We human beings, in our ambitious ways, like to be in control. We even like to think we are in control. We want things to go according to our plans, all designed on our terms. The popular song says it all, in reflecting the common sentiment of our selfishly willful hearts: "I did it My Way." When events and other people do not cooperate with our desires, the common response is selfish anger. This response can severely interfere with our relating properly to God in love and trust. In our anger toward the world, on a deeper level, we are angry with the God who would allow our desires not to be fulfilled on our selfish terms. In order to enter into loving friendship with God, I must learn to relate to Him and others on God terms of unselfish love. I cannot do this if I am fuming, either privately or publically, about not getting my own way. I then stand in opposition to God's way of unselfish love and thus to God Himself.

We use selfish anger to gain or to maintain apparent control in our lives. Such anger takes many forms, but it always reflects an underlying attitude of blaming and condemnation when things do not work out as we had wanted. Sometimes it takes the form of violent outbursts in speech and action. Even so, selfish anger can sometimes be passive, and express itself through unspoken resentments, condemnations, sarcastic thoughts, and attempts to shame others. Selfish anger can be shrouded in secrecy; it can hide and deceive.

Selfish anger is often at the root of our unforgiving attitudes toward others, as we cling to self-righteousness. Such anger emerges when our sense of controlling life on our terms is threatened. It is thus a valuable indicator of what we may be holding on to as idols. If I become angry because certain circumstances and people don't conform to my desires, I am likely looking to these circumstances and people to satisfy my deepest needs. They have then become idols that hinder my looking to God as the ultimate source of true satisfaction.

Contrary to some popular wisdom, some anger is good and loving. We should get angry in response to real injustice and wrongdoing around us. Anger that seeks to correct someone in love is an appropriate and caring response when someone harms others and fails to obey God (see Matt 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:14-16). Unlike selfish anger, corrective anger is loving and does not seek to harm, intimidate, or selfishly control others. Corrective anger seeks our best interest by bringing to our attention the harm we have done — to others, to ourselves, to God — and by expressing the urgent need for correction. The person who knows no corrective anger does not know love. Such a person does not know God either.

Freedom from the bonds of selfish anger requires something of me: I must be willing to give up my selfish desire to control things on my terms in order to love and to trust God on His terms. My ways of selfish anger and willfulness will inevitably fail, leading only to more anger, more dissatisfaction, and more bitterness. This cycle is unavoidable as long as I am living on my selfish terms. The willful desire for selfish control is thus a great burden. It keeps me enslaved by my own chains, striving for things that do not satisfy. In contrast, God's ways of unselfish love never fail, as the cross and resurrection of Jesus show. God's offer of loving friendship, extended by Jesus, seeks to free us fromthe burden of selfish willfulness that leads to selfish anger. I have no need of selfish anger about not getting my way when I trust that God will provide me with what I truly need. The Lord thus makes selfish anger pointless.


It's very simple.
I need help.
I am:

I need help.
I cannot give it.
Only One can.
Jesus is his name.

What's my problem?
When I am fearful,
You bring peace.
When I am weary,
You bring rest.
When I am angry,
You bring mercy.

I do not know why
You love me so.
And I do not need to know.
This brings peace too.
I can rest in the wonder
of the Joy You bring
in You,
just because
You love me.
And You are You,
not me.