Earlier this week, Novak Djokovic – the world’s number 1 ranked tennis player – was disqualified from the US Open. The reason – he was angry at himself during his match and proceeded to hit a tennis ball that struck an official in the throat. As one tennis official said, “He hit the ball recklessly and angrily.”
I would imagine most of us can relate to having a moment like this in our lives. We are having a bad day (or week … or 2020), and we just lose control of ourselves even if it is only for a brief moment. Here is the problem: that moment can define us for a very long time.
Tennis legend John McEnroe described Djokovic and this incident in the following way on ESPN:
“The pressure just got to him, I think. I think a lot’s been going on off the court. It’s obviously affected him. And now, whether he likes it or not, he’s going to be the bad guy the rest of his career. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.”
Imagine people seeing you as “the bad guy” for the rest of your career because of one incident. It hardly seems fair to be defined by one incident. In some ways, it is another example of the cancel culture we live in right now. But it does go to show you how easily anger can get the best of us and how it can shape our lives for a very long time.
For his part, Djokovic said that he hopes to “turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being.” While this sounds noble, the reality is that he has struggled with anger issues in the past.
A BBC article points out how “in a 2016 French Open quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, Djokovic’s racquet very nearly hit a line judge having slipped out of his hands after an angry swipe. And later that year, in a match against Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals, he fired a ball towards his coaching team, who were sitting in a row immediately in front of spectators.”
Djokovic’s reply when he was cross-examined later: “It’s not an issue for me.”
So what can we learn from the case of Novak Djokovic?
1. Often times, it is a multitude of issues that lead to one outburst.
If McEnroe’s comments are taken at face value, it seems Djokovic has a lot of pressure on him other than what happened on the court that day. I resonate with this. Quite often, we have pressures at work, or with our bank account, or with our health, and these all come boiling to the surface in one moment in time.
One of the first lessons I learned in men’s ministry is that when you see an angry man, you are probably seeing a hurting man. Because we don’t know how to process where we are hurting, anger becomes our default.
when you see an angry man, you are probably seeing a hurting man.
2. Anger issues are rarely one time events.
It is rare for someone to have one outburst of anger. If you have caught yourself cracking under pressure like this, then it is so important you deal with it immediately. Do not try and pretend like it never happened, because it will come back at you again.
3. Denying you have an anger problem can end up with devastating results.
Most of us who have an anger issue tend to believe that we will be able to control it. The problem is anger is one of those emotions that easily gets the best of us, and we end up doing things we don’t mean or want to do simply because of the emotion of the moment. In this case, an official gets hit with a tennis ball. In the cases of other men, a woman or child becomes abused, or a relationship is torn apart because a man couldn’t control himself. In this case, a tennis star is labeled as a bad guy. In your case, even worse things are possible.
But there is good news. Jesus has a solution where your anger does not have to be what defines you for your life. A new and better story can be written.
Jesus has a solution where your anger does not have to be what defines you for your life. A new and better story can be written.
Anger is one of the most consistent areas of life that men are struggling with. Every time I have led workshops on anger, the room is packed to overflowing. You are not alone, but that does not give you an excuse to hide from it. You need to deal with your anger issues.
I want to encourage you to check out an upcoming small group for men, where we will help you develop a plan to deal with your anger issues.