Anger is an involuntary reaction to a displeasing situation or event. As long as anger is limited to this involuntary, initial emotion, it may be considered a normal reaction. It is when we respond improperly to anger—when we either lose our temper or store the anger so that it makes us resentful or hostile—that it becomes dangerous. It is here that the Bible calls us to account.
In discussing anger, we must realize that not all anger is wrong. When the Bible mentions anger, it may be focusing on several different emotions. For example:
• Moses was angry when he saw the unfaithfulness and idolatry of his people (Exodus 32:19).
• When He healed the man with the withered hand, Jesus “looked around at them with anger” (Mark 3:5) because He was disturbed by the Pharisees’ stubborn hearts.
• Though not explicitly stated, anger is implied in the attitude and actions of our Lord as He drove the profiteers from the temple (Mark 11:15, 17).
• Anger can sometimes be called for in our response to sin: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
It Is Scriptural to Control Anger
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11, NIV). Each person has the right to express his own opinions and to be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, we should not forget that if Jesus had demanded His “rights,” He wouldn’t have gone to the cross! The Christian must be careful of his responses, remembering that one’s position may be right while the accompanying attitudes may be wrong.
Anger Is Excessive or Uncontrolled If It Leads To:
• Outbursts of temper or bad language.
• Bitterness, resentment, and hostility (the urge to “get even”).
• Inner turmoil—the loss of one’s sense of tranquillity and well-being. Do I have the nagging feeling that my attitude is displeasing to God, or that I “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27)?
• Harm to other people. Does the anger negatively affect my testimony as others observe my bad responses? Are they victims of those responses, physically or emotionally?
How Can We Learn to Control Anger?
1. Don’t interpret everything as a personal offense, oversight, or hurt. At the same time, try to pinpoint the things that cause you to become excessively angry.
2. Make your attitudes and responses a matter for serious prayer. Pray also about the irritating behavior of others that has caused your anger. Remember that God uses people and circumstances to refine our character. We may have many rough edges that need to be filed down!
3. Regularly confess excessive anger as sin: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV). Learn to balance the books at least by the end of each day.
4. Realize that the Christian must learn to cope with two natures, each striving for supremacy. We must learn to practice the “put off—put on” principle of Ephesians 4:22–24 (NIV):
A. “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (verse 22, emphasis added).
B. “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (verse 24, emphasis added).
C. The effect of practicing the “put off—put on” principle is to “be made new in the attitude of your minds” (verse 23; see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
5. Strive to focus your anger away from yourself, to the problems that are causing it.
6. Surrender each day to the Holy Spirit: “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16, NIV).
7. Let the Word of God permeate your life as you read, study, and memorize it: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16, NIV).
1. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is basic to solving any spiritual problem. Ask the inquirer if he or she has entered into this relationship. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.
2. Ask questions of your Christian inquirer to determine the extent of his or her problem with unresolved or excessive anger. Share from the “Background,” emphasizing proper Christian attitudes, daily confession, and the “put off—put on” principle. Suggest writing down the points and Scripture references in order to better remember them.
3. Pray with the inquirer, that he or she may have a “conscience void of offense before God and man” (Acts 24:16), and the faith to trust God for continued victory.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV).
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11, NIV).
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NIV).
“Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language” (Colossians 3:8).
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19–20, NIV).
See also Bitterness and Resentment
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996
Anger, Hot Temper
For help in overcoming uncontrolled anger and a hot temper, see Overcoming Sin; and Self-control.
1. Anger is not in itself sinful.
Ps. 7:11. (God is angry with the wicked.)
1 Kings 11:9. (God was angry with Solomon.)
2 Kings 17:18. (God was angry with Israel.)
Mark 3:5. (Jesus was angry with the Pharisees.)
2. Be slow to become angry.
Prov. 14:17. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of wicked intentions is hated.
Prov. 14:29. He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
James 1:19–20. So then, my beloved brethren, 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.
3. Love covers a multitude of sins and overlooks many offenses.
Prov. 10:12. Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.
Prov. 12:16. A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.
Prov. 17:9. He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Prov. 19:11. The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
1 Peter 4:8. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
4. Seek the way of love.
1 Cor. 13:4–5. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
5. Cain’s anger turned into hate and murder.
6. Hot words stir up strife.
Prov. 15:1. A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
7. A hot-tempered man creates dissension.
Prov. 15:18. A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
8. Do not associate with a hot-tempered man.
Prov. 22:24–25. Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.
9. Control yourself.
Prov. 25:28. Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.
Prov. 29:22. An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.
Prov. 30:33. For as the churning of milk produces butter, And wringing the nose produces blood, So the forcing of wrath produces strife.
10. Fits of rage belong to your sinful nature, the way of sin.
11. Good news! Through the Spirit you can overcome the sin of a hot temper.
12. Handle anger in a godly way. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Eph. 4:26. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
Facing the Fire Within
by June Hunt
The day begins like any other day, but ends like no other—for on this day, he gives full vent to his anger … and, as a result, finds himself running for his life.
He is part of a mistreated minority—grievously persecuted, not for doing something wrong, but for being perceived as a threat. Raised with “privilege” in the palace of a king, he had been spared the heartless treatment inflicted on his kinsmen. But watching the injustice, day after day and year after year, finally becomes too much to bear. When he sees one of his own people suffering an inhumane beating at the hands of an Egyptian, Moses is filled with rage. He snaps. In an instant, he kills the Egyptian and hides the body in the sand. But his angry, impetuous act is not committed in secret. When news of the murder reaches Pharaoh, Moses fears for his life and flees. (See Exodus chapter 2.)
When you look at the life of Moses, you can see both the power and the potential problems inherent in anger. Has anger ever clouded your judgment to the point that you acted rashly … and lived to regret it? Ultimately, you have the choice to act wisely or to react foolishly. In his lifetime, Moses did both. (And like him, you can learn to keep your anger under control—you can learn how to act rather than react!)
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Understandably, Moses felt anger over the unjust treatment of his brothers, but what he did with that anger got him into trouble. Moses allowed his emotions to overpower him. He committed a crime of passion—he committed murder. Although he was right about the injustice, his reaction was wrong. His hot-blooded volatility revealed how unprepared he was for the task God had planned for him. Consequently, God kept Moses on the back side of a desert for the next 40 years so that he would realize that rescuing his own people in his own way would ultimately fail. Moses needed to learn this vital lesson well for God to turn him into the godly leader needed to accomplish His will in His supernatural way. In truth, Moses had tried to earn the Israelites’ respect by coming to their rescue. Instead, his murderous rage earned only their disrespect.
“Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.”
A. What Is the Meaning of Anger?
What began as a smoldering ember in the heart of Moses quickly burst into deadly flames. Perhaps no one noticed the angry sparks flying from his eyes, but his spirit was consumed with the heat of anger. What do you do when you’re inflamed with angry thoughts and feelings? Firefighters know the danger of letting a flame get out of control. They are trained to respond quickly. You must respond quickly also in order to control the flame of anger before it consumes your life and destroys your relationships.
“A quick-tempered man does foolish things.”
• Anger is a strong emotion of irritation or agitation that occurs when a need or expectation is not met.
“An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29:22)
• Anger is the fuel for what the Bible describes as a hot-tempered or quick-tempered person.
“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18)
• Anger in the Old Testament is most frequently the Hebrew word aph, literally meaning “nose or nostrils” and, figuratively, picturing nostrils flaring with anger. Later, aph came to represent the entire face as seen in two ancient Hebrew idioms:
— “Long of face” (or nose) meaning … slow to anger.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8)
— “Short of face” (or nose) meaning … quick to anger.
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24)
• Anger in the New Testament is the Greek word orge which originally meant any “natural impulse or desire,” but later came to signify “anger as the strongest of all passions.” It is often translated as “wrath” because of its powerful, lasting nature.
“For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8)
B. What Is the Magnitude of Anger?
Anger, like heat, has many degrees. It ranges from mild, controlled irritations to hot, uncontrolled explosions. In fact, anger is a wide umbrella word that covers many levels of the emotion.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.”
• Indignation is simmering anger provoked by something appearing unjust or unworthy and often perceived as justified. Jesus became “indignant” when the disciples were preventing parents from bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch and bless them.
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ ” (Mark 10:14)
• Wrath is burning anger accompanied by a desire to avenge. Wrath often moves from the emotion of anger to the outward expression of anger. InRomans 1:18, God expresses His wrath as divine judgment on those who commit willful sin.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Romans 1:18)
• Fury is fiery anger so fierce that it destroys common sense. The word fury suggests a powerful force compelled to harm or destroy. Some members of the Sanhedrin were so angry with Peter and the other apostles for proclaiming that Jesus was God that “they were furious and wanted to put them to death” (Acts 5:33). That is why the Bible says,
“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming.” (Proverbs 27:4)
• Rage is blazing anger resulting in loss of self-control, often to the extreme of violence and temporary insanity. After an outburst of rage, how many times have we heard this cry of remorse, “I can’t believe I did that!” Yet those who continue to vent their rage toward others, including toward God, find themselves defeated by their own destructive decisions and ruined relationships.
“A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:3)
C. What Are Misconceptions about Anger?
Do you always view anger as negative and sinful? Do you seek to hide your own anger from others, even from yourself? Misunderstandings about anger give this powerful emotion a less than positive reputation! If you are blind to God’s purposes for anger and if you are afraid of revealing your true feelings, you may be in bondage to undefined or false guilt. The Bible says,
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
Questions about Anger
Question: “Is it a sin for me to be angry?”
Answer: No. The initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way you respond and express this emotion determines whether or not you allow your anger to become sin. The Bible says,
“In your anger do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)
Question: “How can I keep from feeling guilty when I’m angry?”
Answer: Your anger is a signal that something is wrong— like the red warning light on the dashboard of a car. The purpose of the light is to propel you to action … to cause you to stop, to evaluate what is wrong, and then to take appropriate action. Jesus became angry at the hypocritical religious leaders who interpreted “resting on the Sabbath” excessively—even to the extent that healing the sick on the Sabbath was worthy of the death penalty. As a result, He fully restored a man’s crippled hand on the Sabbath.
“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” (Mark 3:5)
Question: “How can a God of love be a God of wrath at the same time?”
Answer: Because of God’s great love for you, He directs His anger toward anyone or anything that thwarts His perfect plan for you. God’s anger never operates independently of His love. He expresses anger on your behalf and for your ultimate good.
“His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.” (Psalm 30:5)
Question: “Can people be really angry even when they don’t look or sound angry?”
Answer: Yes. Many have difficulty expressing or even recognizing their emotions. Instead, they have learned to deny, ignore, or repress their anger by burying it deep within their hearts. However, it is not hidden from God, who sees it and understands it.
“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ” (1 Samuel 16:7)
D. What Is the Misuse of Anger?
Periodically, everyone feels the heat of anger, but how you handle the heat determines whether you are misusing it. The small flame that lights a cozy campfire, if left unchecked, can just as quickly ignite a fierce forest fire. Conversely, the initial spark of anger that could be used for good, if snuffed out, can keep anger from accomplishing its designated purpose. Evaluate whether you could be mishandling your anger.
“Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.”
• Prolonged anger … the “simmering stew”
… is held in for a long time. This anger results from an unforgiving heart toward some past offense and offender. Unforgiveness eventually results in a resentment and deep bitterness that harms other relationships.
“I’ll never forgive the way he talked to me years ago.”
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)
• Pressed down anger … the “pressure cooker”
… is denied or hidden anger. Usually resulting from a fear of facing negative emotions, this kind of anger can create a deceitful heart and lead to untruthfulness with others. Failure to honestly confront and resolve angry feelings can result in self-pity, self-contempt, and self-doubt … ultimately sabotaging most relationships.
“I never get angry … maybe just a little irritated at times.”
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” (1 Peter 3:10)
• Provoked anger … the “short fuse”
… is quick and impatient, instantly irritated or incensed. A testy temper is often expressed with criticism or sarcasm under the guise of teasing.
“I can’t believe you said that! You’re so childish!”
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
• Profuse anger … the “volatile volcano”
… is powerful, destructive, hard to control. This way of releasing anger is characterized by contempt, violence, and abuse toward others.
“You stupid fool—if you ever do that again, you’ll wish you’d never been born!”
