Anger always hurts the child who’s angry, but today’s list of angry outbursts seeks to hurt others as well. Join AMBrewster as he dissects sinful anger and equips Christian parents to better understand their children in order to better help them.
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All of our angry children are functioning from a root of sinful thinking that has likely exhibited itself in irrational explosions of temper. Some of those kids internalize that anger; they think about it and smolder. That internalization gives way to even more passionate explosions as well as general aggravation and annoyance.
But some kids go far beyond that, and it’s those children we want to discuss today.
But, before we do that, I’d like to thank Matt and Sonja for making today’s episode possible. I also want to get them on the show some time soon. Their testimony is a powerful example of God’s sanctifying work in His people. I know you would all be blessed by it, and whether you knew it or not, they’ve already blessed you by being a Patron of this show.
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Alright, let’s discuss three more forms angry children take.
By way of review, so far we’ve discussed the root of anger and three variations on angry responses.
The root of anger is a worldview that is detached from God’s reality and is characterized by sinful thinking and self worship.
This type of heart won’t interpret life correctly, so when conflict and discomfort arise in their lives, all they can do is respond in a way that is contrary to God — this is what the Lord calls bitterness.
Now, I want to clarify just so that no one is confused. Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying that every person with an anger issue is unsaved. That’s ridiculous.
What I am saying is that whether or not the individual is born again, all sinful choices grow from disbelief in God’s sovereign plan. We don’t believe that we need to be patient and kind and content and joyful; we don’t believe that God’s way is best, so we make our own reality. That is the bitterness, the wickedness that is at the root of all sin. It’s fleshly thinking.
When functioning in this way, some people like to run in fear from discomfort, but some like to fight it. This is why we experience wrath from our kids. Wrath is that emotional outburst.
But sometimes that anger becomes more deliberate and thoughtful. The Bible refers to this simply as anger. It’s characterized by seething annoyance and aggravation spurred by discontent concerning the present situation.
But then the Bible lists three more manifestations of sinful anger. So, let’s pick up our discussion with. . . .
The Greek word used here shows up six times in the new testament, and most of the time it’s translated “cry," “cries,” or “crying.” It refers to a shouting or yelling or calling, a tumultuous outcry. And — interestingly enough — most of the uses refer to something positive. For example, Luke 1:42 tells us Elizabeth’s response when the pregnant Mary approaches her house, “And she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
But when this word is used to describe an angry attack, it takes on a whole different feel.
What’s so amazing about the list Paul provides us in one short verse is that its order is so informative. The list starts with the internal root of anger and spirals outward in aggression and intention.
And if you’re tempted to think that anger should have been listed before wrath, I’d disagree. Sinful wrath may be loud, but it’s the result of an emotional, brainless response. Anger is far more aggressive and purposeful than wrath because of the intentional brooding and planning that makes it what it is.
Now, clamor is very similar to wrath in its intensity and volume, but it differs in that it’s the intentional reaction of the angry. Remember, everything later in the list grows out of the previous manifestations of anger.
You’re not going to have clamor where you don’t have anger. You’re not going to have anger where you didn’t previously experience wrath, and none of those will appear outside of a bitter heart.
Acts 23:6-10 shows clamor in action: “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.”
This outbreak was not the result a mere raw emotion. These people didn’t instinctually retort because their toes were stepped on. The Pharisees and Sadducees had a longstanding theological disagreement. No doubt may an argument had erupted over this very topic many, many times before.
Do you have a clamorous child?
At one point in their life, they were easy to set off, but their emotions could be reigned in almost as easily as they shot out. But then the nagging angst set in, the discontentment with a situation or family member or life in general. And then they increasingly became more verbal. Their outbreaks were more predictable and rehearsed.
You have a clamorous child.
And I want to help each of us with our kids regardless of what stage they are. We’re going to take more than one episode to carefully walk through how to meet our kids where they are, understand their addiction to anger, and help teach, reprove, counsel, and train them to mirror Christ in their reactions.
For now, though, just use this time to identify your child’s struggle. This is triage, and you need to make a prognosis.
Okay, let’s move to . . .
It’s important for us to truly understand each of these manifestations. We need to understand from where they came and how they’re utilized. If not, we have a list of words with no ability to address them.
