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  • Shawn Thornton

The Danger of Misplaced Anger

Sunday - July 5th Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: Genesis 4:1-12

Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 5:1-12

An angry person stirs up conflict,

and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

Proverbs 27:3


The first children born to Adam and Eve were two sons - Cain and Abel. According to Genesis chapter four, Cain was a farmer of crops and Abel raised livestock. Both brothers brought a sacrifice to the Lord. The Lord accepted Abel's sacrifice, but Cain's was not accepted. Abel had brought the best of his flocks, which fulfilled God's instructions. Cain failed to meet the Lord's expectations as he brought the best of his crops - rather than the Lord's requirement of an animal sacrifice. The Lord made clear to Cain that He had not obeyed the Lord's instructions. "Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast" (Genesis 4:5).

After the Lord rebuked Cain for his attitude, Cain invited Abel to meet him in a field. While they were there, Cain attacked and killed Abel. Cain's anger at God mingled with his jealousy toward Abel lead him to the horrific act of murdering his own brother in cold blood. Cain's anger was misplaced. Some psychologists reference this kind of anger as "displaced aggression." If there ever was a case of displaced aggression, it is found in Cain and Abel's story. Throughout human history, men and women have unleashed their fury on someone other than the one who was the source of the anger.

Many of us have jobs or other responsibilities that give no space for anger. Teachers, counselors, nurses, pastors, and others would lose their jobs if they expressed their rage with their students, clients, patients, or parishioners. These and other professions are supposed to be the epitome of calm, cool, and collected. No one wants an angry nurse giving them a shot. A rage-filled teacher won't last long in the classroom. What happens to the anger in our hearts when we cannot naturally and appropriately address it in the setting where it developed? It shows up somewhere else. It hurts someone we love.

Unfortunately, many spouses of pastors tell stories of unprovoked and unreasonable rage being unleashed at home. A pastor may get frustrated with someone or something in the office, but they know it would hurt their ministry to let it out. Instead, they unintentionally overreact at home in a moment when something frustrates them. The response exhibited is way beyond a reasonable response to the source of irritation. When this happens, the spouse or child who becomes the object of the uncontrollable and unreasonable outburst correlates the hurtful anger with the ministry, the church, Christianity, and even Christ Himself. Misplaced anger has a hefty price tag in the homes of people in ministry.

While the illustration of a pastor having an outburst of anger carried home provides a clear example of the problem, this kind of displaced aggression can happen with anyone. Perhaps you know of frustrations and irritations in your life that get bottled up and are inappropriately released in rage at home.

The first step toward finding help is to acknowledge misplaced anger for what it is. Then, apologize to your family or friends who felt the pain of your inappropriate tirade. Finally, you need to seek ways to address your frustrations and anger at work or wherever the rage first emerged in your heart. You may need to reach out to a colleague or friend for help. If you recognize a deep-rooted pattern of misplaced anger, you may need to speak to a pastor or counselor.

Misplaced anger deeply wounds those we love and places long-term and damaging strains on our most important relationships. Ask God to guide you through the healing and restoration needed in relationships that may have already been wounded.

Misplaced anger can destroy us and others if we let it do so!

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