Of all our emotions, anger is perhaps the rawest, strongest, and potentially the most destructive.
Anger is created by our thinking. It begins with an event that we notice and the interpretation we place on it. The result of your interpretation is a feeling that leads to emotional action. (Turner)
Anger is the result of emotional frustration or hostility.
The expression of anger is on the rise. Today we have people shooting each other over incidents that ten years ago would have just produced an expletive or two. People feel no hesitancy today in taking out their rage against another person in ways that end up sending them to jail or prison. Anger for many people has become an uncontrollable emotion.
Ironically, anger can often do more harm to the person who expresses it than to the person who is on the receiving end of it. A quote attributed to several different people: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the person on whom it is poured.” It is not surprising that anger is mentioned as the precursor of sin throughout the Scriptures.
Proverbs 29:22 An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.
Proverbs 30:33 For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”
Proverbs 22:24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.
The Scriptures also tell us that not all anger is sin: “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
Jesus experienced anger and yet did not succumb to sin. He lives within us to help us. Our relationship to Christ gives us hope and power to deal successfully with anger.
Types of Anger
Vicious, explosive anger that seeks to hurt others verbally or physically. It is open war on your circumstances or on the person toward whom you feel extreme anger. “Fits of rage” is one of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5.
There are various descriptions of rage: Road rage, parking rage, air rage, boat rage, fishing rage, pedestrian rage, jogger rage, biker rage, trucker rage, cell phone rage, shopping rage, grocery cart rage, and checkout line rage.
I’m told there’s such a thing as pew rage, though I haven’t actually witnessed…yet!
Inner turmoil that seethes and boils. It can be a response toward someone who wronged you or an unjust situation that hurt you or your loved ones.
Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Vengeance, revenge, retribution, retaliation (vs. grace)
We want justice for a wrong, to weigh the scales, which are balanced intricately between resentment (not enough justice) and guilt (too much justice). Individually, we are biased and therefore not qualified and informed enough to make that judgment.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:17-21
This is the kind of anger we feel when we witness certain forms of injustice and wicked acts. Should motivate us to become positively involved by our love for God and regard for His honor in opposing social or personal evils.
Aristotle phrased it well: “A man who is angry on the right grounds, against the right persons, in the right manner, at the right moment and for the right length of time deserves great praise.”
The Effects of Anger
Anger can produce a host of physical problems ranging from ulcers to hypertension. If entertained on a sustained basis, anger can be very detrimental to your physical health.
Probably the most common companion of anger is depression. Depression is often anger turned inward. This combination is very destructive to our spiritual and emotional well–being.
Anger is usually displayed in one of two ways:
Physical or verbal outburst. (rage) A person may throw a punch, pound a fist against the wall, slam a door or phone receiver, swear, or shout, among other physical manifestations. Every form of abuse—sexual, physical, emotional, verbal—has anger at its root.
Brooding silence. (resentment) The person internalizes the anger and allows it to seep into the subconscious. Sometimes this anger displays itself as boredom or an aloofness from other people. The person who broods in silent anger may manifest an eruption of that anger at a later date.
Psychologists tell us that most anger is concealed within the heart of man. It is like a basketball submerged in water: sooner or later, if it is not properly handled, it will pop to the top. (Turner)
Other manifestations of anger include:
We cannot respond with sensitivity to the needs of others. (insensitivity)
We lose our ability to feel compassion. (inconsiderate)
We cause estrangement. (or become estranged- alienation)
We require unrealistically high standards of behavior from others to compensate for the way we feel we have been injured or attacked.
We become highly judgmental.
What Not To Do With Anger
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31-32, NLT
David Jeremiah offers these thoughts from this passage:
Don’t Nurse Your Anger
Don’t protect it and give it an ongoing place to live in your life. Be done with it in short order. While sundown is used here as a figure of speech, it is an excellent way to assess the state of your anger … Anger turns into resentment, and resentment turns into bitterness, and bitterness turns into unforgiveness, and unforgiveness turns into a defiled conscience. Pretty soon, we have become captives of our own anger.
Don’t Rehearse Your Anger
When we verbalize our anger to another person all we are doing is confirming it, making our convictions deeper.Verbalizing our anger just makes the roots of that anger go deeper and deeper into our heart. Like an actor, the more you rehearse the part, the more natural it becomes for you to play it.
Don’t Converse about Your Anger.
Conversing about your anger to others takes the form of corrupt communication coming out of your mouth. In the NT, the word “corrupt” was the word for “cutting.” Paul is saying don’t let words which have a cutting effect come out of your mouth. The kind of speech we are to be characterized by is edifying speech, words that impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29 Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.).
Don’t Disperse Your Anger.
Nor your bitterness, wrath, clamor, evil speaking, or malice (verse 31). Sinful anger is just one of a number of sinful responses and behaviors that is not to proceed from the life of a Christian, a person controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking here about a person who throws a temper tantrum when he can’t get what he wants.
Do Reverse Your Anger.
Do that with forgiveness and loving kindness and tenderness. Romans 12:20–21 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” We are to love others in the way that God in Christ has loved us.
Is there someone today at whom you are angry?
A tender action of forgiving love is a weapon the giant of anger cannot withstand.
What are some ways we deal with anger in our lives?
Dealing with Anger
Remember that not all anger is sinful or even bad. Over 500 times in the OT God is said to be angry. The Creator of man is moved when His creation rebels against Him. We, too, should be moved by the ungodliness of the world. We remember, too, that God’s anger is free from malice, injustice, unethical and hasty qualities. It is a natural expression of his nature. There are occasions when it is appropriate to express our feelings to one another. Say something like, “Bill, I am upset about this problem. Can we talk about it?” Often our anger can be resolved through clear–headed communication and loving confrontation.
Acknowledge your anger to yourself and God.
Have you been honest with God and yourself regarding your anger, or have you tried to hide it under a layer of superficial Christianity?
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.1 John 2:9–11
Identify the source of your anger.
Is it a person? Are you taking out your anger on someone else? Identifying your source of anger will keep you from hurting others who are innocent. Perhaps you are angry at someone at work and take it out on your
Psalm 37:8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do fret—it leads only to evil.
Trust God to set things right.
Romans 12:19-21 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him
something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
James 1:19–20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Pray About Your Anger
1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
God wants you to experience an abundant life. Suppressed anger or ongoing rage and resentment is a spiritual barrier against the love of God. People or circumstances may have hurt you, but you can respond in forgiveness through your new life in Christ. You are not a victim of your circumstances but a victor through Jesus Christ.
Stanley, C. F. (1997). Dealing With Life’s Pressures (electronic ed.). Atlanta: In Touch Ministries.
Stanley, C. F. (1997). Becoming emotionally whole (electronic ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Jeremiah, D. (2001). Facing the Giants in Your Life: Study Guide (pp. 67–76). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Jeremiah, D. (2001). Slaying the giants in your life (pp. 104–120). Nashville, TN: W Pub.
Turner, J. J. How to Win Over Emotions