So, let’s talk a little about slander by working back through our list again.
Bitterness is a self-worshipping lifestyle. A bitter person cares only about their own perceived comfort. If someone treads on that comfort, those prone to fight over running away will react like cobra. They rear up with their hood raised and fangs bared, but the moment the threat backs away and the snake feels safe, it returns to its sunning.
The wrathful individual isn’t looking to destroy anyone, they’re simply protecting themselves in the best way they know how. It’s wrong. It’s sin. But its use is preservation, not destruction.
However, you tread on their comfort enough times, and that once instinctual preservation tactic turns inward and the individual becomes conscious of perceived wrongs and the imagined motives behind them. Like a hangman’s judge, jury, and executioner on the hunt for someone to blame, this person fabricates a complex array of real and imagined grievances that fuel their inner turmoil and burning anger.
Clamor is the natural response. Turn the heat up enough on a pressure cooker and you will have an explosion. But clamor is still a more defensive tactic than offensive. This is the individual who will argue his case in order to prove the injustice on which he’s been dwelling for weeks. But if the perceived source of the clamorous individual would simply apologize or change, they could probably talk themselves down off the ledge and potentially live in harmony as long as the perceived irritant didn’t cross the line.
But slander moves up to a whole new level. The purpose of slander is not defend. It’s not a block or a parry designed to deflect discomfort. No, it’s an all-out attack used by the attacker to wound the perceived source of their discomfort.
This Greek word is used 19 times in the New Testament. The vast majority of them are translated “blasphemy.” Jesus uses this word in only one context in the whole of His recorded teaching. Matthew 12:30-32 gives us the best understanding. He says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Blasphemy is a deliberate lie that seeks to tear down the target of its rage. Slander is the exact same thing, only not against God. It’s a premeditated and high-handed misrepresentation in order to discredit and turn others against the perceived source of trouble.
If you have a slanderous child, a child who lies about the person they hate and tears them down to their friends, authorities, or even strangers, you have a child who has crossed a line in their anger. Yes, they’re still sinful, seething, brawlers, but now they’ve moved from wanting to protect themselves to wanting to tear down the other person.
All of these manifestations are heart revealers. They’re telling you who your child is. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to convince yourself that your son isn’t that bad, he just has a short fuse. Don’t try to assuage your fear that your catty, gossiping daughter is simply acting like all the other girls her age.
We need to be honest with the sin before we can ever hope to really deal with it. Otherwise, we’ll be putting bandaids on cancer patients.
Now, my next comment is not to point a finger and place the blame for your child’s heart on you. That’s not it at all. Our kids are responsible for their choices. But, I have seen too many situations where passive or self-deceived parents stood back consoling themselves that the situation wasn’t really that bad and — because they stepped aside — the child’s anger was completely unchecked.
It is so much easier dealing with a wrathful child than a slanderous child. And it’s so much more productive to be able to address the bitter heart right from the beginning than having to work backward through the levels of slander and clamor and anger and wrath.
Let’s be honest with the situation.
And that leads us to . . .
Given the King James translation of this verse, I’ve heard many a message that treats malice as a good thing. The KJV reads, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” It sounds to the ear and could easily be read by the eye that malice is describing how seriously we need to put these sinful things away from us. Do it with all malice.
But the NASB and ESV add an important word that clarifies the understanding. They both read, “along with all malice.”
Malice is just another stage of anger. In fact, it’s the highest level.
When I look out into the word and I see the actions of terrorist groups like Jihadists and ANTIFA or the vitriolic and violent spewing on social media by both sides of the political divide, I see a nation populated by malicious people.
This word is uniquely potent in that it communicates a desire to more deeply injure the target of the anger. Maliciousness is not ashamed to break the law, and the Greek word is often simply translated “evil” and once as “rampant wickedness.” It denotes a significant depth of depravity that would be comfortable to engage in extreme forms of retribution.
These are the people who justify punching journalists and throwing cups filled with concrete at passersby. These are the people who tweet that they wish someone who stab so-in-so in the heart.
The first outworking of malice was perpetrated by none other than Cain. Let’s step through his progression.
In Genesis 4, Cain offers God an unacceptable sacrifice. His darkened, vain heart convinced him that giving God something other than what He wanted was acceptable. Cain then becomes wrathful when the Lord dismisses his offering. Sure, he didn’t verbally lash out at God, but the Bible says, “So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?”
