March Madness is a term we use for this time of year when college basketball begins its play off tournament. At the end of the “madness” a winner emerges. But the tournament itself can raise intense emotions both on and off the basketball court. And uncontrolled anger ends with no winners.
Every year, we see many examples of anger “madness.” For example, after a technical foul was called on Hawaii in a game against UC Santa Barbara, a fan ran onto the court to confront Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold. The fan jumped in the coach’s face, was verbally aggressive before being pushed by a few Hawaii players on his way back to his seat.
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) was suspended for three games for shoving a fan in the closing seconds of OSU’s loss at Texas Tech. Smart fell out of bounds when trying to block a shot, was helped to his feet, and then shoved a fan who said something to him. Neither Marcus nor the fan responded well.
And who could forget the brief tirade of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim against Duke as he screamed obscenities at an official while running onto the court, peeling off his jacket.
These are just a few of the incidents that happen each year when anger gets out of control. And yet, our biblical instruction is to be angry, but do not sin.
How do we do this?
- Control your reaction to a bad call or unfair play: Model for your children a biblical way to be angry but also gracious in your response. React, but without the negative actions or words that are unleashed when anger is uncontrolled.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:8
- Keep perspective: Remember this is a game, not a fight for life or death! We get angry at the smallest things, and need to ask, “Why are small things so triggering?” What is going on in my life that I feel this small thing so intensively? How can I be more self-restrained?
Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Psalm 4:4
- Don’t vent your anger: Sports can be an outlet, but we know from both Scripture and psychological research that venting anger only makes you angrier. So, letting anger fly with no constraint is not healthy.
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:11
- Don’t make excuses for your anger: For example, “My dad hit me so of course I am angry.” “I’m Irish and have a temper.” “My wife makes me so mad.” These may be triggers, but they are also excuses to behave without self-control. Identify your triggers and have a plan to be less reactive to them.
- Don’t keep repeating the angry story: When you repeat the story over and over, you give it energy and your angry state will continue. Instead, let it go, forgive and distract yourself from those angry feelings. Is it more important to be right then to be merciful and move on?
- Assess how your anger impacts your relationships: No one likes to be around an angry, out of control person—not in a basketball game or during an interpersonal encounter.
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. Proverbs 22:24
- Practice calming methods: Do something physical like exercise to release anger from your physical body. Count to ten while deep breathing. Distract your mind to something neutral like naming cities that begin with A. Take a time-out to collect your thoughts.
- Give grace: Before jumping to conclusions, assume the positive. Sometimes, we misread people and judge them to hurt us when they haven’t. Clarify the situation and get more facts.
- Resist revenge: Whenever we are wronged or treated unfairly, the culture tells us to respond as a victim who needs revenge. That is not God’s way. God will judge people involved in wrongdoing. Fight for justice. But leave revenge to the Lord. Our job is to forgive others and release them to God.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21
- Be a good loser. Respect the skills and great play of the other team. In other parts of your life, respect the opinions of others and different points of view. Winning a point but losing a friend or alienating a family member is not worth the price of angry interactions.
For more help: Breaking Free from Anger and UnforgivenessA different type of March Madness