With the light from a candle, you can walk in the dark, but let that tiny flicker touch your curtains, and your house could be up in flames before the firetruck arrives. Grownups tell kids not to play with matches, because they know the danger, so I wonder why people sometimes play with something that’s sure to burn up their house.

Anger is a fire that will destroy our lives from the inside out. Somehow we miss seeing the danger. Or we don’t know how to do anything about it. We don’t like seeing anger in others, but we justify it in ourselves. I couldn’t do that. Why? My anger was so bad, I had no doubt I would destroy my life and those I loved with me. I had to put out the fires.

It wasn’t the action that concerned me as much as the feeling inside. People’s faces turn red with anger, a sign of rage burning within, so intense that they want to kill. That’s a breath away from the temporary insanity that I feared—a complete loss of control.

I’ve talked to psychiatrists who say anger is okay. It’s normal and unavoidable. Everybody has it. We just need to keep it under control. Christians justify their emotion by saying Jesus was angry when he threw the moneychangers out of the Temple. But there was a difference. Jesus acted upon the direction of the Holy Spirit, never in retaliation because someone had slapped him on the cheek.

People quote Paul’s advice to the Ephesians as “be angry, and sin not.” That’s a bad interpretation. Actually, he is saying that when we get angry, we should get rid of that feeling of vengeance as soon as possible. The fire of the Holy Spirit brings warming comfort and peace, because we can love our enemies, not retaliate.

I couldn’t just “not be angry.” Too late for that. I already was. I had to eliminate the cause. What could I do? I looked at every spark that ignited my anger. In each case, damage was done. No exception. I prayed a lot, but that wasn’t a magic way to lose the anger. One at a time, I recognized each cause, admitted my lack of love, and extinguished the flame before it could grow.

After three years, hardly any flames were left. Then there were none. For the last thirty years, I’ve not had a feeling of anger or resentment. I can be hurt, but God’s gift of love working within won’t allow even the possibility of being angry.

You don’t have to play with the matches of anger. You can snuff them out.

Constraining your anger makes you stronger than a bodybuilder, and controlling how you feel is a greater victory than conquering a city. — Proverbs 16:32, The Discussion Bible