“The Best of the Worst”
Imagine you have this tool that you think is really helpful. It protects you so you’re not a victim. It allows you to speak up and not let people walk all over you. It gives you energy to move mountains like a super hero– it drives you. It may even cause righteous-feeling indignation about all of the wrongs in the world. It can feel like the most justified disposition in this fallen, cruel place we live in. But this tool is a thief. It robs its owner of joy and of the ability to give and receive true love. It produces a lack of self-control that’s a breeding ground for self-hatred and guilt after it’s been unleashed. It’s a constant companion that produces fear of self and a consistent lack of peace as it silently waits to be triggered into action by any number of stimuli large or small. It’s a guide that knows not how to survive in the land of friendship and forgiveness. It thrives on brokenness, lies, and secret isolation while being jealous of the freedom seen in others. It’s the worst kind of tool – one that seems helpful, but is constantly working against you.
I know this because I recently laid down this tool – a long-suffering companion that could never be at peace, satisfied, or rational. It was sustained by pride and selfishness and idealism. And it has robbed me…for years. My anger was rooted in a special kind of victimhood that has disallowed me the humility or openness to learn and pursue my highest calling. Because of my sensitive nature, and the training of other angry persons around me, I picked up this tool along the way in order to protect myself from mockers and those who weren’t good shepherds of my gentle soul. I took on the hurt of their criticisms and disdain instead of walking in trust with my Creator to bring the best of me to fruition in humility and submission to Him alone. I puffed myself up to create an identity of one who was “smart” but who couldn’t be taught. I developed a wit that could defeat personal sarcasm with a single quip to prevent myself from constantly bursting into tears that nobody would understand. I used this tool in active aggression against my husband and my children when my pride, selfishness, or feelings needed to be protected. My friends usually only experienced this anger in passive-aggressive ways to create distance if one of them seemed too happy without me or had the audacity to make another friend. It was ugly. It was impatient. It was unrighteous. It sought its own and rarely allowed me to experience positive emotion to the fullest. Even when I looked like I was expressing concern, connecting, or enjoying others it sat right there at the doorway of my soul sucking up all of the good I was trying to bring in, like a debt collector that’s never paid off. I had given the enemy a huge foothold. Or rather, a playground.
Here are some practical symptoms of having the stronghold of anger. Some I experienced and some others have written about:
-Easily irritated on a daily basis; angst that hangs out in your gut coloring other emotions
-You dread situations or time with kids / people because it will trigger your anger (for me this was crowds and lines and certain people)
-Exasperation with the words or actions of others; disrespect
-Hurtful, sharp words to control or win an argument
-Lack of submission to others / feelings of superiority
-Being outwardly compliant to others but inwardly critical of them
-Subversive gossip about others
-Keeping score; feeling that good behavior for a time justifies spending energy on an outburst
-Frustration at not being heard
-Being jealous of someone or something else instead of being inspired
-You’re difficult to please or constantly dissatisfied (a moving target)
-Escalating quickly into slamming doors / throwing things
-Not diligently fighting for something you want; easily discouraged and blaming
-A path of broken relationships
My husband had obviously known that I was angry – for years. But how can you tell an angry person they’re angry? It’s nearly impossible, especially when they think you’re to blame. Confirmation bias and comfort with anger as a tool makes it very difficult to open someone’s eyes to this reality. Father, as I call God, had to use an unusual, yet crystal clear, method to wake me up. For the last year, my husband and I have been meeting with a core group of fellow Yeshua (Jesus) followers. We’ve spent hours reading the Word and building trust. During a time of crisis in my marriage, I was in a place where my ears and heart were finally open to whatever Father had for me and started to call out and reject the various tools of the enemy that I felt were at work – pride, guilt, and idolatry of other people were the obvious ones. Someone in our group relayed to friends that he saw a spirit of anger at work in me. I knew it was the Spirit who revealed it because it was not observable with human wisdom outside of my immediate family. Knowing that I was going through a cleansing process, my friend mentioned this to me as a means of help. My initial thought was “Wow, I had not thought of that! I’m surely angry with my kids sometimes.” Well, after that seed was planted, Father revealed to me the depth of my attachment to this unrighteousness. This is the most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced. I had to admit that I had given a minion of the enemy control my soul, will, and emotions for years. It wasn’t like I overhead someone talking about being angry – my name was associated with a demonic influence and the entire spiritual realm knew it. Checkmate. But, I saw this as an extreme act of Father’s grace. He called me by name and lovingly and clearly named my sin so that I could be cleansed from it.
