Conflict is a part of life. It is inevitable that we will face situations that will evoke the hot emotion of anger within us. When this happens, we’re not alone. Everyone experiences anger from time to time. In fact, many individuals in the Bible became angry. Remember when Moses returned from Mt. Siani with the ten commandments written by the finger of God upon tablets of stone? Upon seeing the idolatry and nakedness of Israel, in anger he broke those tablets (Ex. 32:19). Remember when the ark of God was being moved on a cart and Uzzah touched the ark to keep it from falling (II Sam. 6:6)? The Lord immediately struck him dead for touching what was holy, but David became angry with God over Uzzah’s life being taken. Remember the Scriptures often refer to the Lord as being angry (i.e. righteous anger)? Psalm 7:11 tells us, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Mark 3:5 also refers to the Savior who “looked round about on them (the Pharisees) with anger, being grieved for their hardness of heart.”
With these examples in mind, we should not be surprised when we sense anger in ourselves or see anger in others. In fact, it would be unrealistic not to expect to have some angry interaction even with those who are close to us in life. With family and close friends we have more frequent contact, have higher expectations, and feel more at ease to be frank about everything. Sometimes this familiarity brings conflict, but it’s normal especially in families. Remember when Miriam and Aaron “spake against Moses” (in Num. 12:1) because of his wife and position of leadership? Even families and friends sometimes have conflicts that result in an angry outburst. When this happens, it does not mean we don’t love the one who is the object of our anger, or that we’re not loved when we face the anger of another. It doesn’t even mean that the emotion of anger is wrong in itself. What it does mean, however, is that a problem exists that must be handled in a mature and godly manner. To help us know how to deal with these difficult situations, God has provided principles in His Word to guide us. If we choose to apply these principles, relationships can be preserved, the Lord will be honored, and our lives will be happier. So let’s discover what God has to say about how to deal with anger and choose to follow His counsels.
Choose to be Slow to Anger. No one can make us become angry, we allow ourselves this indulgence. God expects each of us to have “rule over his own spirit” (Prov. 25:28). That means we must not allow ourselves to become easily or often provoked. Young people today would say, “take a chill pill.” God puts it this way: “he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty: and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). Anger quite often leads to a loss of control in things we say and do. Unfortunately we can’t take either back, and we can do irreparable damage. So memorize verses like Proverbs 14:29, “he that is slow to wrath is of great understanding, but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” (See also Eccl. 7:9; James 1:19).
Choose to Avoid Friendships With Angry People. Like it or not, we are influenced by those with whom we spend time. Bad attitudes, being easily offended, and quick tempered responses are things that will easily rub off on us. That’s why God’s counsel is “make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Prov. 22:24). We can save ourselves, our friends, and our families a lot of unnecessary grief by following this simple rule from the Lord.
Choose to Carefully Consider if your Anger is Legitimate. For all of us, the truth is that many times our anger is not warranted. We’re quite capable of being too easily agitated, having wrong perceptions, making mountains out of mole hills, or simply having a wrong attitude. When God’s servant Jonah fled from the task he’d been entrusted with, “then said the Lord, doest thou well to be angry” (Jonah 4:4). Like Jonah, we too can have a wrong perspective in things, and become angry when it is entirely unnecessary. A reasonable and godly response, at the onset of angry emotions, is to think the matter through from both sides, and listen carefully to what others are trying to tell us.
Choose to Delay Actions and Words Until in Control. One of the worst things to do when we’re upset is to react immediately. Delaying any response, even for a few moments, gives us an opportunity to pray about what to say, and how to handle our situation correctly. As believers, we need to strive for godliness even in stressful situations. If we’re not in control of ourselves or able to allow God to control what and how much we say—then we’re not ready to proceed. When the time is right our words should be limited and chosen very carefully. Our standard must be that of Proverbs 29:11, “a fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”
Choose to Avoid Sinful Responses. In Christ, we have both the capability, and the responsibility to avoid sinful responses. The Lord tells us when we are angry to “sin not,” (Eph. 4:26a). During times of heightened emotions we’re more vulnerable to sin and excess. Threats, shouting, violence, hurtful words, and attempts to get even are natural responses to anger. But believers have a higher calling and must choose to do right. Therefore, Psalm 37:8 urges us to “cease from anger and forsake wrath, fret not thyself in any way to do evil.” Even when we’ve been wronged, we must do what is right.
Choose Confrontation When Warranted. We’re going to be pretty hard to live with if we travel this road too often. But sometimes it’s really necessary. When the Corinthians were guilty of flagrant sin, Paul wrote them a strong letter confronting them with their wrongs. But notice he did so out of “anguish of heart” (II Cor. 2:4). He certainly did not relish the task. Moreover, his goal was not merely to give them a piece of his mind. In every line you can see that his goal was RESTORATION, with both his words and tone enhancing that goal. When it is necessary, and when done correctly, let’s remember two standards to follow: “if a man be overtaken in a fault…restore such an one in a spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1), and whenever possible, “debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself, and discover not a secret to another” (Prov. 25:9).
Choose to Respond Softly to Anger. This does not mean that you allow others to walk over you or that you give the appearance of being wrong. It simply means that you are choosing to deal with your anger, or the anger of another, in a Christlike way. Moreover, the approach of a bull in a china closet will only aggravate everyone, and makes any constructive resolution more difficult. But calm words with a calm approach will set the stage for meaningful dialogue, therefore, we must remember, “a soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stirreth up strife” (Prov. 15:1).
Choose to Pass Over an Offence when Possible. We always have this option, and it should be exercised more often than any other. Doing so demonstrates maturity, love, spiritual growth, and balance. An unwillingness or inability to allow love to “cover the multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8), or annoyances we find in others, reveals that many times the real problem is with ourself, more than anyone else. Proverbs 19:11 explains “the discretion of a man deferreth his anger: and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Making this decision does not mean we deny being hurt, or agree with a wrong. It means we are choosing to be guided by love, that we’re allowing God to right any wrong, and trusting God to enable us to forgive without holding a grudge. When possible, this is a liberating decision that leads to our own spiritual growth, not to mention greater harmony with others.
The subject of dealing with anger is complicated enough that other pertinent things could also be included. Some might suggest making a commitment to always ask for forgiveness once realizing we were wrong. Others believe some kind of an accountability system to family or a mature Christian, helps. In unresolved instances of anger, biblical precedence exists for appealing to members of the local church in an attempt to find a better resolution. Each of the above suggestions can serve as a deterrent to anger, and an incentive to strive for restoration.
If God has spoken to your heart about the problem of anger and the excesses that accompany it, then praise His holy name! You have just taken the first step toward victory. Now, despite any failures in the past, don’t give up; look up to God in prayer, asking Him to help you find freedom from anger by implementing the biblical principles we’ve just studied. He’s waiting for your cry, and when you come to Him with a sincere heart He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).