Anger is an emotion that brings about mixed emotions for many people. Some feel an immense amount of shame and avoidance associated with their experience of anger. For others, anger is more of a familiar friend. There are two passages that I often refer to in my thoughts about anger and its application to emotional health.
You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. — Matthew 5:21-22, NLT
‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. — Ephesians 4:26-27
Does Your Anger Control You?
In the first passage, Jesus takes the Old Testament command about murder and fulfills it by saying that it is not enough to not commit murder. What really matters is the condition of the heart. In the second passage, the word of God acknowledges the human experience of anger. It tells us that the sin is not the anger itself, but rather allowing it to control us.
The Benefits of Anger
With that being said, it is my belief that anger in and of itself is amoral. These two passages give us two clear examples of how anger, when misguided, becomes sin. However, I think by contrast of Jesus clearing the temple with a whip in John 2, and specifically of his indignation at the merchants and dealers who had turned his “Father’s house into a marketplace.” I believe that Jesus’ righteous anger convicted people and called them to revere God. I also think about how throughout history anger has yielded some positive benefits, specifically in furthering civil rights or in reformations that resulted in human beings being treated with more respect.
Practical Tips for Dealing with Anger
You may have come to this article because you or someone you love has experiences with anger that are difficult to cope with or control. I have shared these scriptures and the above insights in order to first help you to identify what role anger plays in your life, and its power to either be effective or ineffective. If you want help with managing your anger, then first look at what function this emotion serves for you. Don’t minimize it or amplify, but simply listen to what it is communicating. Perhaps there is something that is important to you that is being blocked, or maybe you anger is communicating your values, such as respect or communication.
Secondly, if and when you realize that the way you are experiencing or expressing your anger is not effective or in keeping with your values, then identify healthy coping mechanisms that you can use instead. This could be something like going for a run, squeezing an ice-cube, or pacing your breathing. There is also research that suggests that taking a small break from the situation that has precipitated your anger is will reduce your level of emotion. For example, if you find that you get angry with your spouse at dinner for something that they said, take a quick trip to the restroom and wash your hands in cold water. Just the small break from the emotionally-triggering environment could reduce your level of distress upon your return.
Christian Counseling for Anger Management
As a Christian counselor, I am convinced that we can learn to relate to our anger in a positive way. If you would like to know more, you can also search for Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills. You are also welcome to set up an appointment with me for DBT skills coaching to help you to cope and to manage your anger or other difficult emotions effectively.
“Crowd,” courtesy of B-Me, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Angry Texas Storm,” courtesy of tpsdave, All-free-download.com, CC0 Public Domain License