I slammed the door so hard, it quivered in its frame. It was Memorial Day, and all I wanted was to sleep in, but noooo. My parents had decided it was a get-up-early-and-work day. And now my mom had just reminded me for the 116th time that I couldn’t leave until my room was clean.
I began storming around my room—throwing clothes in the hamper and growling my complaints loud enough for the neighbors to hear. I was mad, and I wanted everyone to know it! That is, until my dad walked in.
He interrupted my rant by calmly telling me that my plans for the day were officially cancelled. I was grounded.
What?! I couldn’t believe this! I was planning to ride up to our church’s camp for the day with my friend and her family. They would be arriving any minute!
Scrambling, I tried to muster up something penitent. “Dad, I’m sorry. I’ll clean my room, Okay? Just please let me go!”
Moments later, a car pulled into our driveway. I was mortified! What would I say to my friend and her parents? My dad said he would talk to them.
I watched from my bedroom window as he calmly made his way to the car and spoke briefly with my friend’s parents. Then the car backed out of our driveway and drove away.
I was humiliated! And furious.
The Anger Habit
I don’t remember anything else from that day, but I do remember that my angry outbursts were quite common. I would explode, say hateful things, and storm off, punctuating my anger with a quivering door. (It’s a wonder that door stayed on its hinges.)
I wish I could tell you that eventually I grew out of my anger, that my angry outbursts are all distant memories from decades past. But my husband and kids would tell you otherwise. Sinful anger has been a lifelong battle for me—even as a committed Christian.
I wasn’t able to begin having victory until I discovered something new about my anger.
Galatians 5:22–23 says,“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Like fruit that grows out of a tree, these behaviors and characteristics grow out of a person who is led by the Spirit of God. She has put God in control, and it shows.
But Galatians 5:19–20 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (bold emphasis added).
Like fruit that grows out of a tree, these are the behaviors which grow out of a person who is not led by the Spirit. She has put herself in control, and it shows.
Notice especially that word evident: “The works of the flesh are evident.”
My fits of anger (among other things) make it obvious and apparent that I am caving in to my flesh. My slamming doors and angry yelling are like easy-to-spot, brightly colored fruit, which give evidence that I’m taking control, not giving control to God. When I’m storming around, expressing displeasure, rather than humbly serving God, I act as if I am God.
When Angry-Fruit Grows Back
I always knew my anger was sinful. I just didn’t know it was the fruit of something more deeply sinful.
I was trying to get rid of my “angry-fruit” by counting to ten, asking friends to hold me accountable, and memorizing verses. But it was like picking fruit that immediately grew back. How frustrating and disheartening! I wondered if I’d ever be free of this ugly fruit.
Then one day, I was driving in my car and listening to a Christian author, Dee Brestin, on the radio. She was talking about easy-to-spot sins which are fed by a “sin-beneath-the-sin.” One of these deeper, core sins that she mentioned was control.
That’s it! I thought. My anger, which was easy for me and everyone else to see, was being fed by something I hadn’t thought much about: a sinful desire for the control which only belongs to God.
Making this connection between my angry-fruit and my root-sin of control was pivotal. It prompted a new habit. When I felt a surge of anger rising, I began tracing it back to its root by asking myself, “Shannon, are you trying to control something?” Or, “Is there something you feel like you’re losing control of?”
More often than not, the answer was yes. I was trying to control it all and make everything turn out right. And I was getting angry when things didn’t go the way I wanted or thought they should. It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t just an angry girl. I was an angry Control Girl.
The truth is, I’m not in control. God is. He is the Creator. He deserves to be on the throne of the universe, not me.
Who’s Really in Control?
If you have lots of easy-to-spot angry-fruit in your life, could your anger be stemming from a deeper craving you have for control?
Anger stamps its foot and says, “I should have things my way.”
Anger raises its voice and says, “You should do what I want.”
Anger clamps down and demands, “I should be the one who is in control.”
Yet angry-fruit has a bad aftertaste. It leaves behind tension, frustration, and heartache.
Can you relate? Are you tired, burdened, and saddened by what your anger is doing to your relationships with parents, siblings, and friends? If so, I have good news: You don’t have to be an angry Control Girl. You can be a Jesus Girl, instead. You can willingly surrender control to God rather than demanding and insisting on your way.
Suppose your parents say, “You can’t go to that party.” Or a mean girl says, “You know your shirt is ugly, right?” Or your sister says, “I can wear your shoes if I want to!” A Control Girl would lash out in anger. But a Jesus Girl says, “God, I surrender even this to You.”
Surrender like this isn’t easy! It’s uphill and gritty, but it’s what transforms us from angry Control Girls to beautiful Jesus Girls.
Surrender says, “God will have things His way.”
Surrender proclaims, “I will do what God wants.”
Surrender insists, “God is the one who is in control.”
But by tearing out this root sin of control, we can have victory with our anger as well! It’s like ripping up the root and watching the fruit shrivel. When we give God control, we invite the Spirit to produce love, joy, and peace (His fruit) in our lives.
What about you?
- Is there angry fruit growing in your life?
- As you think about what makes you angry most often, what might you be trying to control?
Tell me about it in the comments below.