Have you ever noticed that people will often do the most illogical things when they are upset? A child will throw a tantrum and burst out screaming. A teenager will slam his body into a locker. A mother will burst out in a thousand words, all spoken at such a rapid speed so as to be undecipherable. An adult man can lash out in any number of ways, even in violence. All of these are crazy behaviours, when looked at in retrospect, however, they are anything but humorous. Uncontrolled and unrestrained anger has resulted in untold damage and lasting hurt in people. In many cases, it has led to the destabilization of whole countries and regions. It is a worthy goal to overcome and heal from negative anger.
Is all anger negative anger? The Bible teaches that some anger is acceptable. The Apostle Paul taught; “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” (Ephesians 4.26). Here, we are told to be angry but not to sin. In other words, all anger is not sin. A man or woman might be legitimately angry over injustice, over crime or over sin in their own life. It is right to have a righteous anger towards evil, towards sin itself. However, the Christian makes a distinction between hating the sin and hating the sinner. A Christian hates sin but should love the sinner, a person whom Christ died for.
While some anger in the right context is acceptable, much anger that we see in the world, and in our hearts, is not. God’s Word has much to say about negative anger. (See Proverbs 22.24-25; Proverbs 27.4; James 1.19-21; Colossians 3.8). The scriptures give us instruction in dealing with negative anger and warn us against it. Have you lost your temper recently? Are you giving vent to this kind of negative anger?
Negative anger expresses itself in two ways, spewing and bottling. Some people spew their anger, that is, they let it fly. Out it comes in a fury of words or actions. It is like a burst dam. Such people often justify their spewing and say they need to get it off their chest. However, spewers are just hot-heads and they usually have long track records of broken friendships and broken relationships. There usually can be found a long trail of people whom they have hurt, often loved ones and family. No one likes a hot-head and they have difficulty keeping friends and earning respect. This further compounds their anger issues because they are angry that they are not respected. It becomes a vicious spiral into further anger. The Bible calls such ones fools; “A fool uttereth all his anger; But a wise man keepeth it back and stilleth it.” (Proverbs 29.11).
Another way in which negative anger is expressed is in bottling it up. Negative anger can be suppressed and pushed down inside of us so that it is not easily seen. Some people are very good at doing this and onlookers may say that these ones have no anger issues. However, bottled-up anger has a way of leaking out. It is like toxic waste that is buried in the ground. People can’t see it right away but they become sick from walking over the spot where it lies. Bottled-up anger harms the person who is holding it in in many ways, physically, mentally and spiritually. It can surface years later, as well.
Some might say, “Isn’t this the only two ways of handling anger, spewing or bottling?” No, it isn’t. For the man or woman who has a relationship with God, there is a third option and that is the act of giving your anger over to God and letting Him take it out of you. This starts with forgiveness. We can respond to wrongs by forgiving the perpetrator and then asking God to take the anger away. Forgiveness is not always easy, in fact, it seldom is easy. However, it is possible for persons who have God in their lives as their Lord. Forgiveness is a radically different way of handling anger from spewing or bottling. Granting forgiveness leads to a radically different outcome than does bottling it up or spewing it out. It brings healing to ourselves, and often resolution to the situation in conflict.
Why should we care about how we handle our anger? We should care because we can do so much harm with anger. Hurt relationships are harder to repair than they are to maintain. Relationships can be maintained by forgiveness and patience. They can be repaired by the same but, usually, only after much humbling, confession and passage of time. When you are angry, you are vulnerable. You are vulnerable to saying something rash, that you will regret later. You are vulnerable to acting in a way that you will later be ashamed of. We need to replace anger with patience and forgiveness. Anger often leads to retaliation. The Bible instructs us:
See that none render unto any one evil for evil; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all.
1 Thessalonians 5.15
17 Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.
19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.
There is much anger in our world. Not all anger is wrong but much, and probably most of it that we see, is negative. People bottle up their anger or they spew it out. However, there is another way of handling anger, and that is to give it over to God. If you are struggling with anger, let Him remove it from you and heal your heart. God bless you.
Stowell, Joseph M. The Weight of Your Words. U.S.A.:Joseph M. Stowell, 1998.
NKJV Study Bible. Editors Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, et al. Nashville. Thomas Nelson. 2007
Scripture taken from the American Standard Version.