Someone Just Sent You an Angry Text—Instead of Punching Your Phone, Do This

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Nothing sets the Gospel aside quicker than loss of control in anger.

Church planters, as I have observed and personally practiced, live in a constant state of being either angry, depressed or delusional.

One might say, “I am neither angry nor depressed.”

Delusional: “An idiosyncratic belief or impression that is not in accordance with a generally accepted reality.” (Wordreference.com)

Church planting is hard. Working with people is hard. Dealing with our own emotions is hard.

A passionate, emotional pastor planting a church with opinionated people is bound to encounter a conflict or two … per hour.

The conflicts are not the problem. The responses usually are.

Harsh words in the midst of conflict are like weeds in an untended garden. They crop up everywhere until they finally take over and choke out any fruitful conversation.

“Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. 

Sinful people blame-shift.”

I received an ugly text from someone recently. Texting seems like a strange way to vent anger.

It was from a disqualified pastor who had committed a horrible sin against his family and his church. I was helping the church to deal with the mess he made. He didn’t like what he had perceived was my advice to them, so his cell phone attacked my cell phone with viral words. That is my explanation since I cannot fathom a friend speaking to me in this way.

My emotions rose, and I was angry at his impudence, arrogance and ignorance. My response? I texted, “I love you, Dave.”

I wish I could tell you that my response to attacks in the past has always been with this kind of graciousness. I also wish I could tell you that Dave repented and confessed his venomous attack on me with his carelessly keyboarding thumbs.

Instead, Dave continued to defend his “justifiable anger” by text message. He said that pagans treated him better than I did. Suddenly, he implied that his righteousness was deserved, and I was worse than a pagan! I am glad that I didn’t react.

I called him … on the phone. I know talking on the phone isn’t the hip and cool thing to do these days, but pastoring a la Twitter Seminary, while economical, is completely ineffective.

Five Tips on Handling Angry People:

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20 ESV)

1. Be Slow to Speak.

Make a decision not to react without thinking. People make foolish comments all of the time.

A friend confronted me about something I did, and my response was that I had no idea why I did that. I did not have malice or intent, and my actions were completely contrary to my value system. I didn’t make excuses (oh, I had a few), and I didn’t attack his actions.

Instead, I asked forgiveness, and he extended it immediately.

2. Filter Your Emotions Through the Gospel.

Nothing sets the Gospel aside quicker than loss of control in anger.

When I am angry, I focus on how God responds to my ongoing sins and transgressions and idols. I often wonder why He puts up with me. I am convinced that He loves me more than I love myself and that He is full of grace, mercy and forgiveness.

I do sinful things and God forgives me and the ministry of reconciliation is exercised. I am both reconciled and am called to be a reconciler (2 Cor. 5:18-19; Rom. 5:10-11).

3. Be Quick to Hear.

Deal with the conflict quickly. It is awkward to address it later, and it seems Satan puts a wedge deeper between friends with every passing hour a conflict is left to simmer.

Letting the sun go down on our anger gives the devil an opportunity to gain an advantageous position in our relationships that creates bitterness (Eph. 4:26-27).

4. Avoid Texts and Email Responses.

The offended or offending party needs to hear the tone of your voice.

I responded to Dave by saying that I had forgiven him and that comments taken out of context and without the associated compassion and my personal grief for the outcome of the offense are rarely understood rightly in digital format.

5. Acknowledge Your Role in the Conflict.

One person can stir up trouble in a family, a church or a relationship, but they often drudge up other’s ancillary actions and words to deflect their own sin.

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. Sinful people blame-shift.

Nevertheless, be quick to acknowledge your role in the conflict even though it rarely justifies their sinful actions. It never benefits to hide our weaknesses and our indifference toward others.

“I have to exercise faith in the Gospel and not in 

my anger to ‘produce the righteousness of God.'”

I find Paul’s admonition in Col. 3:12-14 to be counterintuitive when dealing with angry people. I have to exercise faith in the Gospel and not in my anger to “produce the righteousness of God.”

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV)  

Scott Thomas Used with permission from Scott Thomas, the director and Chairman of Acts 29 Network, a non-profit church planting organization of missional reformed churches.

More from Scott Thomas or visit Scott at http://www.acts29network.org/

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  • ChadW

    If I receive an email, letter, text or any kind of written disgruntled communication, I repond by inviting them to talk face-to-face. I don’t even like talking over the phone because they can hang up in a moment of anger. People vent via written form for different reasons: they don’t want their point challenged, they fear confrontation, they aren’t confident of their view, they are contentious and like to create controversy, and other. At times, I would even call it cowardly when people write instead of talk. If they refuse to talk with me, it is obvious they are not interested in working through the problem and mending the relationship. I always leave the invitation to talk open should they change their mind. Even if their view has merrit, what good is that view if they are unwilling to discuss it respectfully and responsibly?

  • Cdjohnson95

    This is great! I needed it a couple of years ago when I was attacked via E-mail. I’m sorry to say that I did not handel it well, and I still get a little miffed when I think about it….but as a I read more good positive materia like this, and study the word on offense I can truly say that I’m closer to walking in love with the people that wronged me……thank you for your wisdom and encouragement.
    DJ-India

  • http://www.aces-counseling.com/ DUI evaluation

    Everyone probably has at least an enemy or two, and they probably have gone through similar, or worse, confrontations. These are great suggestions to mellow down anger and fix problems!

  • Thomas C Dietz

    When I get an angry message or talk from someone, I’m sometimes guilty of re-explaing my position instead of listening carefully and seeking for the root of the anger. When I try to present my side another way, I am guilty of pride in my own position (even if is DIRECTLY out of the scripture) and of callousnes shown by not searching the heart to sooth the hurt. Situations like the one described are actually a blessing that, if we do it right, can exalt God by healing an underlying problem. Even if we don’t succeed, we are blessed and further sanctified by Him by becoming more of Him.

  • Christopher

    When I have to handle conflict – I NEVER do it through emails or social media. I handle it face-to-face, if at all possible. It’s too easy to get angry and then “go off” on another person – if there is no immediate physical proximity or response. I try to not to even use the phone when dealing with conflict. It’s not easy, especially in the heat of the moment, but it helps to cut down on misunderstanding that I didn’t intend ( if folks read things into what I’m saying – that I never said or meant.) and gives me a chance to explain where I’m coming from.

    And I usually count the cost before addressing folks when we are having conflict. That way – I can actually take time to rationally respond to the issue at hand , instead of just emotionally reacting to it. God help us all do better in our dealings with one another.

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