Anger. A powerful word. Just saying it probably brings a scene to your mind. Possibly your father screaming at your mother when you were a child. Maybe a moment where you saw two people literally come to blows. Or maybe it’s more subtle, like a caustic email you received from a co-worker. Anger is everywhere. There is no escape. Like a raging emotional pandemic all of us have been affected or at least occasionally infected by it.
I should offer the disclaimer that some anger is good and prompts us to make changes in ourselves and our society that may be long overdue. For example, “The average American consumer is exposed to over 14,000 sexual images and messages every year, most which objectify women and base their value on their body shape and size.” (Porn Nation, Michael Leahy, 97) That fact should make you angry. In the Bible, God is pictured many times as being angry. For me, it helps to ask myself, “Is God angry about this incident?” If yes, the anger is justified and could lead to positive change. But let’s be honest, most anger is poison. Horace says, “Anger is a short madness” (The Seven Deadly Sins, Solomon Schimmel, 83). Anger has the destructive power to end a marriage, damage work relationships and in extreme cases lead to incarceration. Proverbs 29:22 states: An angry person stirs up conflict and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.
What makes you angry? After years of remarkable service, even the great prophet Moses lost the privilege of leading the Jewish people into the promised land because he acted in anger. What has your anger cost you? The brilliant Steve Jobs of Apple lost his company for a time because of his anger issues. In the Bible, even a usually long fused David almost slaughtered Nabal and all the men of his household over an insult. Thankfully Nabal’s wife, Abigail acted as peacemaker and slowed him down long enough for him to regain his composure. Anger can get the best of even the most remarkable people. So how do we respond? What is God’s anger management plan?
1. Be quick to listen (James 1:19b)
Strive to actually hear the other person. Giving them the gift of being heard will often calm the situation. When you stop to listen you can sometimes remove the negative motive you projected on the person and ascribe them a more positive motive. Many “difficult people” in your life are often more misunderstood than malicious. Stop and ask, do I have all the facts?
2. Be slow to speak and become angry (James 1:19, 20)
Slow everything down. If necessary, count to one hundred. Tell the other person that you need a little time to calm down. If you speak when you are fully angry you will most likely regret it. You do have a choice about anger. You can calm yourself down before you speak or act. Even saying I need a day or two before I respond is ok and sometimes very wise. Ask the clarifying question: Is this a mountain or a molehill?
3. Face and forgive
Face means to look at your options. Ask yourself how can I please and honor God in this situation? One option that many don’t consider is to overlook the offense, simply let it go. Or you could lovingly confront the person. The apostle Paul challenges us in Ephesians 5:31, 32 “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.” Hurt and anger should be fleeting feelings not permanent fixtures in your life. To forgive we release our part to heal ourselves. One great way to forgive the person is to begin praying for them regularly. Surprisingly, I have found that after a while I begin to root for them; my heart towards them changes. Author Gary Chapman said, “Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment to accept the person in spite of what he or she has done.” Rarely is forgiveness actually fast, it often takes time. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. In forgiveness, sin and anger do not have the last word.
Let us be known as people of peace.
Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.