“Agghhhhh, I’m gonna kill you!” I overheard my son screaming at the top of his lungs. I knew that he’d be coming in shortly to give me an incident report, and that his sister wouldn’t be far behind. After I held court, I issued a ruling and a sentence. In the Miranda household justice is swift but fair. Funny incidents like these happen many times a day in any household with kids—or people for that matter. But anger is no joke. It happens to all of us. Anger is part of our human experience. Even Jesus got angry (Matthew 21:12, 13; Mark 3:11, 12; 11:15-17), but He didn’t sin. He was good and angry.
For many of us anger can be a very destructive emotion. Today, I want to talk to you about the issue of anger. We’ll discuss what it is, what the Bible has to say about it, the different kinds of anger, the different types of anger people express, why and how anger happens, what the root issues of anger are, consequences of ineffective anger management, and lastly, what we can do to effectively deal with it both in ourselves as well as how to correctly manage conflict with others.
What is Anger, Really?
First, let’s define anger. Anger is neither good nor bad. It is a “charged,” morally neutral, emotional response for protective preservation. In other words, when we get angry, it is our way of protecting ourselves from a situation we’ve encountered that we perceive is a threat or harmful. The Bible has a lot to say about anger, so I’ll give you several of the most important verses about it:
- “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19, 20, NIV).
- “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” (Ephesians 4:26, 27, NIV).
- “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24, NIV).
- “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins” (Proverbs 29:22, NIV).
Did you know there are two kinds of anger? Productive anger is a healthy emotion that motivates us to correct attitudes, behaviors, or injustices that we perceive as wrong. Unproductive anger is an unhealthy and destructive emotional response we often resort to protect ourselves from (real or perceived) hurt, frustration, or personal attack.
The Furious Four
Anger shows up differently in different people. In fact, from what I’ve seen over the years, there are four types of angry people:
They feel that anger is necessary. These people are aggressive both verbally and, sometimes, physically. They don’t have a problem getting angry and showing their anger. In fact, anger is the primary way they express themselves. They don’t care where, when, or how they express their anger. They don’t even care how it makes others feel. In their minds, their rights are more important than everybody else’s and no one is going to take advantage of them. Likely these folks were abused, neglected, or bullied at some point in their lives. On the outside these people look as if they’ve got great self-esteem, but on the inside they’re typically very insecure.
They feel that anger is wrong. They likely think, “I’m a Christian and Christians shouldn’t get angry.” So they stuff their emotions. Sometimes they feel they must “suffer for Jesus” in silence. They mistake being meek for being weak. These people can be very passive in how they interact with others. They often believe, at some level, that as a Christian they should allow the ideas, feelings, and rights of others to take precedence over their own.
They feel that showing anger is wrong. Leakers can be people who don’t have a problem getting angry, but they have a problem showing their anger. Such apprehension is often due to a past experience where they’ve expressed their anger and negative things happened, or because they simply lack the skills to do so effectively. Either way, leakers are passive-aggressive in how they interact with others. These are the people who shoot little stinging verbal and behavioral darts at you and say such things as “Oh, just kidding” or “What? I didn’t mean it like that! Don’t be so sensitive!” All the while you can be sure that they meant every word or every action. Leakers are people who feel that they’ve got just as many rights as the next person and they don’t understand why others don’t, or can’t, read their minds and know how they feel without them having to say something. These are the types of people who will hold grudges and typically become bitter, critical, and judgmental.
They recognize that anger can be a normal, good emotion. They recognize it for what it is and take steps to kindly, respectfully, and consistently inform and communicate the true problem. They understand that their needs and rights are just as important as another person’s, and they seek to respectfully solve the problem. They are self-controlled and mindful to not trample over others’ rights in their own need to communicate their anger. They recognize that the person is never the problem; the behavior is the problem. For this reason, they seek to build respectful, healthy, happy relationships with others.
Jesus wants us, as Christians, to have not only a relationship with Him, but also joy and peace with others (see John 10:10). Here are three steps you can take to help you manage your anger and biblically resolve conflict.
Three to Stay Free…from Anger
God’s three-step method for learning to effectively manage anger is found in James 1:19, 20. Here’s the three-step process:
Step 1: Be “quick to listen.”
- Our immediate response to God, others, circumstances, and our anger is to be “receptive listeners,” not “reactionary responders.” The key question that we need to ask ourselves is: What is this anger telling me?
Step 2: Be “slow to speak.”
- Before we shoot our mouths off to God and others in anger, we need to “think before we speak.” The key question we need to ask ourselves is: What must I do to prevent a “verbal knee-jerk reaction”? Several verses that apply to the specific issue of having self-control are: Proverbs 10:19; 13:3; and 29:20.
Step 3: Be “slow to anger.”
- Our life-changing response to anger begins when we replace reaction with reflection. We should take time to think and, if possible, pray about the things that upset us. The key question that we need to ask ourselves is: What root issue (stuffing, injustice, hurt, frustration, or insecurity) is behind this anger? A verse that applies to this specific issue is Ecclesiastes 7:9.
Where The Rubber Meets the Road
The reality is, at some point you are going to become angry. And as a Christian it is possible to be good and angry. The only way we can do that, though, is to learn how to deal with our anger responsibly. God always wants us to deal with the things that make us angry. But we don’t have to lose our religion in the process. In Ephesians 4:26, 27 God lays out how it’s possible. The says, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.”
Let’s show one another that there’s a better, happier, healthier way to live. Let’s seek to live our lives good–and angry.