by Carolyn Lawrence.
I wonder if you ever get angry. And if you do, how do you deal with it?
A husband said to his wife, “When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?”
The wife replied, “I clean the toilet.”
“How does that help?” asked the husband.
The wife responded, “I use your toothbrush!”
There seems to be a lot of anger and frustration in our nation right now – much of it has arisen during the past two years as people have been forced to deal with circumstances and changes they could never have envisaged. I have seen this expressed in many different ways. Some people aim their anger at someone unknown personally to them, often using social media – people having a rant, writing unkind, sarcastic or abusive words; people being critical, nit picking and judgemental of others.
Others are expressing their anger at people known to them – perhaps being irritable with family and friends or having more arguments. At the other extreme we have seen an increase in domestic violence and abuse in the home, particularly during the lockdowns of the past two years.
Some express their anger in the way they drive, by slamming doors or in activities that harm themselves. Others express their anger at God by turning away from their faith or the church. Still others are not expressing their anger outwardly but are keeping it inside leading to growing resentment, bitterness and depression.
So is it right to be angry? Ephesians 4:26 says ‘In your anger do not sin.’ We all get angry and anger itself is not a sin but it is what we DO with the anger that can lead us into sinful words and actions.
There is a difference between righteous anger and unhealthy anger. The anger we experience when see injustice or people being treated badly is a righteous anger and we know that Jesus expressed anger when he saw the money changers in the temple. Righteous anger can lead people to take action to right wrongs.
We should feel angry when we hear about people being trafficked, people starving in a world where there is plenty of food, Christians persecuted for their beliefs, people who are bullied, downtrodden and abused. If those things don’t make us angry then we perhaps need to ask God for a heart of compassion for those who suffer and a desire to do something about it.
But what about the more unhealthy anger? How do we deal with our feelings of anger when perhaps things haven’t gone our way, we have had our pride hurt, when we feel frustrated, helpless or stressed?
Here are a few suggestions with some Bible verses.
- Recognise your feelings and express them.
Psalm 62:8 Pour out your hearts to God for he is our refuge.
As we read the Psalms we see the writers expressing all manner of emotions to God and reading these Psalms can be a real help to us in times of difficulty. I believe we have to be real with God and he is big enough to take our rants and our distress as we pour out our hearts to him.
We can also express our feelings to a trusted friend, loved one or counsellor. Often just expressing how we feel and being listened to is enough to calm us and get things in perspective.
- Once we’ve expressed it, let it go.
Ephesians 4:26 Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
If we allow our anger to fester it can begin to manifest itself in the ways I have mentioned. That is why we need to deal with it as quickly as we can.
- We need to exercise self-control
Galatians 5:22 The fruit of the Spirit is…self control.
James 1: 19 Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
We don’t have to say everything that is on our mind! Whether it is using our tongue or our keyboards we need to stop and think before we express our words. And stop before we act or react. Wait before replying to that email that annoyed you. Walk away from the person who is winding you up. Whatever you need to do to give yourself time to think, pray and reflect before acting or speaking.
- Take care of our own well-being
1 Corinthians 6:20 Honour God with your body.
Find ways to relieve our stress in a healthy way by living a healthy lifestyle with exercise, good food and times to rest and unwind.
- Deal with unresolved relationship issues
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
1 Corinthians 13: 5 Love…is not easily angered.
Deal with any grudges, unforgiveness, bitterness that may be adding to your stress. Express your feelings to each other in a safe way while you are calm.
- Walk closely with God.
Romans 12: 1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. As we remain close to Jesus and develop our relationship with him we trust that God will day by day be transforming our minds, our hearts and our wills to make us more like Jesus. And as our lives become more hidden in the love of God, the things that irritate us, annoy us and upset us will become less important to us compared to knowing Jesus and being obedient to his will for our lives. As a result, our lives will become more and more a reflection of his love and as our hearts are changed and transformed, that which overflows from our hearts through our words and actions will become sweeter and more Christ-like.