Dealing with Anger

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29).

- Proverbs 14:29

A wise man once compared the human personality to a minefield. “Some people,” he said, “have relatively few mines and interacting with them does not often provoke anger. Others have mines lined up side-by-side from one end of the field to the other, and it does not take much to push them over the edge into a fiery rage.”

All of us have mines buried in our personalities. Some of us respond calmly to most situations that upset us. But others among us explode with anger at the slightest provocation. The degree to which irritation is tolerated varies from person to person, and though we have seen there are times when our anger is righteous, we often express it unrighteously.

The Greek philosopher Socrates saw a direct correlation between right behavior and right understanding. For example, if someone understands courage properly, he will be courageous. Socrates can be faulted for missing the affective or emotional dimension to our behavior, but he was correct to see a link between our thoughts and actions, and, we might add, our minds and feelings as well. As Scripture teaches, “as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7 NKJV).

Taking this rational approach in mind, there are several practical steps we can take to avoid sinning when we are angry. First, we need to recognize that all anger is rooted in some kind of pain, be it physical or emotional. Typically we move from pain to anger and often this anger only intensifies. Joe’s thoughtless comment may hurt Mary’s feelings, and thus she responds in anger. Joe is hurt by her anger and gets mad himself, causing her to become more indignant, and so on. But this cycle can be stopped if we pause to consider what makes us mad. We can also look for what is hurting the other person and address the pain so that anger does not become destructive.

Second, we can take care not to let the pain caused by others make us fractious with our families. If we have had a bad day at work, for example, we should do our best not to bring it home with us. If we have a short temper with our families because of problems elsewhere, we have sinfully expressed our anger.

Coram Deo

Today we can apply the practical suggestions Dr. R.C. Sproul gives in this final lecture on anger by asking ourselves several questions. What tends to make me mad and why? What behavioral characteristics annoy me, and what are the reasons? When we do this, we can better prevent irrational anger and avoid situations that we know will enrage us until we can calmly address the problem. Ask yourself what makes you angry and seek God’s help to deal with it.

Passages for Further Study

Prov. 16:32; 19:11
Joel 2:12–13
Titus 1:7
James 1:19–21

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