How to Handle Anger the Christian Way
Today I’d like to give you some tips on how to handle anger the Christian way.
Now, sometimes we all get angry. But as Christians, anger represents a special challenge because we’re told in Ephesians 4:31 to … “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Wow! Okay, that’s a tall order. So how do we do that?
First let’s talk about how many Christians try to get rid of anger that doesn’t work: By repressing your anger and pretending that it isn’t there. For instance…
Imagine something happens, and you start to feel angry. So you say, “I’m going to push it down. I’m going to pretend I don’t feel this way. I’m going to act as if I’m not angry.”
But the problem with that is, the Bible doesn’t tell us, “Get good at pretending not to be angry while you’re seething on the inside.” It actually says to “get rid of” anger.
We’ve all known Christians who are all smiles on the outside, but are balls of anger on the inside. Their fists are clenched and their teeth are clenched and they’re ready to go at somebody — but they’re smiling, because they know they should get rid of all anger.
That’s not what we’re told to do.
So if simply repressing our anger by bringing our willpower to bear on the problem isn’t the answer, then what is?
Well, I think the very next verse actually gives us guidance. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Now, I’m going to put to you the following; If you don’t have kindness, tenderheartedness and forgivingness for yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to give it to other people. It’s very hard to pour much from an empty cup.
You need to be filled up by kindness, tenderheartedness and forgivingness if you’re really going to be a freely giving font of it to others.
But that brings us to a problem, which is that we don’t want to be so easy on ourselves that we say say, “Okay, I’m angry, so I’ll do whatever I want to do. I can yell at people, and break things, and scream, or do whatever because I’m kind, tenderhearted and forgiving to myself.”
We don’t want to do that. So what is the answer?
It really helps to understand that there are two aspects of being angry.
- The first aspect of being angry is the angry actions you want to take. The impulses to yell, to throw things, to get revenge on people, to say things that you’ll regret. It’s that impulse to take angry actions.
- But there’s another part, too, and that’s the part of you that feels so backed into a corner and so upset that you feel like you don’t have any choice but to take those angry actions.
And what you need to do is actually bring kindness, tenderheartedness and forgivingness to the part of you that feels backed into a corner and upset. Here’s what I suggest you do:
- Step 1: Take a stand against angry actions. Say to yourself, “I’m not going to take those angry actions. I know that when I take actions from anger, nothing good comes of it. I’m not going to do that.” But you also know that’s not enough. If you just put your willpower to it, you’re just going to be someone who looks like you’re not angry, who still is. That’s not going to work in the long run. So you need the second step.
- Step 2: Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving to the part of yourself that feels backed into a corner and like you have to lash out. Get into that sense of kindness toward yourself. If somebody you really care about is upset, you’d wouldn’t just try to shut them down. You’d try to help. You’d say, “I can see you’re really upset. I can see you’re hurting and you want to lash out. Let me wrap the arms of my heart around you. Let me open up and bring you back to God’s light and God’s love. Let me let you know that it’s okay to be hurting and love still exists for you.”
Let yourself experience being filled up by the love that still exists for you even when you feel backed into a corner. You might even ask that love, “Is it true that I have no choice but to lash out?” The love will probably tell you, “No, it’s not true.” You may not know what the other choices are now, but you can be in love no matter how angry you may feel right now.”
It’s sometimes said that, “the way to peace is peace.” That means if you want to bring peace into this world, you need to feel it for yourself. You need to be at peace.
If you’re angry and upset, you need to bring love to the part of you that’s angry and upset so it can become at peace.
And as that part becomes at peace, you will become a bridge to peace.
And that is how you get rid of anger, rage, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. It may not be easy, but it is something you can do and you can get better at. I suggest you start practicing that next time you’re angry.
– By Dmitri Bilgere
Dmitri is a Crucible Project Leader. He is creator of the program “Leading Your Relationship: How to Create the Relationship of Your Dreams, even if Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Help.” Get it free at http://dmitrib.com/lead
Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys via Creative Commons