I have an anger problem. I sometimes lash out at people and things when I do not get my way. When someone criticizes or questions me, I often get very defensive, and use rhetoric and logic in an attempt to confuse the actual issue. I raise my voice and use loudness as a scare mechanism. I am aware of these things. Through counseling and the grace of God, I have been able to tame the beast that is my anger. I can honestly say that I am getting better. It has not always been that way.
As a child and a teenager, my anger looked much different than it does today. I used my anger to act out in violence, which usually meant hitting a wall or breaking something. It translated well to the football field, where I would often take great joy in even hitting my own teammates. I would take cheap shots when I could, and reveled in both delivering hits, and having them delivered to me. Even into college, I used this anger to portray a “bad boy” image that was completely nonexistent, though I really wanted it to be. I loved how anger made me feel. I fed the beast called Anger, and I, along with the beast, became energized with each “feeding.”
I am not proud of it, nor do I tell the story as a “shocking” testimony of my life. I give it as more of a warning. As I read The Return of the King again, the image of the Nazgul, particularly their “fell beasts,” reminded me very much of my struggle with the beast called Anger. Tolkien writes:
And behold! It was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed. Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croaking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging in its claws, stooping its long naked neck.
This winged creature becomes the mount for the Witch King in the battle of Pelennor Fields. It was not just any scary bird though. The Witch King “nursed” it Tolkien writes. He reared it up from a youngling to become the very thing it was. He made it to be a destroyer of all things good by feeding it all things bad. In its wake, the people of Gondor fled, and only the stoutest of heart stood toe to toe with it. The product was no accident of the nature or a “bad egg.” The Witch King made it evil for the intention of doing evil.
I did a similar thing with my beast called Anger. I fed it repeatedly by placing myself into situations I knew I could not control. I said controversial things in the name of “I’m just being honest,” in order to incite anger in others, which then gave me a chance to act out. I regularly listened in when I thought others talked about me, so I could “make them pay.” I believed that they were out to get me, so that when they were, I could make a spectacle. When they were not, I sometimes made a spectacle anyway. “They” took the form of my boss, my teachers, my friends, or just the person driving closely behind me. I fed the beast until it was fat and healthy. I bred it for evil, and it did just that. When I came to my senses, the time came to kill the beast, and I knew it.
In my war with the beast called Anger, there have been many victories and many defeats. There are three principles I would like to share for those who may be battling the same beast, or another beast of equal magnitude and ferocity.
1. Recognize you cannot defeat the beast.
Notice, I did not say, “You can’t defeat the beast without help.” You cannot defeat the beast. You need someone to do it for you. That someone is Jesus. Without Jesus, you are doomed to battle fruitlessly, ever attempting to wage war only really that you have only ever lost ground. With Jesus, the beast does not have a chance. How does he do it? He did it on the cross. What does that mean? That means that even though you will battle and strive against it, the score has already been tallied and the victor has already been decided. As a Christian, though you may lose a battle here and there, you have won the war, and that victory is through Christ. He does not need your help.
Though your assistance is not required, you give it anyway. There is a real sense in which we work out our salvation, and we continue to try to do better, even though that is not required of us. There need not be any guilt or shame associated with failure because in failure, you ultimately lose nothing. You may lose a battle here and there, but in Christ, your security is guaranteed. However, as long as we value our families and friends, our careers and other pursuits, we must press forward toward the goal – which is the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom. Those are lofty goals, yet we get to be a part of them. It is not because we are perfect, but because Jesus is.
2. Get help.
Even the shield-maiden Eowyn needed help to defeat the Witch King. Not only did she need help, but also without it, she loses the fight. Merry’s blow to the leg of the Witch King was the catalyst that began his demise. Though his efforts were seemingly small, their effect was great.
Christ does not need our help to complete our sanctification; we offer it nonetheless. Our offering cannot come without the help of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Jesus instituted the Church for the glory of God and for the edification of the saints, or His people. It would be folly to consider a battle with our sin without the hands of fellow believers. When someone has fought a beast before, he or she becomes a testimony to the victory Christ gives us. Any battle waged against sin in this life becomes easier when you walk with someone who knows the road.
For me, I sought professional help. Some see the word “counseling” and immediately think, “Oh, he must really be nuts.” Perhaps that is the case. However, I strongly recommend every Christian receive counseling at one point or another in his or her walk. That could be from your pastor, or from a professional biblical counseling. The work of organizations like CCEF has greatly increased the quality of biblical counseling, and taken away much of the stigma associated with it.
3. Read the book of Proverbs
In my fight against the beast called Anger, my counselor reminded me of how the world perceives an angry man. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” What is the word concerning angry men? Do not make friends with them. That particular verse hit me hard, and it is easy enough to understand why. I know I do not like being around an angry person. Why would someone want to be around me? As I continued to read the words of Proverbs, they convicted of the fact that a wise man, or at least one who desires to be wise, sets his mind on the things of God, whereas the foolish man feeds his sin and reaps its fruit. More than anything else, my reading of this book that showed me the effects that my sin can have on others, and on myself.
Sinful anger is not the only beast that needs slaying. Whether its deep issues like pride or shame, or more surface level symptoms like substance abuse or pornography addiction, the principles are still the same. Our fight again sin is already decided, but we still much fight, and it is something we do with one another armed with the best possible weapon – the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.