Dealing with Anger
Unless we are uncaring or unobserving, there are things in our lives and in the world around us that make us angry. Anger isn’t a new problem and it’s not always wrong, but the wise will turn to the Bible for guidance in handling this volatile emotion.
Choose your associations.
The writers of Proverbs tell us that, whenever possible, we should avoid relationship with an angry person. Read Proverbs 22:24-25, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” . The Message puts it this way, “Bad temper is contagious – don’t get infected.”
If we are with people who are loving, forgiving and merciful, we tend to respond with love, forgiveness, and mercy. If we are in the company of angry people, our own anger is easily aroused. So, if we have a choice about our associations, we are told to choose to be with those who are not angry, those who exhibit characteristics we want to have in our own lives. Let’s at least try to catch a “good infection.”
Sometimes anger is the right response.
“God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.” (Psalm 7:11). God was angry with Moses at the burning bush and Jesus got angry at the merchants in the temple. Being angry at the right things is God-like; our problem as humans is two-fold: First, only God can have totally righteous anger - ours is always tainted with our fallen nature. Second, we need to know how we express justifiable anger. The Bible gives some specific direction on that question in the book of Proverbs.
Choose your battles.
When we are angry, we should be slow to react. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (Proverbs 12:16). We don’t have to express anger at everything we feel we have a right to be angry about. Wisdom says we simply let some things go. Sometimes we don’t respond to the insult or the criticism. Being the target of an angry person may not be avoidable, but we do have a choice as to how and when we will react.
If, by God’s grace, we exercise self-control and follow the teaching of this proverb, we trust that the truth will eventually become known and that God will defend us when and how he chooses. Essentially, we need to be selective in what we allow ourselves to express angry about. Jesus was.
Revenge is not an option.
As followers of God, we are not allowed to take revenge. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).
Sometimes our anger has been harbored over a long period of time because of hurts we have
suffered at the hands of others. Solomon tells us here that the best “revenge” is love. We must treat those who have hurt us with compassion and mercy. And that compassion must not just be a warm feeling, but must be evidenced by actually doing something nice for those who have hurt us. Our reward will never come from harbored anger. But true reward will come from God himself as we take him at his word and put into practice a non-vengeful lifestyle.
We will never know the effect for eternity that our actions may have on the “enemy” we treat with compassion. I can only say that when we obey God even when it’s hard and even when we can see no logical reason for what he is asking us to do, amazing things can happen!
Our third direction in the face of anger is to practice love. “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12). This proverb is kind of a continuation of the earlier one cited: Not only are we not to respond in anger or revenge when someone wrongs us, but we are to show love no matter what the circumstances.
A different situation
If you are in relationship with an abusive person, you must still be loving and you must not take revenge. However, you need not continue to allow yourself to be abused. The most loving action might be removing yourself from the abuser’s presence until he/she can come to heart-changing repentance. If you are in such a situation, please seek counsel from a trusted friend, a pastor, or a Christian counselor to know how to lovingly take care of yourself and those who depend on you.
“A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. Now and then a man should be shaken to the core with indignation over things evil.” - Henry Ward Beecher