“I don’t have an anger problem” he repeatedly protested in my counseling office. “I don’t swear, break things, threaten harm, or even raise my voice. How can my wife say that I have an “anger” problem? Sure, I get frustrated like everyone but I stay under control – I do not have an anger issue.”
Over the years, we have talked with many people in our counseling offices who are convinced they don’t have an anger problem because they have managed to reduce or eliminate outward angry outbursts.
In principles 1-3 of Part 1 of this article, we were reminded that anger is a matter of our heart and we all need to learn to express anger in appropriate ways that reflect the heart of God. We all have an anger problem because we all get angry. We all struggle with our anger because we all struggle with selfish desires inflamed when our wants are denied.
#4 – Anger can be expressed in destructive or constructive ways.
It can be tempting to only think of anger as either right or wrong, black or white, helpful or harmful. However, the Bible gives us a more rigorous approach to evaluating our anger. It prompts us to evaluate many different factors in the expression of our anger to ensure that we are reflecting the heart of God.
Anger needs to be expressed at the appropriate time.
Ephesians 4:26-27  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil. (ESV)
Anger that is expressed too quickly or too slowly will often fail to be constructive. We are called to be patient but persistent in our pursuit of reconciliation with others. When we are angry at circumstances, we are called to move from anger to trust that God will not leave us and He has a purpose for us.
Anger needs to be expressed in appropriate ways.
Proverbs 25:11-12  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.  Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. (ESV)
Many words have been spoken in anger that ring through the ears of hurting souls. Words of condemnation, ridicule, and hate have a lasting effect on how we see ourselves and our abilities. God calls us to speak in ways that build people up, and our angry words are no exception. Expressing anger should not be about getting the hurt off of our chest, but should be focused on bringing grace to the relationship.
Anger needs to be expressed after I have listened carefully.
James 1:19-20  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (ESV)
How many times do we look foolish because we turn an argument sideways, completely derailing any good that could come from it? Most of the time, this happens because we chose to answer before we listened. Before we fire off a short email, text, or angry, sarcastic remark, do we humble ourselves and listen, knowing that we could be wrong?
Anger needs to be expressed to repair the relationship, not destroy it.
Ephesians 4:31-32  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)
Do you get the Bible’s logic here? We are called to put away anger, and instead, put on kindness. Anger isn’t always wrong, but it should never be a way of life. God wants our anger to pivot into compassion; those who are angry in productive ways choose carefully how to express it, and listen first before they speak. We are to express anger as a means to honest dialogue and eventual repair of the relationship. When our anger is about our right to express our disgust, we will always miss the mark and pursue our desires selfishly.
#5 – Our faith is the crucial key to transforming our anger.
Nothing is more important when learning to control your anger than your faith and your relationship with God. When we love God with our whole heart and strive to love our neighbor as ourselves, our anger will be on display less and our emotional life will become better balanced. Sadness, happiness, tenderness, and peace will quickly take our anger in better directions that meet the need of the moment more appropriately. The reality is that God doesn’t want us to live as angry people for long periods of time.
Why does God teach us not to be angry for long? This is where your faith comes into play. Can you trust God with your injustices? Can you trust God with the injustices that you see around you? In our anger, we write people off and act as if they can’t be redeemed. However, this is not the way of God; He is actively at work, even when we can’t see him.
While our faith impacts our anger in many ways, consider just three of the ways below.
Faith allows me to trust that God will punish every wrong.
We feel anger when we are wronged or witness injustice perpetrated on others. Is God blind to the plight of others and ourselves when we are hurting? Our faith reminds us that no sin goes unpunished, no wrong is left ignored, and no injustice will last forever.
Faith allows me to see that my maturity matters more than my desires.
Why should I learn to control my anger? At times, it’s easy to convince ourselves that it would feel better to let our angry words fly. However, the Bible often equates controlling our anger with our maturity and teaches us that controlling our anger is a means for us to mature.
What matters more to you? Maturity or Control? Maturity or Comfort? Maturity or Carnal Desires? The reality is that protecting our control, comfort, or carnal desires with angry outbursts is the exact opposite of the maturity that God wants us to develop. It takes faith to see that my character today will greatly impact my choices tomorrow.
Faith gives me confidence that I can change when I blow it.
As a counselor, I have had to reflect with lonely parents, spouses, and individuals on how their destructive expressions of anger have damaged relationships around them. They wish they had chosen to navigate the emotion of anger differently as they live in the battlefield of wounded relationships. However, it’s never too late to start getting a better handle on how to express anger wisely. It may not be able to heal all the wounds of the past, but it can help you develop healthier relationships moving forward. With God, there are no lost cause situations because all circumstances are used by God for His good, even when they are painful.
Part 3 of this article discusses some practical strategies and steps to evaluate and improve your ability to express anger in wise and God-honoring ways. If anger is a good gift from God that can be expressed for good to those around us, we can trust God to repurpose and use our expressions of anger. Choosing to evaluate and modify your expressions of anger takes faith, but pleases God, and pleasing God will always be more satisfying than pleasing oneself.