Jesus gives an ominous warning toward those who demean others …
“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.… But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
II. CHARACteRIstICs of AngeR
Betrayal from the outside can be bruising, but betrayal by a friend cuts deep and wounds the soul. Everyone expects opposition from those on the outside, but what do you do when opposition comes from within—from among your own … “your closest confidants” … your trusted few?
One national leader knew the brutality of such betrayal. He had led wisely, demonstrated courage, and won the confidence of his people. He was there for them—and they knew it. However, another leader undermined his authority and created such dissension that this man stole the loyalty of 250 of his leaders. Those whom he had trusted throughout the years—those who should have known him the best, those who should have been most loyal to him—turned against him. In response, however, Moses did not take personal revenge, but rather appealed to the Lord.
“Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offering. I have not … wronged any of them.’ ”
Although justifiably angry, Moses had learned how to act rather than react. He restrained his rage, poured out his heart, and pleaded with the Lord to deal with His offenders. In turn, God took up his cause, destroyed his betrayers, and defended his honor. Moses refused to take revenge, but rather allowed the Lord to be his avenger because God had given this promise …
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”
A. What Are Your Anger Cues?
The human body has a physical reaction when it experiences anger. These “anger cues” can alert you when you begin to feel angry. Discerning your own anger cues can help you avoid trouble. Likewise, being aware of the signs of anger in others can alert you to appropriately defend yourself, if necessary. A biblical example of an anger cue is Jonathan’s loss of appetite when he was hurt and grieved over his father’s unjust, shameful treatment toward his close friend David.
“Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.”
(1 Samuel 20:34)
In seeking to identify your anger cues, answer the following questions:
• Do you have decreased appetite?
• Do you feel unusually hot or cold?
• Do you find that you are breathing faster and harder?
• Do you have tense muscles?
• Do you have increased respiration?
• Do you practice silence (shutting down verbally)?
• Do you feel flushed?
• Do you clench your fists?
• Do you feel your heart racing, pounding?
• Do you use language that is inappropriate, harsh, or coarse (sarcasm, gossip)?
• Do you experience dry mouth?
• Do you use loud, rapid, or high-pitched speech?
• Do you experience stomach upset or churning?
• Do you clench your teeth?
• Do you have twitches or anxious behaviors (tapping pencil, shaking foot, etc.)?
• Do you walk hard and fast or pace back and forth?
Once you have identified your anger cues, you will be in a position to quickly identify when you are angry and then direct your energies to produce a positive outcome.
“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”
(2 Corinthians 7:11)
B. Do You Act or React When You Are Angry?
When you are angry, does reason rule the day or do tense emotions take over? Do you allow the mind of Christ within you to determine how best you should act, a choice that leads to appropriate action … or do you have a knee-jerk reaction that leads to inappropriate reaction? If you have never evaluated what happens when you feel angry or if you lack insight as to how others perceive you when you are angry, seek God’s wisdom and understanding.
“If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
• An appropriate action is expressing your thoughts and feelings with restraint, understanding, and concern for the other person’s welfare.
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27)
• An inappropriate reaction is expressing your thoughts and feelings in such a way that stirs up anger in others so that it produces strife. Proverbs, the book on wisdom, paints this graphic picture …
“As churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 30:33)
To help assess whether you act or react, take time to answer the following questions:
|Appropriate Actions||Inappropriate Reactions|
|• Do you use tactful, compassionate words?||• Do you use tactless, condemning words?|
|• Do you try to see the other person’s point of view?||• Do you see only your point of view?|
|• Do you want to help the one who angers you?||• Do you want to punish the one who angers you?|
|• Do you focus first on your own faults?||• Do you focus only on the faults of others?|
|• Do you have realistic expectations?||• Do you have unrealistic expectations?|
|• Do you have a flexible and cooperative attitude?||• Do you have a rigid and uncooperative attitude?|
|• Do you forgive personal injustices?||• Do you have difficulty forgiving injustices?|
Even though a situation may evoke anger, those who allow the Lord to be their strength will respond appropriately.
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
C. What Are Symptoms of Unresolved Anger?
The emotion of anger is not a problem in itself, but anger becomes a problem when left unresolved. Prolonged anger fans the flame of bitterness and fuels unforgiveness. One way you can choose to harbor anger is by refusing to face your feelings in a healthy way. This unresolved anger not only creates a rift between you and God, but also damages your body, destroys your emotions, and demoralizes your relationships. Whether you recognize it or not, extended anger can cause significant physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. Jesus said,
“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
Unresolved anger is known to produce in many people some of the following physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms:
• Physical Symptoms
— High blood pressure
— Heart disease
— Stomach disorders
— Intestinal disorders
— Blurred vision
— Compulsive eating
• Emotional Symptoms
• Spiritual Symptoms
— Loss of Perspective
Allowing your emotions to distort your thinking
— Loss of Vision
Losing a sense of purpose for your life
— Loss of Sensitivity
Failing to hear the Spirit of God speaking to your heart
— Loss of Energy
Lacking strength for your service to God and others
— Loss of Freedom
Becoming a prisoner of your circumstances
— Loss of Confidence
Feeling insecure about your response to difficulties
— Loss of Faith
Failing to trust that God is working in your life
— Loss of Identity
Becoming like the person toward whom you are bitter
Unresolved anger produces bitterness. And the Bible links bitterness with being in bondage to sin.
“I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
D. Do You Have Hidden Anger?
Many people live life unaware that they have hidden anger—suppressed anger that only occasionally surfaces. While this hidden anger is usually rooted in past childhood hurts, the underlying effects are always ready to surface on the scene. For example, when someone says or does something wrong, the one with suppressed anger often overreacts. When someone makes an innocent mistake, the magnitude of anger is out of proportion to the mistake.
If you have hidden anger, you can find yourself at one extreme or another—from feeling hopeless to feeling hostile—and yet be totally unaware of why you are experiencing these feelings. The Bible makes it clear that some of our motives and emotions are hidden from our own view.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”
Clues to Find Hidden Anger
• Do you have irritability over trifles?
• Do you smile on the outside, while you hurt on the inside?
• Do you find your identity and worth in excessive work?
• Do you deny ever being impatient?
• Do you have to have the last word?
• Do those close to you say that you blame others?
• Do you feel emotionally flat?
• Do you find yourself quickly fatigued?