“How Low Can You Go”
It didn’t take long for this revelation to literally bring me to my knees. My heart and will needed to bow down in repentance and my physical body had no choice but to follow suit. What rang over and over again in my spirit was this next step:
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
The key to this verse, I found out later, is the verse before it:
“But he gives us more grace. That is why scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
What humility looked like for me was “I can’t do it my way anymore” which was followed by – almost literally – a flood of scriptures of how Father would lead me out of this bondage to anger on a leash, in obedience. For years I was on the same plane as God – “I’ll do Your will my way and then you’ll bless it, m’kay?” But now, it was time for me to decrease that He may increase. I was below, He was above. There was no longer going to be a 2nd option, an opinion, a discussion, or a justification. There was going to be flat out, heart wrenching, pride swallowing, at-all-costs obedience because it was God’s way to do it. Period. There would be no resisting the devil if my will was not perfectly submitted, humble, and in agreement that God’s instructions should be my actions. There was no hug to say, “It’s okay, you’ll do better next time…whatever you think is best.” There was no freedom if I didn’t completely repent of the way I wanted to do something. I knew that radical submission to God in complete obedience was the only way to undo years of flesh patterns that had fostered this cancer of anger. I would take one breath at a time, one thought at a time, and let Father rework all of my emotional system with the scripture He had given me. He was faithful to speak and rewarded my openness to listen. Here’s what He said.
“The Truth Will Set You Free”
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“ John 8: 31-32
Verse 32 has always been one of my favorite verses. The truth! I love it! It’s awesome! Freedom! The key here is, “If you hold to my teaching…” The epicenter of that is trusting that the rules of God’s Kingdom work even if they don’t feel good. Yes, we are to forgive others 70 x 7 times. Yes, are we are to consider others as better than ourselves. Yes, we are to speak truthfully to others in love so that we do not store up the day’s anger. Yes, we are to pray for our enemies and gracefully endure persecutions. If we are not fully submitted to and committed to the Father alone, these things are, by nature, impossible. Hold to His teaching for He is good and just.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
“Walking humbly with your God” just about covers it all. Everything else flows from that submitted relationship. He is above, I am below. His will is life, my way is the garbage heap of death.
What Father says about anger and the first step out.
“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:19-25
Of course, my emphasis is highlighted. Over and over again in my spirit, He said, “Your anger, Wendy, cannot produce my righteousness and is not a benefit to my Kingdom.” Yes, sir. I will be a doer of your Word and be humble. Lead me in Your paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake (Psalm 23:3) and restore my soul. Here are more of the tools he brought to me right away and how they applied to me. Some of these have been mentioned, but I’m adding them in to keep them together.
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” James 1:19
Yes, this is a choice, Wendy. Slowing down to make this choice is what’s important. You can ‘stick a pin in it’ if you will. There is no such thing as an emotional emergency. And, as a friend once told me, “self-control is still a fruit of the spirit.” He thought I had forgotten, evidently. If you don’t have control over self, you are in the flesh and cannot be pleasing to God.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Be careful what you let in and be careful who you give your heart to, Wendy. Diligence is required here. Let Father be your gatekeeper and let Him tell you what’s important and what’s useless noise. Everything either leads to life or death. There’s rarely a middle ground. Like a garden, let nothing bad take root. Forgive and let go.
“Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in all of your ways.” Proverbs 4:26
Due to my selfishness and lack of follow-through, which I owe to bouts of laziness (‘time to myself’) and ‘bright shiny object’ or ‘squirrel’ syndrome, I would let frustrations creep up. Instead of being proactive, I would become reactive. Whose fault was it that I wasn’t prepared to homeschool that day? Or had too much laundry to do? Mine. Be steadfast, Wendy. Make the rules and the schedule and follow through. Stick to them and you will be blessed and have true rest.
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:25
Speak truthfully. Speaking the truth was directly tied to the release of my anger. My voice was minimized at an early age and I developed a constipation of the soul regarding the things I needed to say to be an emotionally healthy individual. My home was not an emotionally safe place to speak or process. I literally burst into tears the first time I heard John Mayer’s tune “Say What You Need to Say” – as an adult. I had some work to do with clearing past hurts and being honest about that at almost 40 years old. And that’s the truth.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
Father kept speaking over and over in my spirit, “Die to self.” That’s not the context of this verse but it points to death of the flesh so that Christ can live in me to produce Father’s righteousness. This also closely relates to Philippians 2 where we are reminded that Christ ‘emptied Himself.’ The point He was making to me was to die to my wants, my desires, my need to react, my justice, my selfishness, my plans. Just die, Wendy. You get no opinion. And whatever I ask you to do next, do it with a smile. A real one.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me – only he is worthy of me.” Luke 9:23
“But whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” Proverbs 19: 11
At this point, I’m not quite ‘slow’ to anger. I’m more like ‘desperately submitted to God so I don’t get angry.’ I’m still dying to self, but this is good to remember. You can choose how you feel.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Did you know that if you speak gently, it automatically tames your own wrath? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Choose your tone and your heart will follow.
“Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9
Ouch. Fools with a capital F. The opposite of wise. The epitome of useless. It’s a choice, Wendy. Slow down. Choose wisely.
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3: 8-9
I’ve been insulted a few times since I was humbled. When you serve the King, these insults are meaningless. Confuse others by being genuinely kind and unbound to their opinion. It’s freeing to you and a blessing to them. The Old Testament quote in this passage is amazing. “He must seek peace and pursue it.” Action verb. Go read the whole chapter.
“Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15
Taking ownership of things that aren’t really yours, Wendy, will lead to your anger and frustration. Put down your weapons and your angst. This battle is not yours, but mine. I am with you and I’m going to take care of this in a way you can’t. Walk by faith, not by sight. It’s okay if you’re weak. My strength is demonstrated in your weakness when you are depending on me. (Seriously, “drop your weapons and praise Me” was heard frequently in my spirit.)
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forwarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:19-24
So, sometimes we just need to be honest about what’s going on inside. Jesus said that we could know people by their fruit, and here we have the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit clearly listed. Whatever your theology or doctrine, it clearly states here that there is a Kingdom to be inherited – alongside a list of those who will not inherit it. Up until a few months ago, I thought I was doing okay. That’s humbling. The flesh tree cannot produce spirit fruit. Be honest with yourself.
“For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10
The context of this verse is Paul’s justification of himself, being a warrior of the kingdom. It’s not necessarily a mandate of the personal believer, but it’s a very effective visual tool. Along with the guarding of one’s heart, the mind does benefit from a gatekeeper that checks thoughts at the door. I’ve had retrain myself how to think by taking these thoughts captive. The flesh likes to dwell on the negative. The spirit will allow you to see your thoughts in light of God’s word and make them obedient to the truth.
“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
The context of this verse is amazing. All I’ll say is that Father brought this truth to mind in my spirit so many times, mostly to help prepare me for the unexpected. There is nothing I will face today that will too big of a trigger, too big of a mess, too big of a loss, too big of a surprise. This has helped my spiritual posture. I’m not longer on defense all the time. Whatever it is, it will be okay, Wendy.
