This reading group guide for Surviving in an Angry World includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Everyone experiences anger at one point or another. Dr. Charles F. Stanley examines how to respond to it correctly, deal with it effectively, and make sure that we stay in line with God’s will when contentious situations arise. In Surviving in an Angry World, Dr. Stanley explores both what it means to live with anger, and the problems it causes for the angry person as well as those around him or her. “Anger will not go out on its own,” he writes. “It doesn’t die out. Dealing with anger, and especially deep-seeded anger, requires intentionality” (p. 13).
In this book, Dr. Stanley cites biblical examples regarding anger and losing control of one’s emotions, as well as personal anecdotes that demonstrate the danger of not being able to forgive. Forgiving others is often difficult, but it is something that everyone must learn how to live a healthy, productive life. Dr. Stanley teaches the reader how to practice forgiveness and how to find personal peace.
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Define anger. Do you believe there are different kinds of anger? If so, are the various kinds of anger interrelated in some way? How does your definition of anger compare to Dr. Stanley’s?
2. Do you think that platforms for interaction, such as social media and the Internet, help or hinder people in dealing with anger?
3. Do you think that anger is more of a problem today than in the past? Does it worry you that many of the items in the news are in reference to failure of anger management—whether they are domestic, international, or political issues? Do we really live in an angry world?
4. Do you believe anger has any positive benefits or effects?
5. In his book, Dr. Stanley details the seven roots of anger: blame and shame, pride, insecurity, dreams deferred or denied, lies and cover-ups, mental illness, and chemical addiction. Would you add anything to this list? In your own personal life, have you seen anger caused by these items? Do you think one of the items causes more anger in a person than the others? Why do you think that’s true?
6. Dr. Stanley writes, “Anger is a universal emotion.” (p. 12) Why do you think that is? Why do you think God gives us the ability to be enraged, especially when Scripture tells us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city”? (Proverbs 16:32)
7. Do you think it is ever ok to be angry? Is it all right to be angry in private? Why or why not? If your anger is internalized, what do you think is the best, most acceptable way to bring it out into the open?
8. Do you have friends or colleagues who appear to have problems with anger? Why do you associate with them? Do you ever feel the effects of their anger? Do they, in turn, make you angry? Is there something attractive about angry people to you?
9. When do you think it’s a good time to move away from a relationship? Dr. Stanley writes about three kinds of relationships—for-a-reason, for-a-season, and lifetime. Have you ever been involved with an angry person where their rage destroyed your friendship or love for them? Did you try to help the person, and if so did anything get through to him or her?
10. In regards to how anger affects your thought processes, Dr. Stanley cites an ancient Jewish proverb: “Anger deprives a sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision” (p. 58). Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not? Do you think that anger produces a “double mind”?
11. Has anger ever affected you at work? Have you ever made a business decision while under the influence of anger? Would you make the same decision today? When you’re frustrated with a colleague or a client, how do you handle your emotions?
12. Why do you think people hold on to anger? Why do you think they feel vindicated in keeping their grudges? Have you ever chosen not to forgive? Have you ever contemplated the benefits of letting go?
13. One of the steps on dealing with anger that Dr. Stanley details is to “redirect your energy.” He says that you should wash and wax your car, weed your flowerbeds, clean a closet or attic, go to the driving range and hit a couple of golf balls, or do some other hobby you enjoy. When you’re angry, have you ever done such activities to clear your head? Do you think there’s something therapeutic in physical activity versus mental activity?
14. Dr. Stanley also quotes A.B. Simpson about how the Lord will help you heal your anger: “It is when we yield our own natural self to God to die and He slays us by the power of His Spirit that the obstruction to our communion with God is removed and we enter into its deeper fullness.” (p. 103) Have you ever asked the Father to deliver you from your anger and give you inner peace? What are the benefits of asking God to help you in such a situation?
15. On pages 102-104, Dr. Stanley writes that some of the main reasons people refuse to forgive are because: people don’t deserve to be forgiven, they need to hear an apology first, they believe forgiveness is a sign of weakness, and so forth. Have you ever used one of these excuses before? Why do you think it was appropriate to hold on to your anger? Do you still think so, considering that Christ demonstrated forgiveness even when He was on the cross, saying: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”?(Luke 23:34)
16. Forgiving yourself is often more difficult than forgiving others. Have you ever experienced a time when you couldn’t forgive yourself? Why? Did it stem from low self-esteem or uncertainty? How did you overcome it?
17. Have you ever directed your anger at God? Have you ever wondered why He allows such anger in our world? How do you deal with that kind of anger? How does Dr. Stanley address such questions?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. Watch one of Dr. Stanley’s sermons online at http://www.intouch.org and think about the ways he instructs you to deal with your anger. Is it easier to learn these tips through a book or through hearing them from someone directly? If possible, have a Christian counselor you know and trust come to talk to your group about anger so that you can have another perspective about such raw emotions.
2. If you know someone with a powerful testimony about how God helped him or her overcome anger, invite him or her to your book club meeting. Ask them questions about how they sought the Lord and how He took away their bitterness. Were they able to reconcile with the person who made them angry? How has God worked in their relationship?
3. Before the book club meeting, have everyone chart his or her anger for at least one week. Keep a diary and record your feelings—why you got angry, how you dealt with it, and if any of the anger has lingered. Make sure to write down whether or not it was difficult to forgive, and what made it so. Share the diary with the rest of the group to compare notes on how to deal with anger.