Courage for life Blog

Handling Anger

May 15, 2024

Anger seems to be everywhere, both internally and externally! So, how do you handle your anger and the anger of others? How can you process your anger without sinning because not all anger is bad or sinful? For example, God exhibits righteous anger toward His people (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 29:24-28). In the book of Psalms, David cries out for God to arise daily in His anger so that God would execute justice in the world (Psalm 7:11). Also, Jesus expresses righteous anger toward the Pharisees because of their heartened hearts (Mark 3:5).

God is perfect, holy, righteous, and good in all He is and does, yet God has anger. So, the presence of anger is not the problem. Anger exists for a purpose.

What is the purpose of anger?

The word anger comes from two words: orge, meaning passion and energy, and thumos, meaning agitated boiling within. Therefore, anger is an excessive emotion or passion aroused by a sense of injury, wrong, or injustice. God made human beings with the capacity to perceive injustice or injury, and this occurrence naturally generates from within them an intense emotional energy and response called anger. This passionate energy is intended to allow human beings to address injustice or injury in a biblical, God-honoring way.

How to handle anger?

God provides instructions on how to handle anger. In Psalm 4, David writes a song for God’s people that includes some insight into handling anger.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Psalm 4:4

Anger exists, but anger should not control you. When you allow your anger to control you, you are opening yourself to sinning in your anger. You are encouraged to remain silent and think about or consider your anger – reflecting on who?, what?, why? when?, where? and how? This reflection on your anger should at least be overnight. The context of this instruction is David crying out to God about injustice and wrongdoing by his enemies. The encouragement is to wait on God to respond to your prayers and trust God to handle the injustice with His perfect, righteous anger. You have the potential to sin in your anger, whereas God does not. When you get angry, do you remain silent, reflect overnight, and pray to God about your anger so that He can help you evaluate your anger rightly and also strengthen you to trust Him to avenge the injustice that occurred?

The apostle Paul also provides instructions about how to handle anger. Paul teaches the followers of Jesus in Ephesus about how to live their new lives together in unity, humility, gentleness, and patience with one another, putting on their new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (reference Ephesians 4:1-23). Then, Paul addresses how to handle anger.

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27

Quoting David’s Psalm, Paul teaches that anger exists and anger should not control you because when it does, you could sin. But Paul differs in his instruction, telling the Ephesians to settle or resolve their anger before the day’s end (sooner rather than later) because Satan may use their lingering anger to tempt them to sin in anger toward one another. The context of this instruction is that these new followers of Jesus are learning how to live together in obedience to God. Therefore, it makes sense Paul doesn’t want anyone in this new group of believers in Jesus to give Satan room (or a place) in their lives to operate through their anger. Division and arguments could erupt from anger rather than promote unity and peace among them. Paul concludes his instructions affirming God’s redemption of them and pointing to God’s example as to how they should live toward one another.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:30-32

How NOT to handle anger?

Just as Paul included what not to do in his instructions to the Ephesians when teaching them how to live with God and others, it could be helpful to identify how NOT to handle anger. Identifying destructive responses in your anger could assist you to lessen sinning in your anger and help you replace responses with biblical, godly ways of handling anger.

Consider these four examples of how people can handle their anger in sinful ways.

CLAM UP: Instead of working through anger in a productive, healthy way that honors God, people will say that they agree with someone (which is a lie) but then go off alone or with someone else and stew about the person or situation for hours on a phone call, texting, emailing, over a meal or walk, etc. Then, the next tactic they employ is to avoid the other person or situation as much as possible. Clamming up does not handle the anger. The anger remains unresolved and has the potential to build over time.

BLOW UP: Instead of working through anger in a productive, healthy way that honors God, people will rage, throw and break things, even hit things, until they can calm down. Blowing up does not handle the anger. The anger remains unresolved, and things are left destroyed and often others are left injured and devastated.

ATTACK OTHERS: Instead of working through anger in a productive, healthy way that honors God, people resort to name-calling and bringing up the person’s past behaviors, sins, and hurts. People quickly transition to historical events, making attacking statements about the other person and often forgetting to focus on and address the current injustice, injury, or wrong. The hurtful statements leave the anger unresolved, and others are left verbally and emotionally wounded.

GRATIFY SELF: Instead of working through anger in a productive, healthy way that honors God, people are selfish. They try their best to obtain what they want, exactly when, where, and how they want it, with no regard for anyone else in the situation. They believe and live as if they deserve to be pleased and satisfied at the expense of others. Their anger is displayed every time their expectations or wants are not met. Therefore, others live to appease them to avoid experiencing their anger.

If you can identify your own responses in any of these examples, you may ask God to help you implement His instructions provided in Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26-32 to replace these destructive, sinful ways of handling your anger with biblical, godly ways of handling anger.

How can you handle your anger?

Anger occurring is not the problem. However, how you handle your anger could be a problem. Most sinful expressions of anger are motivated by selfishness – you want your way. You rationalize your right to avenge injustice or injury yourself, but God places limitations on your expressions of anger. Your actions should reflect how God handles injustice and wrongdoing. God’s actions in anger always uphold justice.

Consider these evaluative questions regarding your anger:

  1. Is your anger aroused because of an injustice or injury occurring, like what makes God angry, or are you just expressing anger in sinful ways?
  2. Is your anger directed at resolving the injustice or wrong, or is your anger directed primarily at another person, yourself, or even God?
  3. When injustice or injury occurs, are you employing biblical ways to resolve your anger, or are you using sinful responses (i.e., clamming up, blowing up, attacking others, and gratifying self)?
  4. When you get angry, do your responses remain consistent with Ephesians 4:2, 15, 29, 32 (i.e., humble, gentle, patient, loving, truthful, edifying, beneficial, forgiving), or do you express your anger sinfully (i.e., allow it to control you and to be used by Satan to tempt you to sin against yourself, others, and God)?

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