• Do you have a loss of interest in life?
• Do you become easily frustrated?
If you find that you have hidden anger, resolve to follow the Lord’s directive to the Christians in Colosse:
“You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
III. Causes of Anger
Imagine leading thousands of people through the desert. They look to you for both their physical and spiritual needs. While setting up camp at the base of a mountain, God calls you to climb the mountain and meet with Him because He plans to give you the Ten Commandments and other beneficial laws.
As you meet with God, unbeknownst to you, the people that God has you leading turn their hearts away from Him, melt their gold, mold a golden calf, and then begin to worship it! Now, God interrupts your meeting to inform you that your people have turned against Him. Flushed with anger and fear, you rush down the mountain to intervene.
Exodus 32:19 states, “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.”
Moses reacted because he was full of fear. He was afraid that God’s righteous anger against his disobedient people would result in their destruction. He knew they needed to …
“Worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ ”
A. What Are the Four Sources of Anger?
Throughout the world, unexpected fires can be started and fueled by one of four sources: seeping oil, seeping gas, molten lava, or coal bed methane (a flammable gas that can cause mining explosions). In a similar way, anger is typically started and fueled by one of four sources: hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration. With these roots, anger is a secondary response to one or more of these four sources. Probing into buried feelings from your past can be painful. Therefore, it can seem easier to stay angry than to uncover the cause, turn loose of your “rights,” and grow in maturity. We must have perseverance because …
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Your heart is wounded.
Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away.
Biblical Example: 12 Sons of Jacob
Joseph was the undisputed favorite of the twelve sons of Jacob. Feeling hurt and rejected by their father, the older sons became angry and vindictive toward their younger brother!
“Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:3–4)
Your right is violated.
Everyone has an inner moral code that produces a sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or others (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart.
Biblical Example: King Saul
King Saul’s unjust treatment of David evoked Jonathan’s anger. When Jonathan, son of Saul, heard his own father pronounce a death sentence on his dear friend David, he asked,
“ ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him [Jonathan]. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David” (1 Samuel 20:32–34).
Your future is threatened.
Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened, or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan for your life.
Biblical Example: King Saul
Saul became angry because of David’s many successes on the battlefield. He was threatened by David’s popularity and feared he would lose his kingdom. (Read 1 Samuel 18:5–15, 28–29.)
“Saul was very angry.… ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands.’ … Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.” (1 Samuel 18:8, 12)
Your performance is not accepted.
Everyone has a God-given inner need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations of yourself or of others is a major source of anger.
Biblical Example: Cain
Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, but Cain’s offering was clearly unacceptable. Cain had chosen to offer what he himself wanted to give rather than what God said was right and acceptable. When Cain’s self-effort was rejected, his frustration led to anger, and his anger led to the murder of his own brother.
“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.… Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (Genesis 4:3–5, 8)
Question: “What does God want me to do about my inappropriate anger?”
Answer: God wants you to examine the true source of your anger. Is it hurt, injustice, fear, frustration, or a combination? Then evaluate whether you are using anger to try to get your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security met.
— Hurt: Have you been hurt by rejection or someone’s unkind words? If so, evaluate …
Are you using anger to intimidate or coerce someone into remaining in a relationship with you?
— Injustice: Have you been the victim of a real or perceived injustice? If so, evaluate …
Are you using angry, accusatory words to cause someone to feel guilty and obligated to you?
— Fear: Has something occurred that causes you to have fear? If so, evaluate …
Are you using anger to overpower and control someone in order to get your way?
— Frustration: Do you feel a sense of frustration because of unmet expectations? If so, evaluate …
Are you using angry threats and shaming words to manipulate someone into meeting your demands?
In searching your heart, decide that you will not use anger to try to get your needs met. Instead, repent and enter into a deeper dependence on the Lord to meet these God-given needs.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
B. What Causes a Sudden Change in Intensity of Anger?
Although a person’s ways of expressing anger may change slightly over time, they seldom change dramatically. A dramatic change would be “atypical” (not typical). When there is a major change, there is also a major cause. If someone is uncharacteristically impatient, irritable, or provoked, be aware that changes in mood and behavior can result from …
• Drug abuse (steroids, cocaine)
• Head injury (sports, fall, car accident)
• Medications (certain antidepressants)
• Chemical deficiencies (hormonal imbalances)
• Certain illnesses or diseases (brain tumor, brain cancer)
• Physical or emotional trauma or stress (post-traumatic stress disorder)
Sudden changes of behavior warrant a close examination as to what could be a physical cause, especially in the brain.
“Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.”
C. How Do Expectations Lead to Anger?
How easy to live under the illusion that we can determine what people should do or how situations should be decided. “My destiny should be this; therefore, people should do that.” We pray and expect God to do everything we ask. The primary problem with all these expectations can center around the simple word pride. Ask the Lord, “Do I act as though I am at the center of my world?”
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.… ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
(James 4:1–3, 6)
• Anger over Circumstances
“I expected good things would always come my way … but life is clearly not what I’d expected.”
• Anger toward Others
“I expected that you would always be here for me, to always support and love me … but now I’m left alone.”
• Anger toward Yourself
“I expected to always excel … but now I am struggling and feel like a failure.”
The more we expect people to do what we want, the angrier we become when they fail us. The more we try to control others, the more control we give them over us. The more demands we put on others, the more power we give them to anger us. Instead, we need to humble ourselves and submit to God’s sovereignty over our lives and over the lives of others. We need to leave our destiny in His hands—where it rightly resides.
The Bible says that we are to lay our expectations before the Lord and allow Him to determine what we should receive.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”
Question: “How can I handle my anger over the losses in my life?”
Answer: When you experience significant loss in your life, you will go through a time of grieving.
— Admit your feelings—your hurt or sense of injustice, your fear or frustration.
— Release to God all the pain you feel, along with the situations that are beyond your control.
— Trust God to give you the grace and insight to deal constructively with each loss.
— Release your expectation that life must go your way.
