Managing Anger in a Christian Way
Some people have the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to be like human smiley faces and never get angry. The truth is that even Jesus got mad on occasion (Matthew 23:13-26, John 2:13-17). What makes Christians different is how they handle their anger.
We live in an angry world. People fume when someone cuts them off on the road, barges into a line, or makes them wait for service. In the same way, many of us are walking around like powder keys waiting to blow. We don’t always understand why we are so angry, however, or how to deal with our feelings.
Myths about anger
Some of us believe myths about anger that can potentially harm ourselves and others such as:
- If I don’t appear angry, I don’t have a problem
- If I ignore resentments and hurts, they will go away and not trouble me again
- If I just vent all my rage, my anger problems will be solved
- There is no emotional cost involved in suppressing my anger and I can become a nice person who does not get mad at anyone
- I will damage my relationship with a person if I express how much they hurt me
We can’t resolve our anger if we are unwilling to deal with it. Anger must be faced and processed before it can dissipate.
Is anger wrong?
Being angry is a natural response to certain situations and is not a sin in itself. Anger is like a robot telling us, "Danger, Will Robinson." It alerts us when unjustice has been done, our rights have been violated, or our feelings have been hurt. We may respond with two extremes: clamming up or venting our rage. Neither one is a good idea.
Venting to a close friend or counselor may help relieve some stress and pressure, but extreme anger is bad for your health. Scientists say that extreme rages are related to the development of heart disease. Sadly, the time and energy that goes into expressing anger could have been spent on more productive, healthy endeavors. Instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, we are hostile and miserable.
Stuffing our anger down will not help us in the long run, either. Anger is not something we can contain. It is like trying to put a lid on a volcano. The lava of anger will find a way to force itself out and when it does, it will destroy everything in its path - family and marriage relationships, friendships, and our workplaces.
Anger can lead us to sin and give the devil a foothold in our lives. Our fury make provoke us to take revenge, be cruel to others (Proverbs 27:4), or do other types of harm.
Venting all of our anger is a foolish thing to do (Proverbs 29:11) and will stir up strife (Proverbs 30:33).
Rage must be kept under control because it does not lead to the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). One of the fruits of the spirit, self-control, will help us to manage our emotions. There are many reasons that set off anger, and different ways to deal with those feelings.
“In your anger do not sin:"
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
The challenge for Christians is the admonition not to allow the sun to go down on our wrath. This does not mean that if we are offended in the morning, we have permission to stew all day. It means we need to put a lid on our anger as soon as we can.
In some situations, that seems an impossible task. The only way we can truly let go is to forgive the person who angered us.
We can pray for the people who make us angry and ask God for the self-control we need to manage our feelings. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them.
Calm down. Count to a 100 if you need to. In our interpersonal relationships, we need to either shut up or give a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1) that will not escalate the situation.
We need to wait until we are calm and then carefully consider how we answer (Proverbs 15:28), if an answer is called for. Responding to nasty emails can wait. Some people are foolish and are not worth our time and attention (Proverbs 26:4).
Decide if anger is the right response. Sometimes we are too thin-skinned and easily offended by silly or obnoxious people.
Many situations are not worth getting upset about. We benefit from overlooking an offence (Proverbs 19:11) and being slow to anger.
Decide what the underlying issue is and take appropriate action. Different situations call for different solutions.
The people in our lives can drive us up the wall and make us very angry. Jesus encourages us to reconcile with our brother, even before making offerings to God (Matthew 5:23-24). Offenses that are left to fester will destroy our relationships. We can become more unyielding than a fortified city (Proverbs 18-19).
Reconciliation does not mean that we become buddy-buddy and give people who offend us our whole trust, however. We may need to exercise caution around them or avoid them if they are anger triggers. Sometimes, there are deep hurts that they have caused that are not easy to heal. Some wounds need work, like a Christian recovery program or counseling.
Injustice is absolutely infuriating, no doubt about that. There are many situations that are unfair and we have the right to be angry about them. We are often faced with deciding what to do about them. Each situation is unique. It is unfair that someone cut us off in traffic, but there is nothing we can do about that. If someone defrauds or steals from us, however, further action may need to taken. Crimes need to be reported, and charges laid in some cases.
While it is OK to be infuriated in some situations, sustained anger can be destructive and lead us to sin. Let’s be slow to become angry and think more than twice before we act on it.
© Carola Finch