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.

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.