Pray, “Lord, thank You that You are sovereign over my life. Whatever it takes, I want to respond to You with a heart of gratitude and to accept these unchangeable circumstances in my life. I choose to stop making myself and those around me miserable for something none of us can change. Instead, I thank You for how You are going to use everything in my life for my good and for Christ’s glory. In His holy name I pray. Amen.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
D. What Is the Root Cause of Anger?
When we feel that our real or perceived “rights” have been violated, we can easily respond with anger. But what are our legitimate rights? One person would answer, “Happiness.” Another would say, “Freedom to live life my way.” Yet this was not the mind-set of Jesus. He yielded His rights to His heavenly Father. Based on the Bible, we have the right to live in the light of God’s will as revealed in His Word. Other than that, we are to yield our rights to the Lord and let Him have His way in our hearts.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
“Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about the disappointments in my life and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me.”
“Since the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointments to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do.”
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)
IV. steps to solution
On that hot, dry day, Moses’ frustration reached a sizzling point. He had led more than a million of his people through the vast desert. But for all his efforts, they continually complained, questioned his leadership, and blamed him for their plight: “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead …! Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place?” (Numbers 20:3–5).
Now once again, they had no water. Earlier in their journey, God had miraculously provided water by instructing Moses to strike a particular rock with his staff. When Moses obeyed, a stream of water—enough for all Israel—poured out of the rock. (See Exodus 17:1–6.)
At this point, God intended to perform a similar miracle, but this time He told Moses to simply speak to, not strike, a particular rock. However, Moses was so frustrated that his anger boiled over the edge. Rather than speaking to the rock, he forcefully struck the rock … twice. Gushing water is what God intended—gushing anger is not what God intended. As a result, God disciplined His chosen leader by not allowing him to lead His chosen people into the Promised Land. (See Numbers 20:1–12.)
At times, are you like Moses? Do you sometimes allow your frustration to make you furious? Then later, you receive a painful repercussion? Whether you are filled with hurt, a sense of injustice, fear, or frustration, what should you do when you get angry? The Bible says,
“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”
A. Key Verses to Memorize
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
“ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.… Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:26–27, 29–32)
God’s Analysis of Anger
|• Angeris appropriate at certain times. v. 26• Angermust be resolved, or it becomes sinful. v. 26• Angercan be curtailed. v. 26• Anger, if prolonged, gives ground to Satan. v. 27
• Anger can lead to corrupt, unwholesome, degrading talk. v. 29
• Anger can grieve the Holy Spirit. v. 30
• Anger can be totally cancelled. v. 31
• Anger becomes sin when it results in bitterness. v. 31
• Anger must be eradicated before it turns into rage. v. 31
• Anger must be forfeited before it leads to fighting. v. 31
• Anger must be stopped before it becomes slander. v. 31
• Anger must be mastered before it becomes malicious. v. 31
• Anger can be conquered through compassion. v. 32
• Anger can be defeated through forgiveness. v. 32
C. Analyze the Amount of Your Anger
Have you seriously thought about how much anger you are holding inside your heart and toward whom you feel angry? Below is a pie-shaped outline. Divide the pie into segments and put a name inside each segment to represent the amount of anger you feel toward the different people in your life (past or present). We’ve done a sample “Anger Pie” for you on the next page.
As you think about your own anger, consider what the Bible says,
“Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
D. Are You Harboring Anger toward God?
Problems, pain, and perplexities—you can’t escape them! But … do you blame God for the pain and heartache in your life? Have you pointed a condemning finger and pronounced judgment on Him because He has not stopped evil or suffering? In the Bible, a man named Job had serious questions for God. In fact, we see the anger in his bitter complaint …
“Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.”
Is anger toward God justifiable? God answers Job with these words …
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?… Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?… Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”
(Job 38:2; 40:2, 8)
What is the answer to such intense anger against God? Can it be resolved? And if so, how?
Resolving Anger toward God
• Know God’s Character.
— He is just.
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
— His ways are just.
“Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.” (Revelation 15:3)
— He is love.
“God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
— His love is directed toward all people.
“God so loved the world.” (John 3:16)
• Grasp God’s Purposes.
— He brings good out of evil.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
— He turns crying into dancing and sorrow into joy.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11)
— He uses sufferings to produce perseverance, character, and hope.
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3–5)
— He uses our troubles to teach us compassion.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
• See God’s Plan.
— He offers salvation to all.
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
— He will bless those who persevere under trial.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (James 1:12)
— He will bring His righteous judgment on those who are evil.
“For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8–9)
— He will one day make everything new for His true believers.
“The dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)
Job, who at one time had bitterness toward God, ultimately realized that he had misplaced anger. With deepest remorse, he admitted his wrong …
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
(Job 42:2, 5–6)
Do You Want to Know Both How to Control Your Anger … and God’s Plan for Your Life?
No one wants to be thought of as “out-of-control.” No one wants to live with anger that is out of control. Yet, so often, someone will say, “I’ve really tried to confront my anger, but for some reason, I just can’t.”
If that someone is you, it could be that the Lord is saying, “I know you can’t but I can. I can give you the control you need—I will give you my supernatural power—but first give Me control of your life. Then I will change you inside out.”
Do you need a real change in your life? If so, there are four truths you need to know in order to have a changed life.
1. God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!
“God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!
“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
2. Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
— What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
3. God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
— What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
4. Your Part … is Surrender.
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
— Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet and forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)
If you desire to be fully forgiven by God—in order to have a changed mind, a changed heart, and a changed life, you can ask Jesus Christ to come into your life right now and give you His peace and His power.
|Prayer of Salvation|
|“God, I admit I had misplaced anger toward You. I’ve sinned by elevating myself, hanging on to ‘my rights.’ Now I repent and yield my rights to You. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for my sins to take the punishment I should have carried. I’m asking You now to come into my life to be my Lord and Savior and to forgive me of all of my sins. I give You control of my life. Make me the person You created me to be. Thank You for Your mercy and Your grace.In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”|
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, listen to what God says!
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”
(2 Peter 1:3)
E. Resolve Past Anger
Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationship with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit.
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”
Resolving Past Anger
• Realize Your Burning Anger.
— Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger.
— Ask God to reveal any buried anger in your heart.
— Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger.
— Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor.
“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” (Psalm 38:18)
• Revisit Your Root Feelings.
— Did you feel hurt (rejected, betrayed, unloved, ignored)?
— Did you experience injustice (cheated, wronged, maligned, attacked)?
— Did you feel fearful (threatened, insecure, out-of-control, powerless)?
— Did you feel frustrated (inadequate, inferior, hindered, controlled)?