The Hebrew word translated angry both times refers to a hot, furious, burning, incensed, wrathful type of response.
Now, the following verses don’t explain what happened next or how much time went by, but I think it’s clear given what we’ve learned. Cain had a lot to think about. He likely mulled over his own explanation as to why God accepted Able’s sacrifice and not his. He angrily justified in his own mind that Able was the problem.
Verse 8 tells us that “Cain spoke to Abel his brother.” We don’t know the content of the conversation, but it might be safe to assume that it even included some clamorous speech. Who knows, would anyone us be surprised to hear that Cain complained to his siblings or his parents about goody-two-shoes Able?
There it is: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander, culminating in verse 8, “And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”
God forbid that any of our children allow their anger to drive them that far, but I have a feeling that they’re already there in one way or another.
Has your child sought out to punish someone. Perhaps an older sibling regularly provokes a younger one, and there is often wrath and clamor and even slander as the younger sibling tries to gain his parents or siblings to their cause.
But has that child later stolen something from the older sibling? Do you have a child who vandalized another student’s locker because of what that student had done or said or who they were? Has your child tried to hurt someone, maybe not physically, but emotionally or inadvertently by breaking something of theirs?
That’s a malicious child.
I really hate ending episodes like this.
It’s like opening up a patient on the operating table, seeing the gore, and infection, the tumor, and then just walking away. Without an intervention, there’s no hope for change.
But we couldn’t take the time to deal with the change today. Today was all about diagnosis.
So, you need to ask yourself this: into which category do your children fall?
If you have a child who defaults to fear, we can talk about them in a later series. But, do be careful . . . fear is extremely fertile soil for anger. Living in fear is taxing, and many times people will start lashing out in order to avoid having to be afraid all the time.
But, for now, let’s focus on the children with anger problems.
1. Is your child bitter? If they’re unsaved, the answer is yes. If they’re born again but immature, the answer is sometimes, when they’re believing and desiring and acting sinfully. That’s true for all of us.
So, everyone listening today is going to have to equip themselves to know how to parent a bitter child because our sin nature is constantly tempting us to live in a wicked, self-worshipping delusion.
2. Is your child wrathful? When their feelings are hurt or their toes tread upon or their freedoms limited or their rights denied, do they lash out in emotional tirades?
Since even pre-toddlers respond that way, we all likely need to know how to work through a wrathful response.
3. Is your child angry? Are they regularly annoyed or unceasingly agitated — maybe with life in general, but maybe it’s specific to an event or person? Perhaps you don’t see it all the time, but you do see it all the time that other person is around or when a certain topic of discussion is broached.
How are we going to deal with a child who seems to have a chip on their shoulder, who won’t talk to us about their struggles, who seems to enjoy being upset?
4. Is your child clamorous? Do their emotional explosions now grow from their perceived injustices? Are they more reasoned and thoughtful? Do they have a more difficult time returning to equilibrium after a fight? Will they hold a grudge until the other person admits wrong?
How can we quiet them enough to help them see reality?
5. Is your child slanderous? Have they turned down the volume but cranked up the manipulation and deception? Do they gossip online? Do they complain about people and teachers or about you in such a way that they’re not trying to solve a problem, but create one?
How do we address such a vindictive attitude?
And 6. Is your child malicious? Do they take joy in causing others pain? Slander is a breath away from malice. Slander does seek to hurt the other’s reputation, and sometimes slander doesn’t mind being found out. They want the other person to hurt as much as they do.
Malice is a tiny step from that where thoughts of harm to property or persons is at least contemplated, if not actually planned and accomplished.
How on earth is a parent to teach and reprove and counsel and train such a child?
Well, answering those questions is the goal of our next few episodes. I hope you’ll join us, and I hope you’ll invite other families along for the ride. We need to build our parenting community. I’m just a guy with a platform, but you need real people who are really part of your life who can give you some real feet-on-the-ground support as you deal with your angry child.
So, let me end with this. There is hope. Ephesians 4:32 comes right after Ephesians 4:31 and flows in such an unexpected way because we serve an amazing God Who is in the business of changing lives.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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