Dealing With Anger

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

- Proverbs 14:29

Some people have observed that the human personality is like a minefield. There are individuals who have few mines in their minefields—they are not easily angered and are quite easy to get along with. Others have tons of mines in their minefields— you can hardly interact with them without seeing them blow up in rage.

One question we should ask ourselves is whether our minefields are loaded with mines or whether they are easy for others to cross without triggering explosions. Some of us are calm and easygoing most of the time. Others are apt to be irritable and short-tempered. All of us get mad. Sometimes our anger is righteous and sometimes it is not. Sometimes we have righteous anger but express it unrighteously.

The famous Greek philosopher Socrates was on to something when he noted there is a direct link between correct understanding and correct behavior. Knowing what patience is, for instance, is a prerequisite for displaying patience in any situation. Socrates paid too little attention to the affective or emotional dimensions of our actions, but he was certainly correct to see that our thoughts and actions are linked. This is likewise true of our minds and feelings. After all, the Word of God teaches us that “as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7, NKJV).

Given the close connection between our thoughts and our behavior, we can slow down when we are angry and think carefully about what is going on in order to keep from sinning in our anger. As we do so, we should first understand that most anger arises from physical or emotional pain. We go from pain to anger, which then intensifies as we stew on our hurt. Robert might say something thoughtless to Sarah, and she might respond in anger because her feelings are hurt. Robert, in turn, can become angry at her response, provoking her to get madder, and so on. We can break the cycle if we stop to make sure we are not responding disproportionately to the pain we are feeling. We can also address the pain we have caused others and apologize when necessary in order to prevent anger from destroying us.

Moreover, we should not let the pain others have caused us hurt other people through our anger. For example, we should not bring a bad day at work home with us. It is always sinful to exact our ire on those who are not responsible for our pain.

Coram Deo

We can avoid expressing our anger sinfully if we stop to think about how we are being treated and the relative importance of the situation. Often, we are so quick to show our ire that we forget that others may be lashing out at us because of some deeply rooted pain, even if we are not the ones who have caused it. As we respond to others who have hurt us, let us consider what may be prompting their actions and seek to address the root cause of the problem.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 16:32; 19:11
Joel 2:12–13
Titus 1:7
James 1:19–20

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