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
• Receive God’s Love.
Meditate on and memorize Scripture revealing God’s love for you:
|Jeremiah 31:3||Psalm 32:10|
|Lamentations 3:22–23||Psalm 89:1|
|Psalm 13:5–6||Psalm 103:17|
— Read five psalms daily for one month.
— Rest in the acceptance of God, not in the acceptance of others.
— Rely on the Lord to meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
• Release Your Rights.
— Confess that harboring anger in your heart is sin.
— Give your desire for revenge to God.
— Refuse to hold on to your past hurts by releasing them to God.
— Pray for God to work in the life of the one who has wronged you and to change your heart toward that person.
— Release the one who hurt you into the hands of God—forgive as God forgave you!
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
• Rejoice in God’s Purpose.
— Thank God for the ways He will use this trial in your life.
— Know that God can use your resolved past anger for your good and for the good of those around you.
— Praise God for His commitment to use all the circumstances in your life to develop Christ’s character within you, making you strong, firm, and steadfast.
“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)
• Restore the Relationship … When Appropriate.
Even if reconciliation is not appropriate (after adultery or with an unrepentant abuser) or not possible (after a death), you must always confess your own sin.
— Realize that when someone sins against you and you hold on to anger and refuse to be reconciled to the person, you are sinning against both God and that individual.
— Confess the anger in your heart to God and ask the person to forgive you for refusing to be reconciled.
—Write out the confession first to get the wording correct:
“I realize I’ve been wrong in holding on to my anger against you and refusing to allow God to restore our relationship. I’m deeply sorry. Will you forgive me?”
— Be sure the encounter is free of anger and accusatory statements.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.… Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21–24)
• Reflect Christ’s Love.
Actively seek to reflect the love of God toward the person who hurt you.
— Pray in your heart …
“Lord, help me to submit to Your control.”
“Lord, I want Your mind to direct my mind.”
“Lord, reflect Your attitudes in my actions.”
“Lord, guide my words to express Your love.”
“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35)
F. Root Out Childhood Anger
Many of us assume that once we reach adulthood, our pain from childhood will just disappear and no longer affect us. But this disappearing act does not happen unless we identify our past pains from childhood and resolve them. While we are not the sum of our experiences, we are shaped by our responses to our experiences. God does not want us to store the bad things that happened to us by stockpiling our anger. Rather, He wants us to be like a storehouse where we get rid of the bad fruit and store up the good fruit.
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
Resolving Anger Rooted in Childhood Hurts
The next time anger wells up in your heart or uncontrollable tears stream down your face, ask yourself …
• Am I feeling hurt?
Example: My ideas have not been accepted.
• Did I ever have these same feelings when I was a child?
Example: When my father was not proud of me because I wasn’t a good athlete, I felt hurt.
• How did I feel when my father made it known that he wanted a son who was athletic?
Example: I felt a deep sense of rejection.
Face the anger that is still in your heart because of the hurt you experienced by feeling rejected by your father.
• Ask God to reveal buried hurts from your childhood.
• Ask family members and close friends to notice what situations seem to hurt you and make you angry.
• Acknowledge that your prolonged, unresolved anger is wrong, even if you think it is justified.
• Take personal responsibility to overcome your childhood hurts.
• Surrender your hurtful childhood experiences and feelings to God.
• Ask forgiveness from those whom you have offended.
• Forgive and pray for those who have rejected you.
• Pray for God to fill you with His unconditional love for others.
If your heart yearns for love and acceptance, remember …
“Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:20)
“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:10)
“How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10)
Resolving Anger Rooted in Childhood Injustice
The next time you feel the surge of anger, ask yourself …
• Am I feeling a sense of injustice?
Example: My close friend was mistreated and ignored.
• Did I ever have these same feelings in my childhood?
Example: Yes, my parents favored my brother; meanwhile, I was ignored.
• How did I feel when my parents treated me this way?
Example: I felt angry toward my parents and concluded, Life is not fair.
Face your anger from the past and begin to see how your present anger is connected to your unresolved childhood anger.
• Ask God to reveal all unresolved feelings over the injustices you experienced as a child.
• Ask your close family members and friends how they know when you are angry.
• Acknowledge that your feelings of injustice may be directed at God.
• Take personal responsibility for your feelings of anger.
• Release your anger to God and replace the anger with God’s peace.
• Ask forgiveness from anyone you have offended by your anger.
• Forgive and pray for those who have been unjust toward you.
• Meditate on how God can use your awareness of injustices committed against you for good.
If your anger is rooted in unjust treatment, remember …
“The Lord is known by his justice.” (Psalm 9:16)
“Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6–7)
“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:6)
Resolving Anger Rooted in Childhood Fear
The next time you feel threatened or get angry over a change in circumstances, ask yourself …
• Am I feeling fear about my future?
Example: I’ve lost my job, and I don’t know how I will support my family.
• Did I ever have these same feelings in my childhood?
Example: When my parents died and I was sent to be raised by my grandmother, I felt fear.
• How did I feel about not being raised by my parents?
Example: I felt angry because everybody else had a mother and father to protect them and to provide for their future.
Face your anger at God for taking your parents and leaving you with the fear of an uncertain future.
• If you have difficulty recalling your childhood feelings of fear, ask God to bring those memories to your mind.
• Ask your current family and good friends if they have noticed times when you have expressed distress or feelings of insecurity.
• Be completely honest with yourself and ask God to reveal where your security lies.…
— Is it in financial wealth?
— Is it in close family ties?
— Is it in a good education?
— Is it in your accomplishments?
— Is it in what others say about you?
• Acknowledge that placing your trust in anything other than God produces anger at Him when your security idols fail.
• Ask His forgiveness for your failure to trust Him.
• Learn to place your trust only in the Lord for your security.
• Memorize Scriptures that reassure you of God’s faithfulness.
• Begin developing a grateful heart for all that the Lord has provided, thanking Him daily for His generous gifts.
If your heart yearns for security, remember …
“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalm 112:7–8)
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:26)
“You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” (Romans 8:15)
Resolving Anger Rooted in Childhood Frustration
The next time you feel anger when your personal efforts are not accepted, ask yourself …
• Am I feeling frustrated?
Example: My associate made negative remarks about my speech at our business luncheon.
