Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem by Robert Jones
When I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is this a book for people who struggle with controlling their anger? Is this a book for people who experience anger and desire a better understanding of how to manage their emotions? Or, is this book for folks who have someone in their life who struggles with anger issues and they are looking for help? To my delight, the answer is all of the above. No one who walks upon this planet escapes feeling anger; thus, Jones’s Uprooting Anger will benefit anyone currently sojourning on planet Earth.
Practical and Helpful Definition of Anger
As Dr. Jones states in his first chapter, most people would have an easier time describing anger than defining it (p. 14). I have also found this to be true. His definition itself can be a tool in evaluating anger. Is my anger righteous? Am I responding sinfully? Is there really something wrong here or I am only perceiving an evil. Here is Jones’s definition:
“Our Anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil” (p. 15).
Most people I talk with think of anger as an emotional response only, not a whole-personed response. Not so, says Jones:
“Anger in Scripture conveys emotion, spanning the spectrum from red-hot rage to icy-blue rejection. But it always involves beliefs and motives, perceptions and desires. And the Bible describes it in behavioral terms that are rich and graphic” (p.15).
Each component of Jones’s definition is helpful for responding in Christlikeness.
Rooted in Scripture
Uprooting Anger is refreshingly biblically-based and theologically-insightful. When I think of righteous anger, or ask my seminary students to recall a biblical example of righteous anger, the common example cited is Jesus turning over tables and clearing the temple (Mt. 21:12-13).
However, as one might expect, the Old Testament has several examples of God’s indignation against evil. After citing the results of his word study, Jones states, “When we add the rest of the Old and New Testament vocabulary, we discover several hundred references to God’s anger in the Bible. In one sense, God is both the most loving and the most angry person on our planet” (p. 18). That was a sobering surprise to me. However, God’s anger always flows from His justice and righteousness.
Is Your Anger Righteous?
Christians, often citing Jesus as their example, exclaim that their anger is righteous. Dr. Jones dedicates an entire chapter answering, “Is your anger really righteous.” He offers three criteria for righteous anger.
· Righteous Anger Reacts against Actual Sin
· Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights and Concerns
· Righteous Anger is Accompanied by Other Godly Qualities and Expresses Itself in Godly Ways
This practical and biblical criterion has proven itself helpful to me personally in evaluating my own anger as well as using it in my counseling ministry. Jones finishes chapter two by supporting the criteria with three instances in the life of Christ, and then with examples from Saul and Jonathan.
The Heart of Anger
Chapter three is a thorough examination of James 4 dealing with the real cause of anger: the heart. “First, anger arises from our entrenched desires and pleasures that ‘battle’ within us” (p. 50). Desire is not the problem; it is what we do with our desire, especially our unmet desires—they can produce anger (p. 50). From anger arises our desire to have and to take what we want anyway we can get it (p. 51).
“Finally, based on verse 3, anger comes from selfish motives. James warns against praying to indulge personal ‘pleasures.’ The sinful heart seeks to please itself more than to please God” (p. 51). We ask God for what we want, but when He doesn’t answer, we get angry at Him. (That’s chapter 7: Anger Against God.) All of this reinforces Jones’s definition of anger as more than just an emotion.
Jack and Jill
A disarming feature of Uprooting Anger is the threading of Jack and Jill throughout the entire book. As you would expect in any practical book, several life examples are given in each chapter. Instead of changing the names in each chapter or illustration, Jones used the childhood nursery-rhyming duo Jack and Jill throughout. Unfortunately, I found myself in the role of Jack a few times, perhaps a few more than I would like to admit, but there was something disarming as well as cohesive about using the storybook characters.
Helping Others With Anger
Jones dedicates a chapter specifically to helping other people deal with their anger. If you know someone who has an anger problem, this book will help you understand anger biblically, and chapter nine will help you encourage change with sympathy and courage.
This chapter contains great “how to” advice as well pointing the reader toward further resources both in the Appendix and outside material. Dr. Jones also gives you the confidence that offering help and even homework is ok. “Don’t assume that you can’t suggest assignments in your informal counseling or discipling relationships. Like lending a neighbor your wheelbarrow, sharing a Christian growth tool or two with a friend who has confided in you and shown interest in Christ will only elevate your friendship and will show your friend that you are a true friend who wants to help” (p. 141). Sage advice.
Two of the nitty-gritty chapters were chapters five and six. Dr. Jones deals with folks whose anger expresses itself, often verbally. This is probably what most of us think of when we think about anger… yelling, screaming, and cursing.
Jones also addresses “sinful concealers.” “Jill was an angry woman, although her criticisms rarely came out in words. She had learned to conceal her anger skillfully. She clammed and internalized it. Cool and controlled on the outside, she stewed within” (p. 95). I found this insightful—I had not given as much consideration to this “style” of anger before Uprooting Anger. Like all the chapters, the reader was given both biblical support and practical steps and strategies for change.
Further Reflection and Life Application
Each chapter ends with a section: “For Further Reflection and Life Application.” These insights, assignments, and questions would sharpen the individual going through this book on his/her own. They would also be excellent for small group interactions, or for the lay or professional counselor.
Uprooting Anger is a book I need to read again. The practical steps and strategies for changes that were given in each chapter for each type of anger are worth the price of the book. For a counselor, it would be helpful to have these steps on a single piece a paper for easy reference. I would recommend the same strategy to someone who struggles with a particular type of anger: take the steps and put them on a 3 X 5 card for easy reference. I also found the definition and Scriptures of great value, and something I will use. Uprooting Anger is a definite keeper and something every believer needs to read through. I highly recommend this book.