“It’s better to live in a dessert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” Proverbs 21:19
The tricky thing about seeing this in yourself is that the enemy will tell you it’s everyone else’s fault you are this way. My husband can tell you all about living with my angry, hurt self and I will invite him to do that. Granted, he is not perfect and there are triggers there that can cause righteous anger, but it’s my spiritual responsibility to take them to Father or speak truthfully to my husband about them as I would an earthly father (1 Timothy 5:1, borrowed out of context). If I am to be wise, I look for other outlets for my indignation other than an angry response. Also, the first part of 1 Peter 3 offers women a mandate of humble and sincere service to their husbands as unto the Lord, even if they are disobedient.
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1
Clearly, here is the difference. Just like Galatians 5 was a huge, no-nonsense list, this verse draws a line in the sand for us. As women, we are either building up our home or tearing it down. While we can’t control how husbands and children react or what they’re feeling, we are either helping or hurting.
In summary, here are the tools from the Word I was given to use that have been repeated over and over again in my spirit:
- Speak truthfully.
- Die to self.
- Be steadfast.
- Put down your weapons.
- My grace is sufficient for you.
- Man’s anger cannot produce My righteousness.
- Choose life.
“What Should I Do”
If you find yourself in this situation, here’s what I recommend as covered in the scriptures:
1. Admit and agree with the Father that you have this sin problem. Call it what it is. Pray about clarity if necessary or ask others in humility if this is what they see in you. If you’re afraid to ask, the answer is probably yes. You’ll probably have to admit that you’ve been in the wrong for some lengthy amount of time. Hard, yes. But you’ll be free after you do it.
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6
2. I’ll be honest. I was not at home when I had this cleansing. I was off in the wilderness and I had time and space to think, pray, and be retrained. I highly recommend pursuing a quiet space for as long as you need it. It’s a good investment.
3. Agree with and obey the scriptures. Father gave me the word “amanah” which is Hebrew for ‘faith.’ It’s most important meaning to me is coming into ‘agreement’ with the Father. It’s simply to agree and act on what you’ve agreed to in faith. Father may give you additional steps or revelation in this phase. Agree and be obedient to it. Having a journal during this phase is invaluable. It will help keep your head and heart clear and help bring to remembrance those things that were clearly revealed.
4. Start right away. After I had agreed with the Father that my anger was sin and wanted to be free of it, I had to immediately put my obedience into practice. That first began with my children. I slowed down, took every thought captive. Kept my mouth shut until I could respond correctly. One of the first days, my flesh was triggered by some rather innocent actions of my children. I had to step away for 20 minutes to go back and humble myself and relearn my obedience and agree how to move forward. I remember bursting into tears after asking the garbage man for permission to dump trash. It was the first time I’d ever really been truly humble and I was thankful for the freedom to do that. It’s been a daily process since.
5. Apologize to who you need to apologize to. For me, this was my children and my husband. My children were immediately different in their disposition. After living with an angry me for 9 years, my husband and I are still rebuilding trust. Keep taking responsibility and apologizing when you fail.
6. Take it slow and walk intentionally. At first, I had to learn to walk out the truth with family members. That sometimes took minute-by-minute humility and prayer. Slowly, I began to reintroduce various situations that had their own unique triggers and conquering them in humility. This included friendships, our homeschool tutorial, small group, social events, going to the store, etc. It may sound like overkill but my issue was deeply rooted and affected every area of my life. One of the biggest victories was going to the Knoxville Zoo with 10,000 people in one day. I thoroughly enjoyed the day with my kids and the crowds that would’ve normally been a huge trigger for acting out of my frustration. When you are humble enough you can survive anything, one step at a time.
7. Continue to create ‘spiritual muscle memory.’ As you walk you will retrain yourself how to act in the spirit. Pursue that. Continue to speak truthfully, clarify what you don’t understand, ask questions in humility.