• Did I ever have these same feelings in my childhood?
Example: When my parents expected me to behave perfectly and not express my true feelings, I felt frustrated.
• How did I feel when my parents had these expectations?
Example: I felt that I was not acceptable to them because my performance was not always acceptable.
Face your frustration and realize that not measuring up to your own or someone else’s standards indicates performance-based acceptance and can be a major source of anger.
• Ask God to reveal the buried anger you have toward your parents or others in your past who accepted you on the basis of your performance.
• Ask yourself …
— “Do I set unrealistic standards for myself?”
— “Do I tend to stuff my anger?”
— “Do I need to control people and circumstances?”
— “Am I a caretaker?”
— “Am I a perfectionist?”
— “Am I a procrastinator?”
— “Am I a people pleaser?”
— “Am I a workaholic?”
• Ask your family and close friends how they know when you are frustrated.
• Understand that frustration is only a nice-sounding word for the anger that deeply damages your self-worth and sense of significance.
• Understand that it takes concentrated commitment and great effort to uncover deeply buried frustrations.
• Realize that you can never earn God’s love, but that He loves you unconditionally.
• Allow yourself to feel your anger and ask God for courage to express your anger in acceptable ways.
• Release your anger to God and claim the sufficiency of His love to affirm your value.
If you feel a sense of frustration with life, remember …
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23)
G. Release Present Anger
The possibility of anger remains ever present. A spark of irritation can be ignited intentionally by hurtful people or even unintentionally by those who love you. God intends that you seek His answer for anger quickly before it singes your heart and burns the bridges of your relationships.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
(1 Peter 5:8)
Quick Answer to Anger
• Ask, “Can I change this situation?” (If the door squeaks, oil it!)
— If you can, change it.
— If you can’t, release it.
|“Lord, You are sovereign over my life. Sine You know everything, You know I feel a strong sense of (hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration) about (name the person or the situation). I release this situation into Your hands. I trust You with my future and with me.In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”|
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
“Anger is one letter short of danger.” This saying is more than a catchy phrase; these words reflect the painful truth. And because too many times the tongue has not been tamed, conversations have escalated out of control.
• Acknowledge Your Anger.
— Be willing to admit you do have anger.
— Be aware of when you feel anger.
— Become aware of suppressing or repressing your anger because of fear.
— Be willing to take responsibility for any inappropriate anger.
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
• Analyze Your Style.
— How often do you feel angry? (Often? Sometimes? Never?)
— How do you know when you are angry?
— How do others know when you are angry?
— How do you release your anger?
Do you explode? Do you become teary-eyed? Do you joke or tease? Do you become sarcastic? Do you criticize? Do you become defensive?
“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” (Psalm 26:2)
• Assess the Source.
Is the source of your anger hurt feelings from the words or actions of others?
Is the source of your anger an emotional response to the unjust actions of someone toward another person?
Is the source of your anger a feeling of loss or fear?
Is the source of your anger frustration because something didn’t go as you planned?
“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)
• Appraise Your Thinking.
— Are you expecting others to meet your standards?
“She should take better care of her children.”
“He ought to notice what I do for him.”
“He must be here before 7:00 p.m.”
“She’d better not call during dinner!”
— Are you guilty of distorted thinking?
Exaggerating the situation
Assuming the worst
Labeling one action based on other actions
Generalizing by saying, “you never” or “you always”
“A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)
• Admit Your Needs.
Anger is often used as a tactic to get inner needs met.
— Do you use anger as a manipulative ploy to demand certain “musts” in an attempt to feel loved?
— Do you use explosive anger to get your way in an attempt to feel significant?
— Do you use controlling anger, insisting on certain conditions in order to feel secure?
— Do you know that only Christ can ultimately meet all these needs?
“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
• Abandon Your Demands.
Instead of demanding that others meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security, learn to look to the Lord to meet your needs.
— “Lord, though I would like to feel more love from others, I know that You love me unconditionally.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
— “Lord, though I would like to feel more significant to those around me, I know that I am significant in Your eyes.”
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
— “Lord, though I wish I felt more secure in my relationships, I know I am secure in my relationship with You.”
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
— “Lord, though I wish others would be more responsive to my needs, I know that You have promised to meet all my needs.”
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
• Alter Your Attitudes.
Take the following steps as outlined in Philippians 2:2–8.
“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:2–8)
— Have the goal to be like-minded with Christ. v. 2
— Do not think of yourself first. v. 3
— Give the other person preferential treatment. v. 3
— Consider the other person’s interests. v. 4
— Have the attitude of Jesus Christ. v. 5
— Do not emphasize your position or rights. v. 6
— Look for ways to serve with a servant’s heart. v. 7
— Speak and act with a humble spirit. v. 8
— Be willing to die to your own desires. v. 8
• Address Your Anger.
— Determine whether your anger is really justified.
“A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)
— Decide on the appropriate response.
“[There is] a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
a. How important is the issue?
b. Would a good purpose be served if I mention it?
c. Should I acknowledge my anger only to the Lord?
— Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)
— Develop constructive dialogue when you confront.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
Don’t speak from a heart of unforgiveness.
Do … Think before you speak.
Don’t use phrases such as: “How could you?” or “Why can’t you?”
Do … Use personal statements such as “I feel.…”
Don’t bring up past grievances.
Do … Stay focused on the present issue.
Don’t assume that the other person is wrong.
Do … Listen for feedback from another point of view.
Don’t expect instant understanding.
Do … Be patient and keep responding with gentleness.
“Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)
— Demonstrate the grace of God, by saying to yourself …
“I placed my anger on the cross with Christ.”
“I am no longer controlled by anger.”
“I am alive with Christ living inside me.”
“I will let Christ forgive through me.”
“I will let Christ love through me.”
“I will let Christ reveal truth through me.”
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
H. How Should I Convey My Anger to Someone?
Before communicating your anger toward someone, take time to evaluate if addressing your anger is needful, appropriate, and if you think it will prove beneficial. Some people simply do not know how to handle anger directed toward them and either become hostile and defensive or weak and placating. Either way, nothing gets resolved. If you want merely to vent your feelings, then pour out your heart to God and or to another person, but not to the person with whom you are angry. Should you decide to arrange a meeting, there are some things you will need to do in preparation.
