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The Anger of Cain: Maybe It's Not You They're Mad At - by Lorraine Espenhain

The Anger of Cain: Maybe It’s Not You They’re Mad At

8 minutes

Have you ever done what was right in the sight of God and had Christians – not wicked unbelievers, but Christians – take offense, mistreat you, reject you, and even pull away from you as a result of what you said or did?

If so, get yourself a cup of coffee, let us sit together, and I will share with you what I have learned about this very thing.

Easier to Kill

Before we begin, I want you to know that you are not the first person to experience this. Long ago, outside the Garden of Eden, when the time came for both Cain and Abel to offer up sacrifices to the Lord, the Lord looked with favor on Abel’s sacrifice, but on Cain’s He did not. In fact, He rejected it.

Cain grew angry and his face was sullen. The Lord confronted Cain and said to him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face so downcast? If you do what is right, will I not accept you as well?”

Instead of dropping to his knees in acknowledgment of God and giving God the repentance that He desired, Cain took his brother out into a field and killed him. He was angry. But who was he angry with: with his brother or with himself? In truth, he was angry with himself, although at the time he probably wasn’t even aware of it.

In his brother’s determination to give God what He desired, Cain saw his own refusal to do the same, and this is what provoked him to anger. In Abel’s heart that was right with God, Cain saw his own heart that was not right with God. Abel’s righteousness and love for God exposed Cain’s wickedness and lack of love for God. Cain was angry at himself, not at his brother.

He knew that he wasn’t what he was supposed to be, and he resented his brother, because his brother was what he was supposed to be. And so, he killed him.

When Cain became angry, his anger was a voice that needed to be listened to. His anger and resentment were building up inside of him, but not for the reasons he thought. His anger was a warning sign that there were certain actions that he needed to take, certain steps that he needed to make, and certain changes that needed to be made within himself. But instead of seeing it for what it was, he was deceived by the devil into believing that Abel was the reason for his anger. He killed his brother because it was a lot easier for him to do that than repent and give God what He desired in the way of right living.

Stumbling Blocks

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Unfortunately, this continues to go on today, in both the unbelieving world, as well as the Church. Humans are humans, whether they follow Christ or not. We all stumble in many ways, and our humanity loves to be that stumbling block.

For example, you see someone in your local parish heading up certain ministries. For reasons which you are not able to understand, that someone annoys and irritates you. Little feelings of resentment build up inside of you every time you see that individual or even hear her name mentioned when the announcements are being said on Sunday morning.

You even find yourself getting angry at this gracious soul who volunteered to undertake so much work for the church. When she says “hello” to you, it’s all you can do to be civil. “I can do a better job than she is doing!” you sneer, at the church banquet which she organized. Whether you want to accept this truth or not, that anger or resentment that is welling up inside of you is speaking the following message to you: “You want to head up a ministry in the church, but you’ve been afraid to step out and do it. Step up and stop being afraid.”

You’re not angry at the individual at church who is involved in so many things. You’re angry at yourself for not having the courage to do the same. Her courage to do something has exposed your fear of doing the same.

Let’s take another example. Susan goes to the bank, takes care of business, and gets back into the car, where Mother is sitting. “The bank tellers here are all so stupid. I can’t stand going to this bank and having to be subjected to these types of women. How in the world did they even get their jobs in the first place, when they all have the personality of a paperclip?”

Whether Susan realizes this or not, her anger is speaking to her: “You graduated from college one year ago and still can’t find a job. Now you’ve given up, and you refuse to take any type of job to hold you over in the meantime. Get a job. Any job. Stay busy while you wait for a better job to open up. Stop sitting around at home doing nothing all day long.”

Susan isn’t really angry at the bank tellers; she’s angry at herself. Their employment is shining a glaring light on her own unemployment, and it is this, not the bank tellers’ personalities, that is causing Susan such discomfort.

Subtle Hatred

So much of the anger, resentment, and even hatred that we see in the world today is directed more toward self than we realize. It’s easier, however, to believe that the fault lies with everyone else because, as long as we cling to this belief, we are excused from taking action in our own lives by moving in whichever direction we need to move.

As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is a subtle form of spiritual warfare that you must be alert to always in your life because, as mentioned previously, this tendency also exists among Christians. If you aren’t alert to what is going on and why, you will stumble and fall. When you do this, you fall right into Satan’s hands.

Many of God’s saints (including those who are presently “saints in the making”) have found themselves in this painful situation over and over again. God gives a man boldness to do such and such. When he steps out and does it, some resent him, and even begin to pull away from him. The poor soul wonders why? What did I do? Why am I being rejected as if I had done something wrong?

He is being rejected, but not for the reasons he thinks. He’s being rejected because his boldness has exposed the cowardice of others around him who did not have the courage to do what he did. They see in him what they themselves know they should be, and wish they should be, but just don’t have the courage to be. Their anger is at themselves, not at the poor man who did what he did in faithfulness to God.

