How Can We Control Our Anger?
As a twelve-year-old boy in inner city Liverpool, if I was angered, the standard response was to physically hit the offending person. As a young Christian I realised this was not going to work for me. It came to a crisis point when George, a sort of friend, stamped on my foot. At this point my fight reflex was very high but I realised I needed to choose a different way of handling this situation. I did not attack him and he even apologised over the incident.
Looking back, this was a pivotal point for my life and handling anger. It set me on a different course of discovering how to control my anger.
Practical Principles for not Punching Our Pals
Realise our anger can be controlled
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside them (Romans 8:9)1 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives changing us. The fruits of this work are many but one particularly is self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23)2 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.. This is not just dropped on us like a jug of custard on a sponge pudding rather it grows in our life as we work with the Holy Spirit to develop self-control. We fail many times in this process because it is a growth process that will produce fruit in the right time. The Holy Spirit is both powerful and effective in this process, this means we can be confident we can gain control.
Anger is not our first option
God is slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:173But you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and didn’t forsake them. ) and we are told to also be slow to anger (James 1:19) 419 So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger;. Right action motivated by anger is well thought out and informed. Indeed, other options to resolve problems should be thoroughly exhausted. This is what God does with mankind giving every opportunity to change and turn to Him (Ecclesiastes 8:11) 511 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil..
It is not good to keep company with angry people.
Proverbs tells us not to be friends with an angry and furious man (Proverbs 22:24, 25) 624 Don’t befriend a hot-tempered man. Don’t associate with one who harbors anger, 25 lest you learn his ways and ensnare your soul.. Anger or rather the wrong use and expression of anger is easily learnt. For some people, they have learnt a way of living that is constantly angry and at war with others. A very dear friend of mine was an angry man. For a number of years, I learnt his ways and was angry in my dealings with people. As my friend saw his own fault in this he helped me see what I had also to unlearn.
Anger should not be selfish
Our anger needs to not be about ourselves but concerned with the honour of God and the rights of others (Philippians 2:4) 74 each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.. If we have to go to war we need to do it for a godly reason. Thus, Jude exhorts Christians to contend for the faith against false teachers and deceivers (Jude 1:3) 83 Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.. I have learned to examine my motives when angry. It helps me to control how I feel if I discover I am being selfish or unreasonable.
We need to do what we can to resolve issues and not allow anger to continue.
In the case of husband and wife differences need to be resolved quickly. This is what Paul means when he says don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26) 9Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,. Part of managing anger and its issues is rooted in putting right what is wrong between people. There would be much less ongoing anger if we obeyed what Jesus said about repairing broken relationships (Matthew 5:23-26) 105 Agree with your adversary quickly while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there until you have paid the last penny.. The church needs to take seriously God’s given way of resolving difficulties if people want to live together in peace (Matthew 18:15-17) 1115 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector..
We shouldn’t misdirect anger at the innocent
We are warned not to be angry with people without good cause (Matthew 5:22) 1222 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment. Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ will be in danger of the council. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.. A lot of anger is transferred against the innocent. We can be angry about a situation and hit out at others who had nothing to do with the situation. Sometimes we direct anger at an easier target. After a hard day at work it is all to easy to come home and react in anger against family members.
Realise that anger misused is a very serious sin.
Unrighteous anger is the first step towards murder. Jesus speaks of four steps towards the act of murder.
- Anger without a cause. One of the problems of dealing with anger that has no real cause is that it is impossible to resolve the anger because it is not based on truth.
- The next step in the process of murder involves speaking in a slanderous way. Usually, a conversation escalates the anger; this can be external or internalised within the angered person. The tongue is responsible for all manner of evil (James 3:5, 6) 135 So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna..
- The third precursor to murder involves a devaluing of the victim of this act. A study of atrocities in History demonstrates that there is a process of devaluing people before the ill-treatment of others happens. As far as God is concerned any part of this process is the sin of murder.
- The fourth step is the actual act of homicide. Thankfully often people hold back from the final act even though they frequently indulge in the three precursors.
We need to be very careful that our anger is not a doorway into this murderous path.
God gets angry but He gives no just cause to others to be angry with Him. Moreover, God never handles anger wrongly. When we think about ourselves we must come to the conclusion that we have angered other people often because we have behaved badly towards them. Many times, have we misused anger and wronged both God and man because of this. Anger, therefore, is like a loaded gun we need to be very careful when handling it.
- Do you really believe that anger can be handled with self-control?
- Think of some examples where you handled anger well?
- Can you think of other ways of controlling anger in your life?