• Examine your motivation.
• Be realistic in your expectations.
• Know what you want to accomplish.
• Assess the legitimacy of your request.
• Rehearse how you will approach the subject.
• Anticipate possible reactions from the other person.
• Think through how you might respond to those reactions.
• Decide if you are willing to live with any negative repercussions.
• If you are uncertain what to do, talk with a wise and trusted individual.
In choosing a time and place to talk …
• Select a time and place that is convenient for both of you and will provide an atmosphere conducive for listening and sharing.
• Meet on “neutral turf” so that both of you are likely to feel equal in power and importance.
I. Answer Practical Questions for Overcoming Present Anger
It will prove helpful to stop and ask yourself some thought-provoking questions each time you experience anger. Analyzing what is going on “behind the scenes” can help move you from subjectivity to objectivity, from being controlled by your anger to benefiting from your anger. As you practice patience and utilize understanding, you will be in a perfect position to use your anger for God’s purposes and prevent it from leading you into sin.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”
• What triggered my anger?
• How am I expressing my anger?
• What are the true inner desires motivating my anger?
• What is my view of God in the midst of this anger-producing situation?
• How should I respond to God and others in the midst of this situation?
• What can I learn from this experience that will help me to handle my anger better in the future?
“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
J. Questions and Answers about Anger
As you learn to act, rather than react, and thereby allow God to use your anger to accomplish His purposes, you will be in a position to offer hope for change to others. The questions below will help prepare you to give biblical answers to those who live in bondage to anger and who come to you for help and hope.
“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
(1 Peter 3:15)
Question: “What should I do when I feel my anger getting out of control?”
Answer: Whenever you feel that reason and self-control are giving way to irrational and unbridled behavior, put on the brakes and call a truce in order to take time out. The direction of the conversation will not change but will continue to escalate unless you do something to intervene in the process.
— Stop and take a deep breath.
— Hold up your hands to indicate that you are “surrendering” for the time-being by calling a halt to what is taking place.
— State that you are getting more and more upset and unable to think clearly, or that the conversation is not going in a positive direction and does not seem to be resolving anything.
— Explain your plan to calm down and regain a cool head by taking a walk around the block, listening to music, taking a shower, or whatever helps you to regain your composure.
— If possible, agree on a time to resume the conversation.
If you reach an impasse where agreement between the two of you is not possible …
— Agree to have different opinions on the subject but to not let that become a problem in the relationship.
— Remember that if two people agree on everything all the time, their relationship runs the high risk of becoming stagnant and void of growth.
— Decide to engage in stimulating conversations where varied opinions are expressed in order to develop listening skills, to learn from others, to think through your own opinions, and to practice expressing those opinions to others in a clear and concise manner.
“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.… Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Proverbs 18:2; Romans 14:1)
Question: “How can I overcome road rage? I get so angry at other drivers!”
Answer: At times as drivers, we all experience having someone cut in front of us or yell profanity at us or make obscene gestures toward us or intentionally bump us. Whatever the situation, the moment you feel agitated, rehearse the truth in your mind.…
— “I don’t have to get angry.”
— “I refuse to let someone else control my emotions.”
— “I choose to be calm and cool-headed.”
» “Lord, I don’t know what is wrong with (person’s name), but I pray that you will make Your presence known in this situation.
» “Lord, (person’s name) has a problem. I’m not going to let that problem be my problem.”
— “I will stay calm in the strength of Christ.”
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Question: “One of my coworkers has threatened to harm me. What should I do?”
Answer: Angry people can lose control of their anger and cause property and/or personal damage. In extreme cases, some even murder those with whom they work. This is why you must …
— Take all threats of violence seriously.
» Assume that if someone makes a threat, they intend to carry it out.
» Most people who commit violent acts at work have given a clear indication of their intent prior to taking action.
— Always report any threat.
» Report the threat to your supervisor.
» Report the threat to a security officer.
» If serious enough, report the threat to the police.
— When threatened, proceed wisely and cautiously.
» Consult your company’s policy manual regarding the Code of Conduct.
» Inform the angry person of the consequences of making threats.
“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)
Question: “I was severely wronged by someone I once trusted. People want me to forgive him. How can I possibly ignore my anger and simply let him off the hook?”
Answer: Picture a hook attached to your collarbone. Then imagine attached to that hook both your offender and all the pain this person has caused you. Do you really want to carry that person and all that pain with you for the rest of your life? The Lord wants you to take the anger and pain from the past and release it into His hands. Then take the one who offended you off your emotional hook and place him onto God’s hook. You can forgive him without trusting him. Extending forgiveness is based on your choice to be obedient to God and to release your anger to Him. Extending trust is based on another person’s ability to be trustworthy. Forgive everyone, but trust only the trustworthy. The Lord knows how to deal justly and effectively with all those who bring pain into your life. He says,
“ ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
|If anger is allowed to smolder and ignite, it can transform you into a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon—scaring, even scarring, those whom you most love. The only power strong enough to slay this devastating dragon is the indwelling presence of Christ. When, as a Christian, you allow Him to conform you to His character, then He will permeate your heart with His peace.—June Hunt|
Accept God’s Aim for Anger
Forest rangers who care for and protect national parks occasionally say they have to “start a fire to stop a fire.” At times God works for your good in much the same way. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Therefore, God clearly intends for you to experience the emotion of anger and to use it for some positive purpose. For example, He can use your anger to spark your awareness of a blazing spiritual problem that needs to be snuffed out. God often allows fiery trials to test your faith and to develop the perseverance necessary to sustain your faith.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
As you seek to allow God to direct your anger and use it for His purposes, remember …
• Anger can be used to bring positive change in your life.
• Anger can be the lens through which you gain insight into your past hurts.
• Anger can bring your true feelings to light.
• Anger can reveal your inappropriate ways of trying to meet your own needs.
• Anger can help you realize your need for the Lord.
• Anger can uncover your need to set healthy boundaries.
• Anger can be the foundation on which forgiveness is built.
• Anger can be the spark that encourages honest communication in relationships, when appropriately verbalized.
• Anger can be used by God to convict others of sin, when appropriately displayed.
• Anger, when it is appropriately handled, can be used by God.
As you allow God to use your anger for good, you will become an example to others and bring praise to God.
“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
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