He who hates what the others see,” but “He who hates his life.” It’s what’s inside myself – all these thoughts, ideas, and things that would create conflict between people, that’s what I’m to hate. Because it’s not just about the outbursts of anger. I grew up thinking that I had to deal with the outside. But I shouldn’t only be working with what people see, with my outbursts of anger. What comes out of me actually shows what I’ve been busy with inside.
It didn’t happen all in once, but bit by bit. I started to hate anger so badly! I already hated it, but now I hated it even more. Because I wanted to get a connection with Jesus. If I hold on to a thought that doesn’t fit in His kingdom, how can I meet Jesus when He comes back? If He were to come back right now, then what? Would my attitude fit in with His kingdom?
From hating and anger to blessing
The biggest thing is to take God’s Word as it is written. A verse that has really helped me over the years is 1 Peter 3:9: “… on the contrary blessing.” I thought: I need to be able to bless, so that’s contrary (different) to what I do by nature. By nature, I create conflict, I criticise, I push against people. But to the contrary, I need to get converted from this anger and come to a completely different life.
Another verse that I often thought about is Galatians 5:24 (NLT): “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” “Passions and desires” is a bit of a general term. But in daily life, that means that in every specific thought, word and action, in the way I do things, or in the way I spend my money, I say “no” to the sinful desires in my nature.
Whenever I have a thought about something or someone that is not in line with God’s law, then I can’t bless. I can’t do the good. I can’t meet needs. The strange thing is that I’ve always loved people. I guess that’s probably why it was so difficult, this anger. I couldn’t connect with people and understand them, because I was so full of my own ideas, and that separated me from them.
Our sinful human nature, also called the flesh, has all these different things that I so easily hold on to, so I’m thankful that I can see these little thoughts, say ‘no’ to them and become more and more free. It also says in Hebrews 12:11 that it doesn’t feel nice to say ‘no’ to your sinful nature, but on the other hand, I know that I’m constantly being changed. So that gives me hope. Bit by bit, I’m able to connect with people and be good to them, no matter what. It doesn’t matter so much anymore if my co-workers don’t agree with me, for example, because I care for them.
Read also: How do I capture every thought?
In the beginning, I would also get angry with my children. I would often say sorry to them. For example, I would say, “I’m sorry for the way I said it, but you still have to do what I said.” Maybe what I said wasn’t so wrong, but the way I said it was completely wrong.
Later on, when my first child was a lot older, I said to him, “I’m really sorry for the way I did it with you.” I knew it wasn’t always done so well at all, with that anger I didn’t always have victory over, especially in the beginning years when he was growing up. But they’re so forgiving. My son said, “Dad, I only remember good things at home.” That made me cry.
So again, the way people see you really doesn’t mean a whole lot, if you’re seeking the life of Christ. You see your own sin that lives inside, and you hate it.
Peace in the home
I think what describes our home most is that it’s very peaceful and good there. Outwardly maybe it doesn’t look like that. I have many sons, and they can be home with their friends and they’re noisy and we’re sometimes arguing about things; there’s lots going on and it’s busy. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no peace.
Peace is that it’s good between people, and that I’m not the disturber of the peace, but that I actually build peace. Just because people have their own opinions, and do things their own way, that doesn’t mean there can’t be peace. In the midst of that it can be very peaceful. I also know that I can still do better. I can help to create more peace, because the father has a huge effect on how it is at home. If I have an overcoming life, that has a huge effect on our home.
Outbursts of anger start with one thought
What I’m working on now is these little thoughts about people. How far can an outburst of anger go? Some people kill others because of it, but what about a negative thought about someone? Often that creates anger. It’s just very small, and it’s inside. Nobody sees it. But if you agree with that thought and keep thinking it, isn’t that what leads to an outburst of anger?
You see it when you work together closely with people. I’ve been married for 33 years now. Sometimes I notice I get a little negative thought about my wife, about what she does or says, and it separates us. Isn’t that something to take seriously? I may not be throwing things at people or yell at them, but I notice I still have these little thoughts against others and what they do. I’m very thankful that I can see these little thoughts, and get rid of them.
A life that cannot be destroyed.
Over the years, I’ve often thought about that verse that says, “… the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.” Hebrews 7:15-16 (NLT). That’s what is written about Jesus. That’s what I want – a life full of love, care, goodness and happiness. I want to become a happy person, with a happiness that cannot be destroyed – nothing can break it, nothing can affect it.
If you think about Jesus, who was hated and criticised even before He went on His final journey, and then they nailed Him to the cross, and He hung there, but He still could pray for people. I often think about that. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34.
That’s what I want. I don’t know how my life is going to end. But that life, nobody can destroy it. Nothing can put an end to it. No matter what people do, my first reaction is always to be good to that person. That’s the life of Jesus and that’s what I want – love, goodness, righteousness and all these things that the kingdom of heaven is made of. I’m not there yet, but I know it’s coming, and I can see this life becoming more and more in me as I overcome my anger bit by bit. That’s the gospel that I’ve been converted to.