In an educational outreach, NASA released a video from the International Space Station to teach schoolchildren the importance of physics and the science of trajectories. Astronaut Don Pettit held up a stuffed version of an angry bird. He blew up a green balloon representing a pig. He stretched a bungee cord across the hatchway and launched the bird, demonstrating the trajectory of its flight.

 “Astronauts have to worry about these things,” Pettit explained, “because if you’re in a rocket and, say, you’re trying to get from one orbit and rendezvous with Space Station, you end up going on a curved trajectory and you need to know how to fire your rocket engines.”[1]

            I applaud NASA in its innovative efforts to teach science to schoolchildren, but I know an even better lesson. The God of wisdom has given us a book filled with truth about angry attitudes and words. His advice can keep us on a heaven-bound trajectory and help us avoid crash landings.


Surveying Crash Sites

One angry moment can do much damage, and history is littered with crash sites to prove it. For example, when Hannibal was crossing the Alps, he marched his entire army (including animals) into northern Italy in an attempt to defeat the emerging forces of Rome. They made it up the Alps with little problem, but coming down was another matter. The snow, ice, and mud created deadly conditions on the descent. The horses and elephants couldn’t find a foothold, and the soldiers ended up crawling down the mountain. It was bitter cold, and Hannibal was beside himself. In anger, he marched to the front of the procession and slammed his staff down into a snowdrift.

When Hannibal slammed his cane into the ground, he triggered a devastating landslide. It took four days for the survivors to dig their way out of the snow and ice, and by then they were too demoralized to wage war.

Hannibal wasn’t able to dominate Rome, and the Roman Empire was free to emerge onto the stage of history. It can be said that because of Hannibal’s one moment of anger, the entire shape of European civilization was changed.


Biblical Crash Sites

            The Bible is packed with examples of biblical crash sites. When we open God’s Word, the first angry person we encounter is Cain, who was enraged when God rejected his sacrifice while accepting his brother’s. He fired himself out of the slingshot of wrath, murdered his brother, and spent his life in exile.

            King Herod was so angry at the Magi for deceiving him that he slew the baby boys of Bethlehem, leaving him a legacy of a mass murderer.

One of the saddest biblical cases of anger involved King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16. Asa was better than most of the kings and had a promising start. But he made a strategic error when he failed to trust the Lord in a matter involving Syria. The prophet Hanani paid him a visit, saying, “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand” (2 Chronicles 16:7). King Asa reacted in wrath, imprisoning the prophet and brutally oppressing some of the people, and his career ended in illness and death (verses 12-13).


Cleaning Up Crash Sites

            Have you damaged yourself or others by losing your temper? The initial acting out of anger is bad enough, but the consequences of our anger can be even more devastating. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.”

            How about taking an inventory of the crash sites in your life and determining to clean them up?

            First, ask God for a patient spirit, and make up your mind to strive to be slow-tempered. With God’s help, you can exercise self-control.

            Second, memorize Bible verses on this subject.

            Third, confess your sin immediately when you have a crash landing. Confess it and ask for forgiveness.

            Fourth, learn to make a strategic exit when you feel your anger rising. Take time to process angry feelings in private, taking them to the Lord, working through them with the corresponding lessons from God’s Word.

Finally, as you’re able, go back and repair any damage caused by your outbursts. A humble spirit has a way of erasing years of damage when the Lord extends His mercy. By His grace, you can often rebuild what you’ve destroyed and clean up your crash sites.

            One of the saddest moments in sports happened during the closing minutes of the 1978 Gator Bowl between Clemson and Ohio State. Woody Hayes, the storied Ohio coach, went into the game with a remarkable 238-71-10 record.

            Late in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes were down by two points but driving toward the goal. Hayes called a pass, and Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman intercepted and was shoved out of bounds at OSU’s sideline. To the astonishment of the millions of people watching on television, Hayes grabbed Bauman as he got to his feet and viciously struck him. The next day Hayes was fired. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the story is that Hayes never apologized. A moment of temper. A crash landing. No attempt to clean it up. A legacy tarnished.

Try not to crash; but if you do, move quickly to clean up the crash site.

A hot temper is, well, for the birds.

[1] See “New Angry Birds Announcement from the International Space Station,” Time Magazine (Time Techland), accessed March 8, 2012.