What Do I Do With My Anger?
There are a lot of people angry these days. We seem to have an interesting love-hate affair with anger. We love the justified feeling we have when we are angry but hate the long-term effect.
At least within the Christian community, there have been a few misconceptions about anger. First, we have believed for a long time that anger is a sin and therefore bad. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, some anger is good and some is bad. We’ve also come to believe that if we don’t let our anger show that somehow we’re not angry. We’re good at deceiving ourselves that way. There’s also the belief that anger can bring improvement to our abilities, such as athletic performance (scientifically proven to not be true).
A reality of life is that anger is an emotion we are all created with. In fact, the Bible is pretty clear on that: God became angry at the disobedience of His people, Jesus was angry on several occasions, and God’s faithful people often were angry. The issue is not whether anger is right or wrong; the issue is whether it is controlling us or we are controlling it.
There are teachings in the Bible that encourage us to not be angry (Colossians 3:8 for example). In the context of all the teaching of the Bible about anger, what we see it saying is that it’s good to avoid anger, not because it’s bad but because of what it can lead to. Ephesians 4:26-27 summarizes this for us: “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you’ . . . for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
So what do we do with our anger so as not to give the devil opportunity to control our actions? In other words, how do we keep from doing something we will regret, that will damage relationships, that will bury deep within seeds of bitterness that will grow to dominate our lives? Even when our anger is justified, what is the key to controlling it and not allowing it to become an addiction?
I recently had a conversation with someone who had every right to be angry. As a teenager, his family had experienced deep wounding from people they loved that led to some significant and unwanted changes and losses in his life. Over the course of several years, the anger took root in his heart and led to actions that negatively affected all of his relationships. He was addicted to his anger.
One evening with friends, the conversation turned to relationships. Over the course of the next several hours, this young man reflected deeply on his life and decided he was tired of allowing his anger to control him. In those pivotal moments he chose to forgive—to no longer hold others responsible for his hurt. He is choosing to no longer be stuck in the muck of resentment and to start the journey of healing for himself and for his relationships. He’ll never forget what happened to him, but he made the choice to no longer suffer from it. The same choice is ours.