A woman with a strong personality and fearlessness to boot is raised up by God to confront certain situations. Because of her God-given fearlessness, she is not afraid to rock the proverbial boat. Some around her resent this. They begin to pull away. They’re annoyed with her, but not for the reasons she may think.

In her strength, they see their own weakness. In her fearlessness, they see their own timidity. They pull away from her, not because she is a troublemaker, but because they are annoyed that she was not afraid to rock a boat which their timidity had allowed to go “unrocked” for far too long.

If we, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, want to overcome the snares of the devil, we must recognize the many traps that he casts into our path. Satanic warfare comes at us in many different forms. He who would be God’s warrior must learn to recognize them all.

Tough Questions

When you do what God wants you to do, say what God wants you to say, act as God wants you to act, and reject what God wants you to reject, and others begin to pull away from you, reject you, and resent you because of it, it’s not because you have crossed the line or acted inappropriately.

In your actions, others are being forced to ask themselves some tough questions about what kind of individuals they are, and they don’t like what they see. They’re not pulling away from you; they’re pulling away from themselves and the changes that they know must be made in their lives if God is going to use them as He is using you.

This is a subtle attack from the devil and his angels to make you feel like you did something wrong in stepping out for God, speaking for God, or achieving something for God. Even though you did what God wanted you to do, said what God wanted you to say, confronted what God wanted you to confront, exposed what God wanted you to expose, wrote what God wanted you to write, and refused what God wanted you to refuse, the devil wants you to feel like you did what was wrong.

He wants you to shut up and disappear. He wants you to think twice before ever doing that again. And so, he raises up people all around you—even Christians—to shun you, pull away from you, and regard you as the problem, when you are anything but.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must resist the devil. The way you resist him is to keep doing what you’re doing regardless of how you or others feel. If Satan knows that all he has to do is raise up a few individuals to become angry, annoyed, or irritated with you in order to get you to shut up and go away, he’ll do it.

If he knows that all it takes is a little shunning, a little persecution, a little criticism, a little gossip, a little avoidance at church, and a little pulling away from those who two days ago considered you a “wonderful person who really loves the Lord,” in order to get you to wish you had never opened up your mouth, he won’t waste a second of Hell’s time in doing it.

Stand and Resist

You must stand up to him. You must resist him. When people become angry, annoyed, or irritated at you, and you can’t for the life of you understand what you did wrong, it is often because they are angry at themselves, not because you have done anything wrong. They see in you what they are not, and this is what this is all about.

When this happens, you must pray for them. When you go before the Lord in prayer, ask Him to open up the eyes of that individual’s heart in order to show him where his true anger, annoyance, or frustration lies. Getting angry at him because of his wrong reaction to you is not God’s way.

In fact, when you do this, you fall right into the devil’s hands, because now he has two people instead of one. Don’t quit doing what you’re doing in order to be accepted by people, and don’t get angry at people when they react to your faithfulness to God inappropriately. This is not how we fight the devil. We fight him on our knees.

Recognize who your true enemy is, where the true battle lies, and why these things are happening to you. Recognize Satan’s motive.

Perhaps you find yourself on the other side of this situation. Instead of being the one who is experiencing other people’s inappropriate anger, annoyance, and rejection, you’re the one who is angry, annoyed, irritated and resentful. If you are going to move up to higher levels in Christ, you need to deal with the things that are holding you back. Think about certain people with whom you are angry, annoyed, or irritated. Are you really angry at them? Have they really done something to offend you, or is your discomfort coming from the fact that they are where you want to be, doing what you want to do, and achieving what you want to achieve?

Regardless of which side of this situation we may find ourselves on, we need to recognize where all of this is coming from and deal with it accordingly. Cain’s anger was self-anger. He saw in his brother Abel the righteousness which he did not have. He saw in Abel’s zeal his own lukewarmness.

Instead of looking within his own self and turning back to God in repentance, he killed his brother. He got him out of the way so that he wouldn’t have to be confronted with his own inadequacies. In so doing, both men lost out. A righteous man who could have done great things for God was silenced, and the one who fell into Satan’s trap and took his life was cursed by God for the rest of his life.

Now would be a good time for us to reflect on this issue, regardless of which side of it we may find ourselves today. When there is anger and resentment, no one is the winner… and everyone loses.

Angry Woman photo © Serge Black / Dollar Photo Club

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About Lorraine Espenhain

Lorraine Espenhain
Born in Philadelphia, PA, Lorraine now lives in New Mexico. She is a wife, homeschooling mother, religious instructor, and freelance writer with 200+ articles on Catholic.net. She also has her own children’s column at Agua Viva, her diocesan newspaper. Meet Lorraine
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