Anger has become a blemish on the culture. It is out of control, and has led to a degree of violence never imagined. It is an emotion just like joy, happiness, or sadness, but is expressed in destructive ways, an outward action of the sinful heart of humanity separated from God.
Genesis 4:3-8 narrates the first recorded scenario of anger. Cain became very angry with his brother Abel, so much so that he allowed it to rule his spirit, to the point of murdering him. Cain did not “rule over it”(vs. 7), but let it fester.
So, what are some ways a person can work on mastering destructive anger? First, Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” The point of these verses is to not allow anger to carry over to the next day, and the next, which could then become weeks and months. This is when it can turn into hatred.
Second, anger must be dealt with at a young age. An occasional outburst of anger by a small child is probably nothing to be concerned about, but if it starts to become a normal reaction to people or circumstances something must be done to, as the saying goes, “nip it in the bud,” so that it will not carry over into the older years. I firmly believe that there needs to be a required course at the high school and even the middle school level in identifying anger issues and how to deal with them. Families and churches should also teach anger management.
Third, follow the biblical advice given in James 1:19-20. “…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.” Oh, how the global community could benefit from following this verse by sitting down together and listening to one another! Too many in our world need to grow up emotionally, quit being offended by every little thing, and letting some things go through forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, in the words of pastor and author, T.D. Jakes, “is the most significantly underutilized aspect of adult maturation.”
Another important aspect of anger management is knowing what to get angry about, but in a calm self-controlled manner. Jesus got “angry” at the way business was being conducted in the Temple, the place of worship and prayer, as recorded in John 2:14-16. Some people have used this passage to say that Jesus sinned. However, referring back to Ephesians 4:26, we read, “Be angry and sin not…”, the implication being that having anger is not necessarily sinning. How is this possible? I think it depends on whether a person responds verses reacts (more about that later), and to whom or what the anger is directed. I don’t believe that Jesus had an out-of-control spontaneous reaction to the situation. Rather, he exemplified the words of Proverbs 16:32. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” There are things in our global culture that should make us angry! I am sure you can think of some.
Pastor and author, T.D. Jakes, writes, “There is such a thing as healthy anger…Foremost, anger sounds an alarm that you care about something or someone, even if it is just yourself…Often, anger helps us confront what we would otherwise ignore…You can’t overcome what you will not confront” (T.D. Jakes, “Let It Go”, Astria Books, 2012, pages 93-94).
I will close with my own experience with anger and a strategy that has been helpful to me. It is my prayer that you or someone you know will also find it useful.
“One of the first things I learned [through counseling] was that anger can become a habit and pattern of behavior. I had become accustomed to reacting to another person or situation. After months of discussing causes behind my anger, my attention was given to solutions. My recovery from anger consists of the following choices (John Clark, “God’s Healing Hope”, Trafford Publishing, 2008, pg. 84):
- I have to own the problem. Blowing up or yelling is never justified and accomplishes nothing.
- I need to recognize what sorts of things or situations make me angry.
- When I know in advance that I might have a situation that has the potential to make me REACT, I can plan in advance how I can RESPOND in a non-destructive way.
- I think of positive alternatives to dealing with the anger, like going for a walk, or working in the yard. Sometimes I plan what I am going to say, even exact words.
- It is important that I vent my anger, and do something to release it, but not around other people.