What Causes My Anger?

A loud thump, followed by laughter and more loud thumps, reverberated from upstairs.

I ran upstairs to discover my young boys having a battle and throwing things at each other. “I thought I told you to get ready for bed!” I scolded, as they stifled laughter. It was like the scene in What About Bob? when Dr. Leo Marvin catches his patient Bob Wiley and his son Siggy jumping on the beds and shouts, “All’s I want is some peace and quiet!” Giggling, Bob says, “Okay, I’ll be quiet,” and Siggy says, “And I’ll be peace!”

I was fuming like Leo Marvin. “You guys are making me mad.” Then one of my boys said, “But you’ve told us that no one else can make you mad.” I hate it when my kids quote me. For I had always told them that when we get angry it’s our own sin.

It sure doesn’t feel that way though. It feels like other people or things are the cause. That driver who pulled out in front of me. My teen who smarted off to me. The boss who asks too much of me. It feels like things outside us cause our anger. Scripture says I should look within to find what causes my anger:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:1-2).

Here is the root of our anger: We want something and can’t get it, so we fight and quarrel.

So here’s a million-dollar question that helps expose that root: What do I want right now that I’m not getting?

When we discover our idolatrous craving, then we can repent and seek grace to change.

I once read about a pastor who was looking forward to some quiet relaxation when he got home after being with people all day. His wife, who had been with their small children all day, desired some adult conversation that evening.

The pastor just wanted to watch some TV and his wife wanted to talk. Their cravings came into conflict and they each began fighting for their own desires until they both got angry. What caused their anger? Each wanted something and wasn’t getting it.

What causes my anger? I want something and don’t get it.

Once driving a stretch in Pittsburgh I hit every red light and started feeling irritated (angry). By God’s grace, I asked myself the big question: What do I want right now that I am not getting? I realized that what I wanted was for every red light to turn green the moment I approached. I wanted all creation to serve me. I wanted to be God. I wasn’t getting what I wanted so I got angry.

So the next time you get angry, ask yourself the million-dollar question. Excuse me, I have to run upstairs. I just heard a loud thump.

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Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.


  • Mark,

    You hit the “Mark” and “Andy” right on the spot. This is an excellent, to the point analysis that really hits home, and I love it. I don’t mind being called out on this at all because I used to be a “rage-aholic” – big time. I used to go down a downward rage spiral that would feed on itself and would sometimes take me weeks to recover. I don’t know how God did it, but He delivered me from my rage over a period of time. A man who mentored me for a season eventually pointed out that change in my life and I realized, looking back, that I rarely lost my temper any more. Don’t get me wrong, I still get angry, but I’ve learned to step back when I see it coming or am in the middle of it, and God has given me the grace to avoid the downward spiral to rage. I guess I’ve learned to give myself grace as well and not beat myself up over inappropriate anger. When I catch myself in anger, I can sometimes even laugh at myself when I realize how petty I’m being. My journey out of rage is a blog in itself and too involved for here, but know that you’ve distilled the issue beautifully! That is not one of my gifts. this comment really doesn’t do God justice in how amazingly He changed my life. I am a kinder and gentler person because of God’s grace.

  • Just over 2 years ago, God took my husband home to glory. Since that time I’ve found myself having these meltdowns where I become angry and argumentative. I’ve had to apologize to people over and over. I’m so frustrated with myself, as this has never been my nature. Reading this today I see that I’m likely angry with God because I’m not getting my husband back. I honestly thought I’d settled that issue within my heart, after all, I don’t lash out at God about it any longer; instead I lash out at others—and they can’t help me, and it’s certainly not anything they have done. Wow. Great insight in this column, and I’m going to tack this verse up in a few places around my home, and commit it to my heart for those times I begin to sin and lash out at others. THANK YOU!

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