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When I was a young new Christian, I struggled a lot with anger. Like most teenagers, I got heated over any situation that came my way. I had strong opinions, and I wasn’t afraid to state them. I often felt guilty and convicted over my anger issues, because I just didn’t understand how to not be angry. As a young Christian, I thought being angry was a sin, and that being angry was a sign of moral failure. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized that managing anger as a Christian is much more nuanced than that.
Now that I am a mom, I’ve found myself wrestling with anger in a whole new way. Resisting the temptation to fly off the handle at my child or my husband has been a new battle in my soul. With these new struggles of life, it’s led me to further understand what the word of God says about anger. Is anger alone a sin, or is it how we handle it? Am I sinning just because I get angry sometimes? How do I handle anger biblically?
1 – Remember being angry isn’t the sin, it’s how you respond to it
I hope I’m the only one whose ever been told that being angry is a sin. If you’ve ever been told that as well, then whoever told you that may want to read Psalm 7:11 – “God is a righteous judge, and a god who feels indignation every day.” They may want to also spend some time reading the Old Testament, and they’ll learn that God gets angry. Even Jesus got angry. He flipped tables, killed a fig tree, and scolded his disciples plenty of times. You simply can’t expect to never ever feel angry as a Christian. If the act of being angry is sinful, then God would never be angry. Anger is not the issue, it is how anger is managed in your heart that is.
If we are led to believe that as Christians we should never be angry, then we’re going to go down a dangerous road of suppressing our anger until it blows up in our faces. Believing a feeling is bad when it is not leads to shame, and shame never leads our hearts to good places. This is why it is so vital as Christians that we clear the air about where we stand with feelings of anger.
Anger alone can sometimes lead us to good things. For example, being angry that there are issues of injustice in society can lead people to change. But where do we biblically draw the line from anger being ok to anger being sinful?
- When anger leads us to hating someone else, even if it’s in our hearts and not out loud (see Matthew 5:21-22)
- When anger leads us to be unforgiving (see Matthew 5:23-24)
- If our anger leads us to speak harshly or slander other people (see Ephesians 4:29)
- When anger causes us to hurt another person or ourselves, or to seek revenge(See Romans 12:19-21)
Understanding that being angry alone isn’t sinful can be incredibly freeing for many of us. It can lead us to investigating the source of our anger deeper and in a healthier way. When we cope with our anger in a healthy way, we avoid the sinful pitfalls of hating or hurting others out of our anger.
2 – Anger is a symptom of something Deeper, so get curious about the real issue
Most average people aren’t going to be spontaneously angry. There’s almost always a reason behind it. Though there’s probably countless reasons why someone might get angry about something, here’s some common reasons:
- Lack of sleep
- Violated personal boundaries
- Being gaslit
- Becoming offended
When we dig deep into the “why” behind our anger, we give ourselves more control in managing it. We can take active measures in preventing that situation that angered you from happening again. If it’s a situation that is somewhat unavoidable, then understanding the “why” behind it can help us be prepared for the next time it happens, and give us the ability to respond to that situation in a more healthy way.
I have a very simple and personal example of this. Around lunch time, I sometimes feel my fuse getting a little shorter with my child. There’s something about the lunch time struggle that just rubs me the wrong way sometimes. When I investigate deeper into why I tend to be short with my child around lunch time, it’s because I’m hungry! What I do now to help me manage lunch time in a calmer manner is I eat my lunch before my child. Not being hungry during a particularly stressful time of the day has helped me manage my emotions so much better in that situation.
3 – Listen first, respond later
Whether you’re listening inwardly or to another person, the Bible makes it clear that listening is key to controlling anger. Proverbs 14:29 puts it perfectly with “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Choosing to listen first, respond later gives us a chance to fully understand the issue before jumping to a reaction.
James 1:19-20 puts the need for listening first perfectly:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Listening can look like listening inwardly, such as being mindful to why you might be angry. It can also mean taking our time to respond to a situation until we’ve had time to fully understand (see Proverbs 17:27).
4 – Be quick to release your anger
Remaining angry for an extended period of time can be detrimental to your emotional and physical health. It can sometimes feel validating to remain angry, but at some point, is bitterness worth how poorly you feel? Jesus puts even more weight on the importance of forgiveness in Matthew 6:14-15:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
James 5:16 speaks directly to the healing power of forgiveness:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Letting go of the anger we hold towards others brings healing to our souls, as well as others. This is why the Bible commands us to forgive. It’s not a means of control, but it’s because it’s better for us to have that weight off our shoulders than to remain falsely validated by our anger. Remaining angry at a person or a situation only hurts ourselves, and means little to who or whatever we’re angry with.
5 – Use your anger for the good of others and the glory of God
There are moments in the Bible where people experienced “righteous” anger, and used it to do good. A great example of this is the story of Jesus flipping the tables in the temple.
These people got right to the root of their anger, and used it to better others, themselves, and to give God glory. Sometimes your anger is really a sign to pull up your bootstraps and bring change. This is one reason why approaching anger with prayerfulness is always a good idea. Psalm 4:4 gives us clear directions on how to handle righteous anger:
“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” Psalm 4:4
Pondering deeper into the why behind the anger can give us insights into what we can change about certain situations. Sometimes your anger isn’t a moral failure, but a realization of the injustices and issues of our world. In that case, pray about what it is you can do to bring about positive change to that situation.
It’s very important to clarify that anger should never be used for vengeance. Though your anger at a situation may be for good reasons, seeking vengeance because of that is something we should stay away from as Christians. Romans 12:19 makes that clear:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
It is not our job as humans to seek vengeance when we are angered. We leave that up to the Lord to handle in his own way. So when you are seeking change in a certain situation, be mindful of whether it is change or vengeance you seek. Of course, only you and the Lord can determine that.
Emotions Aren’t Bad When Handled Well
One of the many reasons I love the Bible is because of the beautiful array of emotions the people of the Bible experience. You truly see how God speaks through real life situations, and how we all experience the struggles of life. No single human being, aside from Jesus, handled their emotions perfectly in the Bible. Yet even when their emotions got the best of them, God shows his goodness and faithfulness time and time again. Just like with the many people of the Bible experiencing the wide array of human feelings, we can trust that God is good and faithful to us in those moments. We’re never left alone to fend for ourselves in tough times. You do not have to handle your anger alone, God is there to help.
I also have a free resource for moms who are experiencing the gambit of feelings in motherhood, called the “Calm Down Checklist”. This is for any mom whose experiencing the wide array of overwhelming feelings we have as moms. You can sign up below for a free download of the checklist, full of quick ways to cool off when emotions run high.