I’m sure you have noticed by watching the news, reading social media, and listening to your coworkers and neighbors that we have a problem with anger management. We seem to be getting angrier at each other over things that are not that important. Our lack of emotional control is destroying our families, our friendships, our work places, our churches, and our country. Why should we fear terrorism when we are destroying each other with poor anger management? Thankfully, the Bible has a lot to say about anger management. I want to share with you some biblical principles that will help you to have better management of your anger. Let’s begin with answering the question, What is A.N.G.E.R?
1. Accept that anger is a God-given emotion. The four basic emotions God has given us are gladness, sadness, anger, and fear. In Ephesians 4:26 (NIV), we have this instruction about anger. “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The first part of this scripture is a quote from Psalms 4:4 (NIV) which says, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” We understand from these scriptures that anger is not a sin. However, what we do with our anger can be a sin. It is our choice to sin or not to sin while angry. In part 4 of this series, we will look at how to handle our anger without sinning. Anger is one of the basic emotions God has given us.
2. Notice that even God gets angry. The word anger is used 262 times in the New International Version of the Bible with 217 of those referring to God’s anger. Here’s one example: “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalms 145:8 NIV) The word wrath is used 197 times in the New International Version of the Bible with 189 of those referring to God’s wrath. Here’s one example: “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.” (Psalms 7:11 NIV) So yes, God gets angry and expresses wrath. So what is God angry about? God is angry about our sin. Psalms 78:38 (NIV) says this: “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.” In part 3 of this series, we will look at how God handles his anger. As part of our definition of anger, we must notice that even God gets angry.
3. Greet anger as a signal to do something good. When we become angry, our body responds with a variety of functions. Our respiration gets deeper, and our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure rises, and the blood is shifted from the stomach and intestines to the heart, the central nervous system, and the muscles. Sugar is secreted from the reserves in the liver, and adrenaline is secreted. Our body moves into a physical state of readiness when we are angry. Either we can so something good or bad in that physical state of readiness. Again, Psalms 4:4 (NIV) says, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” If we greet anger as a signal to do something good, then we can search our hearts and be silent until we think of that good to do.
4. Examine what makes me angry. Sometimes our anger is appropriate, and sometimes it is inappropriate. The only way to tell the difference is to stop and ask why am I angry. If we are going to have better anger management skills, we must identify the source of our anger. In part 2 of this series, we will look at what makes us angry. Most of our anger is inappropriate in that we assume someone has wronged us or sinned against us. If we assume wrongly, then we usually act wrongly. “In your anger do not sin.” Identify the source of anger so that that behavior of anger will not be sin.
5. Recognize the past results of my anger as a learned behavior. Most of the time, the way I handle my anger is simply a learned behavior. I may have had good role models or bad role models. Either way, somewhere in my past I learned to handle my anger. So guess what? It’s time to teach an old dog a new trick. I can learn a different behavior with my anger. “In your anger do not sin.”
So what is anger? Anger is a God-given emotion, and even God gets angry. Anger is a physical signal in our body to remind us to do something good. When angry, we must stop and examine why we are angry. And whatever our previous learned angry behavior has been, we can learn a new behavior. Next time we will look at part 2: Why Am I So Angry?