8. Remember who the real enemy is. People are not necessarily your enemies although they can be used as such. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
9. FAST. I had to fast twice a week in the beginning to kill this pattern in the flesh alongside of the wisdom Father gave me in His Word. Fasting is a shortcut to being more spiritually in tune while killing the flesh off. I would not be where I am today without that discipline. Every time I begin to struggle or need clarity, I fast within a day or two. All scripture fasting rules apply. 🙂 Don’t do it as the Pharisees do. Do it quietly as unto the Lord for His purposes.
10. Watch your sugar and caffeine intake. Father made it very clear to me that adding those things to my flesh would help the enemy get that stronghold back. Be careful little mouths what you eat.
Some of what’s happened in my life since then:
- The ability to say I’m wrong without disclaimers.
- Clean lips – a natural byproduct was the automatic release of using curse words.
- Real intimacy with others, including my husband.
- The ability to receive and give authentic love.
- The gift of seeing the souls of others clearly.
- Emotional independence & peace. I can be happy regardless of what others feel and say things because they’re from me and not to please my audience.
- Release of others’ actions and expectations. Realism, not idealism, and loving anyway.
- Release of idolatry – not bound by what others think and how they interpret my actions.
- More tolerant of things that used to annoy me.
- More patient with things not in my control.
- Steadfast with chores and ahead of schooling. I prioritize better.
- More on the same page with my husband as far as our calling together is concerned.
- Truly letting Father be my husband. He’s the boss.
- My daughter, specifically, has been released from her own root of anger and is slowly coming more of what Father intended her to be.
- A clearer conscience. Less reactive.
“What to Expect Going Forward”
After you are cleansed and walk in obedience, there are a few things that will happen. I feel responsibility to tell you these things to keep it real.
1. In Matthew 12:43 and following, Jesus tells us that unclean things like to return to their home – but not alone. They like to bring company. “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and that last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” This is no joke. When you become cleansed, do not be fearful, but be diligent to prevent any other kind of disobedience and stay humble in Father’s Word. Be sober as there’s one seeking to destroy you and that person doesn’t want you to be free. Unclean things cannot inhabit cleansed and clean people without their permission.
2. You will be tested. “Consider it all joy, brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
There have been several occasions where I felt I was being tested. On one of those occasions, I literally had to isolate myself at someone else’s house, call a friend to read scripture over me, and pray in humility to agree with Father, once again. In that particular setting, there were multiple triggers that happened in a short amount of time. In prayer, Father gave me acts of obedience that would counteract the thoughts that were put in my head. Obedience wins every time! “Blessed is the (wo)man that perseveres under trial.”
3. Father may continue to allow this thorn in your flesh to humble you, to keep you close to Himself. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his ‘thorn in the flesh’ which Father used for just that purpose – to keep him humble and walking with the Father. There is no graduation diploma from Anger University or any other spiritual university for that matter. Father wants a people that are holy and humble, not a comfortable people.
4. Be prepared to be used. Only people who are willing to be cleansed and sanctified in this way can be used fully. There’s a great adventure on the other side of this. Moses came to mind yesterday. Moses didn’t have the answers but He knew who to ask. Father doesn’t need geniuses or perfect people. He needs people that depend on Him. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.” James 1:5
The catch is you have to ask in faith. BUT, the cool part is Father isn’t going to make you feel silly for asking. He doesn’t beat you up then give you the answer. We see this over and over again in the life of Moses. Your island days are over.
5. Being around other angry people might be an especially hard hurdle at first. Within a day of finally submitting to the Father, I had an encounter with someone that I knew to be under the influence of anger. I could feel it coming off of her and was tempted to meet her where she was. Your predisposed weaknesses WANT to hang with you. They love you and the control of you. It will likely always be somewhat of a natural connection to your flesh, like a puzzle piece that’s lost its home. Submit to God, resist the puzzle piece reconnecting with you.
“Fathers Last Good Word” – Ephesians 6
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.”