Anger Doesn’t Have To Control You
Anger boiled within me for decades.
If my circumstances or relationships squeezed me in just the right way, out it would come, like molten lava below long dormant rock.
When I was a moody 13-year-old, feeling trapped in a chaotic and dysfunctional home, I remember being so overcome with rage that I picked up a 100-pound armchair, held it above my head, and threw it into an empty corner of the living room, while mom and dad watched, dumbfounded.
I’ve kicked holes through doors and slammed them so hard windows shattered. I’ve screamed at my wife so loudly that cops were called. The emotional costs of that fury were steep on all involved. By the mercy and the grace of God, I avoided physically harming anyone, but I also know that countless times I experienced the kind of fury that so detaches you from sanity that anything could have been possible.
When, as a new Christian, I came upon scriptures warning me that only “a fool gives full vent to his anger,” (Proverbs 29:11) or “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires,” (James 1:20), I knew I had to change. Jesus came to give us freedom from sin and abundant life, hope and healing. Anger is a sickness of the heart, and only by diagnosing its causes correctly, can we discover the cure in Christ. The good news is that in the past several years, God’s word has given me a grid to understand anger and God’s Spirit has given me the power to overcome its sinful control over my life. And he can do the same for you.
4 Facts We Have To Understand About Anger To Move Past It
1. Anger is a moral emotion. (Proverbs 19:11)
Angry people are always acting out of an intense belief in what’s right and wrong. We create our own set of laws and then punish the people who violate them. Sometimes we’ll punish even ourselves. Anger is ruled by the lie that "we are in the right," and it’s driven by an unholy desire that life go "our way." Uprooting that self-righteousness is essential to setting yourself free from anger, and it’s as simple — and challenging — as preaching the gospel to yourself.
You, too, are a sinner. God’s moral standard is the only one that counts, and you fall short of it all the time. The grace and mercy of Jesus covers our wrongs, and it must be enough to cover the wrongs done by others toward us, too. Jesus is the one who brings justice, not us.
Anger is a sure sign we’re still wanting control and that we don’t believe Jesus alone is all we need or that His ways are the only path to true fulfilment.
2. Anger is a physical emotion. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
Humans are a complex meld of mind and body, and we can’t always separate our thoughts from our physical sensations. When you are angry, your heart races, your temperature rises and your endorphins surge. All of us will experience anger, but we only sin when we express that anger destructively toward others.
Giving yourself an opportunity to “vent” your anger physically on your own — by going for a run, locking yourself in your car and screaming at the top of your lungs, or using a punching bag in the basement — is the first step to ridding yourself of anger’s energy and giving your rational mind an opportunity to examine your own heart, exercise self-control, and seek a constructive way forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Angry people don’t understand how to communicate without anger. We think “acting out” is our only way of expressing the depth of our pain, or perhaps the rightness of our points of view, and to make ourselves truly known and understood.
Before anger strikes, angry people must learn to look in the mirror of God’s word and have an honest conversation with themselves and those closest to them about the roots of the emotions that give rise to anger, such as feeling misunderstood, isolated or lacking control.
Creating a calm, safe space in your closest relationships to regularly express your feelings and hear how others feel is an essential part of learning a new emotional language to communicate without anger. The added benefit is that letting people know our hearts gives them a chance to point us to the Truths and promises of God’s word that we aren’t paying attention to in the heat of the moment.
It’s often said that anger is not always a sin. As true as that might be theologically, I’ve found that it’s always wisest to assume the worst about our anger. There is always a better choice than anger, even when we believe we are grieving righteously with God over ungodliness, injustice and sin. The Bible says the Lord is “slow to anger.” (Exodus 34:6)
The right response for us is not to condemn the world and its people, but to do our part to bring peace. Just as Jesus came to turn offenders into friends, we must be ambassadors of that reconciliation, bearing the full fruit of the Holy Spirit. And that's almost always the exact opposite of anger.
Allowing ourselves to experience anger doesn’t produce anything good or change anything for good. It only creates opportunity for Satan to rule over us.