“He’s a nice person . . . until he gets angry.” Do you know anyone who matches this description? A man and woman were driving a van on Chicago’s Northwest Tollway in April 1994. Their two children were riding in the back seat. Suddenly, an ex-convict driving a white Cadillac pulled up behind them and began to tailgate literally inches from their bumper. When the man in the van slowed down, the driver in the Cadillac switched lanes and passed, only to swerve and abruptly enter the lane again, almost causing a collision with the van.

When the Cadillac driver sped away, the man in the van pursued him. He pulled up beside the white car and began an intense verbal exchange with the other driver. The Cadillac driver pulled a handgun and shot at the van. The bullet penetrated the side of the van and struck the baby girl in the back seat, leaving her blind in one eye, half-blind in the other, partially deaf, and mentally and physically disabled. The driver who fired the bullet went to jail, but the parents of the little girl were forced to live with the consequences of the father’s angry actions.

Mishandled anger often has devastating consequences. With Christmas just around the corner, it will be easy to get angry as we deal with long lines, heavy traffic, inclement weather, and selfish people. Here are some pointers from an author I read recently:

  1. Handle anger quickly. Don’t allow it to sit and fester so that it causes greater, long-term problems.
  2. Anger is simply a desire for change. This puts it in a perspective where it can be mastered instead of allowing it to master us.
  3. Ask yourself, “Why am I becoming angry? What is it about this situation that I wish was different?”
  4. Examine yourself and think, “Is this a real problem, something to get angry about, or am I becoming angry because of my reaction to it? What, if anything, can I do to change this situation?”
  5. Practice self-control and ask the big questions: “What do the Scriptures say about this kind of problem? How does God want me to react? How can I let my light shine in this? I want things to be different, but is this maybe what God wants?”

Whether you have someone pull out on you in traffic, take your parking spot at the mall, take the item you wanted from the shelf, say something which insults you, betray your confidence, or damage the Christmas tree, you will probably experience anger in the coming weeks. Don’t let it control you. Handle it properly, and your Christmas will be filled with joy.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder