In Part 1 and Part 2 of “Being Angry in the Right Way,” we laid the groundwork to explore the emotion of anger. Because there is injustice in our imperfect world, there will always be anger within us. This anger is a good gift from God, and when expressed appropriately it can be constructive. However, we’ve all had moments where we’ve struck out with sharp words or even strong hands, destroying others in our anger.
It does us no good to hide from our emotions, but it does us well to go to the Scriptures (Romans 12:9-21) and see how we can be angry in a way that pleases God. In Romans chapter 12, we have a humble yet bold plea to consider the mercies of God in the way we live our lives (v1) specifically toward others (v9-13), and even more specifically toward those who would make us angry (v14-21). In part 3, we will discuss how we can improve the way we respond and express our anger.
#1 – Evaluate yourself honestly.
“Measure twice, cut once.” This advice is as valuable in the area of anger as it is in do-it-yourself projects. Before we pull the blade of anger through a situation, we would do well to measure – internally evaluate – the situation at least twice. This is the first step to help us be angry in the right way.
We can be increasingly less sinful in our anger if we examine our motives and biases. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). First, what exactly is it that you’re angry about? What is the “evil” that is shaking your soul? What is the “good” that you are desiring? Being very clear in this internal measure can help us be less sinful in our anger. Write it down. Break it up.
- “The evil I am abhorring is ________.”
- “The good I am desiring is ________.”
Examine your answers. Are they in line with what God wants?
We may find that instead of injury or injustice, we are uncomfortable with inconvenience or insecurity. We may find that instead of threat or tragedy, we are bothered by the timing or trouble of the conversation. In the case of finding we are not genuine in our love, we can move to the second step in being angry in the right way. We do not just stuff our anger or frustration. We move to the next step.
#2 – Approach sincerely and listen humbly.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:14-16). Bless…rejoice…weep…live in harmony…associate; these are action words, engaging words. The second way we can be angry in the right way is to engage in dialogue with those we disagree with. This reflects the heart of God.
This is probably the hardest part of being angry in the right way. In our opinion, we are justified, and they are wrong. How could they hold their position or perspective with a clear conscience?! Do they not know the end of their behavior is destruction?! Are they blind?! They don’t deserve my time!
Remember, the humble yet bold plea to consider the mercies of God toward us (Romans 12:1). Jesus came to engage us. He wept for the lost and His friends who lost their brother. He associated with His creation, even as they struggled to grasp the purpose of God and Christ. He patiently engaged people He disagreed with in conversation.
Another way to practice anger in a way that reflects the heart of God is to listen to the perspective of the person making you angry. This is a simple test: Can you communicate the argument of the other person in a way that they would say is fair?
Questions to answer are: Why do they disagree with you? What would satisfy them? What are they upset about? How would they say we can live together? You’ll only know this if you are engaging others in conversation and truly listening. The heart of God is mercifully and patiently engaging in the life of His creation, and we reflect it as we do the same. When we have a foundation for conversation, we can find constructive ways to express our anger.
What is the constructive goal of your anger? This may seem like a simple concept until you try to identify the goal. The goal we desire is usually very complex, unable to be reached in our own power. In Romans, this is Paul’s constructive solution: “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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:20-21). Is this your goal?
#3 – Express your anger constructively.
After we examine our motives and biases and learn more about the angering perspective through clarifying conversations, we can start to express constructive solutions.
Destructive ways to be angry:
Constructive ways to be angry:
We trust that God is working in our lives and in the lives of those we are talking with. We trust God with the results. Our ability to overcome evil with good is based on the understanding that God is in control (Romans 12:19).
Offer ways you can constructively address the needs of the other person or situation. Write down a short list of possible solutions. Repeat the three steps discussed above in each conversation or suggestion.
As God engages in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike, we can bless others in many areas while still holding to our convictions. Above all, seek to communicate the character and love of Christ through the conversation. Leave room for God to work in the hearts of those that anger you.
Anger is such a difficult emotion to control. We feel justified so we act and speak quickly. Anger is also a powerful emotion. We are impressed by someone who can be angry and not fall into sin. With many opportunities in our society, politics, and personal lives to see injustice and become angry, we have a terrific opportunity to show the power of the Holy Spirit through our lives. Handling anger in the right way is worth the effort.