Dealing With Anger

Duane Vander Klok

Everyone gets angry from time to time. It happens when we think we have been mistreated, misunderstood or threatened. Anger also results from disappointment, frustration, grief or loss, and it is a normal emotional response when we feel that our real or perceived rights have been violated.

Uncontrolled anger affects non-Christians and Christians alike, taking a toll on physical health, damaging relationships, ruining businesses, wrecking marriages and dividing families. It can – and often does – lead to abuse, violence and destruction.

Unresolved Anger
An untold number of people walk around with smiles on their faces, but just under the surface, anger is waiting to explode. Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

When a person does not deal with the source of their anger, it remains unresolved and rests on the inside of them, causing them trouble with things others would hardly even notice. When they reach a tipping point, their reaction is often out of proportion to the size of the issue. Why? Because they aren’t reacting only to the current situation, but to an accumulation of unresolved anger.

You see, people are like pressure cookers. As anger is stuffed inside, pressure begins building. When more offenses come, the pressure increases until anger is vented in little bursts, or it builds and builds until it erupts like a volcano. Certainly that is not the best way to deal with anger.

Take Responsibility
You may not be able to control the events that make you mad, but your response to them is your responsibility. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said: “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26, NKJV).

Notice that it doesn’t say it is wrong for you to get angry or that anger is a sin. However, it makes it clear that you are responsible for dealing with anger before it opens the door to the devil.

We know from John 10:10 that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Anytime you give him an inch, he will take a mile. That’s why Paul tells you how to keep the door closed to sin, saying: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” He is urging you to deal with problems when they arise and reminding you not to let a single day pass with unresolved anger in your heart.

Maybe you grew up in an anger-filled environment. If so, you may have a problem with your temper and not even realize it. However, you are still responsible for how you handle it. No one makes you respond out of anger. You make the choice to throw things, hit people, swear or say things that hurt others, or you make the choice not to.

Minimizing anger or making excuses for it only perpetuates the problem. You won’t get free until you admit you are angry and take responsibility for your angry actions.

Don’t React
In Galatians 5:20, anger is identified as a work of the flesh. Fortunately, in verse 16, we are given the remedy for fleshly works. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Simply put, you “live by the Spirit” by reading, praying and meditating on the Word of God and then doing what it says.

If you have a habit of reacting in the flesh whenever someone pushes your buttons, you will want to develop a pattern of acting instead of reacting. Here’s a practical example:

Suppose you have a habit of getting upset with other drivers who cut you off. Maybe you react by swearing at them (even though they can’t hear you) or making angry gestures (that they may not even notice). If so, begin now to build a new vocabulary for the next time it happens, one that praises God and blesses those you previously would have cursed. Be ready to act by praying for them. Have words ready to speak blessings over them. Make the choice in advance to smile at them (even though they won’t see you).

When you do this, you are putting 1 Peter 3:9 into action. It says: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”Repaying evil with evil is reacting. Blessing is acting.

As you live by the Spirit, the things people do will no longer have the same effect on you. When something happens that would normally cause your flesh to respond in anger, your spirit will rise up and you will respond in love.

The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”  (Ephesians 4:31). How do you do that? Verse 32 provides the answer. It is by forgiving “just as in Christ, God forgave you.” 

Jesus made it clear that we need to forgive people as much for our sake as for theirs. He said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).  This means that anytime anyone hurts you, no matter how deep the wound, you need to pray and forgive them, releasing the penalty of the offense to God. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they did, whether they are living or dead, just forgive them.

When you choose to forgive, you are released on the inside. The ones who offended you may never acknowledge their wrongdoing, but when you forgive them in prayer to God, your heart is freed from bitterness, anger and wrath.

Not “Do’s” and “Don’ts”
Paul, in Colossians 3:8 says, “Rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” He says you should do this, because as a Christian, you have “taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

To live as the man or woman of God that He created and redeemed you to be, you also need to clothe yourself with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

It’s critical that we do not reduce statements like these – or any other of God’s Words – to a list of what to do and what not to do. The legalistic Pharisees tried to do that with God’s Law, but they failed because the Law wasn’t in their hearts, it was only in their heads. They were more concerned with obeying the letter of the Law than they were on depending on God to make them righteous on the inside. Jesus said of them: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6).

God’s Word was never meant to be treated as a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts.” That would be missing the point. God wants to change you from the inside out, not just change your behavior. He wants you to honor Him not only with your lips, but also with your heart and with your life.

Remember, your response to anger is your responsibility.

1 Peter 2:23 talks about Jesus’ attitude and actions as He went to the cross. It tells us: “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly,” Like Jesus, we need to stop focusing on our wounds and those who caused them and surrender ourselves to the One who judges justly.

You will never end up with God’s best in a situation if you say and do things hastily out of anger. James 1:19-20 (NKJV) says, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

You don’t have to be dominated by anger. Take action now!

(All scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)