Everybody has to deal with anger from time to time. But what’s the best way to handle it? To answer that question, we must first understand what anger really is. Anger is an emotion often characterized by feelings of great displeasure, indignation, hostility, wrath and vengeance. Many times, reacting in anger is how we express our dissatisfaction with life. It’s defined in the Greek language as the strongest of all passions. Anger begins with a feeling that’s often expressed in words or actions. We feel something and it causes a reaction.
Get to the Root of the Problem
Anger is the fruit of rotten roots. One of the primary roots of anger stems from the family. Angry people come from angry families because they learn from their role models and carry on the same behavior in their own lives, eventually passing it on to their children.
Other Roots of Anger Include...
Injustice—when people mistreat us but there’s nothing we can do about it, we get angry because we feel it isn't fair. As much as we’d like to change the situation or the person who’s treating us badly, we can't. People can't change people; only God can change people. So it's best to put our energy into praying for the offender.
Strife—which is hidden, repressed anger, begins with judgment, gossip, backbiting and thinking too highly of yourself. Strife is often exhibited in arguing, bickering, heated disagreements and angry undercurrents.
Impatience—often produces anger when we can't get what we want when we want it. When our progress is hindered or slowed down because of others, it’s easy to become impatient. Most of us struggle with impatience on a daily basis simply because of today's fast-paced world.
Abuse of any kind—sexual, physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse almost always leads to anger. They’re all injustices, which eventually leave the abused feeling helpless and angry. Abuse of any kind can’t be ignored. We must deal with it and process it before we can get free of it.
Unmet needs—can also produce anger. We all have needs that can and should be met by those closest to us; however, they don’t know and understand our needs unless we communicate with them. But even then they may sometimes fail to meet our needs. Therefore, the answer is to go to God with our needs and not to other people.
Jealousy—anger caused by jealousy was one of the first negative emotions mentioned in the Bible. Genesis 4 tells us that Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous to the point of being angry. Although this is one of the more extreme results of jealousy, it reminds us of how dangerous jealousy can be.
In today’s society many people feel their status is dependent on their job or position in the church. Because of this mindset, they’re afraid someone else may get promoted ahead of them. Jealousy causes them to try to be important in the eyes of man. If you have this problem, understand that God has you where you are for a reason. He knows what’s in your future, and He may have you in training for it right now. There’s a big difference between being able and being ready to do a specific thing. So don't despise the days of small beginnings. Remember, we must answer to God. Our rewards come from obeying the specific callings He’s placed on our lives, not from the great things we accomplish as far as the world is concerned.
Other roots that lead to anger include fear of confrontation, insecurity, and feeling controlled by a job or other people and their problems. I used to get mad at people who controlled me until God told me one day, "You’re just as guilty as they are because you're letting them do it." We shouldn’t put excessive pressure on ourselves by making too many commitments just because we don't want to say no to someone.
Masks of Anger
Sometimes we use masks to cover up the things we don't want anybody to see. If we’re harboring anger, we think masking it keeps others from knowing the real us. So we hide behind a variety of masks in an attempt to trick people into thinking we're something or someone we're not. I’ve discovered that people respect you more if you share your real self with them rather than trying to hide everything. After all, people can tell when something isn’t right. You may think you're hiding your anger, but it’ll eventually find a way to come out—either in voice tone, body language or attitudes. Some people use the cold-shoulder mask. When someone makes them angry, they may say they’ve forgiven them, but they become cold, showing no warmth or emotion in dealing with that individual. These people live a lonely existence. Because they’re so afraid of being hurt, they avoid close, meaningful relationships. This is a classic example of "choosing your pain." They’ll choose the pain of living an isolated, lonely life instead of working through the problem, determined to develop good friendships. Other people like to use the silent-treatment mask. They say they're not angry with you, yet they refuse to talk to you, or they only communicate when it’s absolutely necessary, usually with a grunt or nod. When people avoid being with, touching, or doing things for the person they're angry with, they're hiding behind a mask, which isn’t the answer.
Face the Truth... And Choose Your Pain
If you want the great and mighty things God has for you, you must get to the root of anger and deal with it. Get rid of the masks and face the things that happened in your life that made you the way you are today. Admit that you can't change by yourself. Until the root is removed, it’ll continue to produce one bad fruit after another. Too often we spend our lives dealing with the bad fruit of our behavior, but we never dig deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Actually, when we're faced with anger, we must choose our pain. Digging deep to take care of the bad root is painful, but it’s the only lasting way to take care of the problem. We can either suffer positively, doing what’s right or we can go with the devil's plan. But remember, the same devil who tempts you to follow your human feelings will later condemn you for doing it. You must decide if you want the pain that will take you into a new realm of glory or to keep your same old pain and try to hide it while it's rotting inside you.
Peter tells us to be well-balanced and temperate, withstanding the devil at his onset (see 1 Peter 5:8-9). When you begin to feel anger, it's the perfect time to exercise the fruit of self-control. You may have a good reason to be angry, but don’t use it as an excuse to stay that way. Instead of denying or justifying it, ask God to help you deal with it in a positive way. Romans 12:21 AMPC gives good advice: Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good. When Satan attacks you, instead of getting mad, go bless someone. Responding in a positive way is the direct opposite of what the enemy wants you to do, defeating his plan to keep you upset. It doesn't come naturally, and it isn't always easy, but when we do what we can do, God will do what we can't do. Do not be quick in spirit to be angry or vexed, for anger and vexation lodge in the bosom of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9). If we hang on to anger, we're just being foolish. We must turn the anger and the people who caused it over to God and let Him take care of it. ...Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord (Romans 12:19 AMPC). Trust God and He will take care of you and protect you. You can't change your past, but when you give it to God, He’ll use it to bring you a better future.
Is Anger Sin?
Is all anger sin? No, but some of it is. Even God Himself has righteous anger against sin, injustice, rebellion and pettiness. Anger sometimes serves a useful purpose, so it isn't necessarily always a sin. Obviously, we’re going to have adverse feelings, or God wouldn’t have needed to provide the fruit of self-control. Just being tempted to do something is not sin. It's when you don't resist the temptation, but do it anyway, that it becomes sin. God sometimes allows us to feel anger so we’ll recognize when we’re being mistreated. But even when we experience true injustices in our lives, we must not vent our anger in an improper way. We must guard against allowing anger to drag us into sin. Ephesians 4:26-27 AMPC tells us, When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. Refuse to give the devil any opportunity to get a foothold in your life through anger.
All anger, regardless of its cause, has the same effect on our lives. It upsets us, causing us to feel pressure. Keeping anger locked inside and pretending it doesn't exist can even be dangerous to our health. Most of the time we’re only hurting ourselves, and the person who angered us isn’t even aware of it. So we must take responsibility for our anger and learn to deal with it. Process it and bring closure to it, and that will relieve the pressure. I have been through some rough times in my life, and for many years those experiences caused me to feel miserable. I was so mad about the abuse in my childhood that it was making me bitter and hateful. I was angry with everybody, but one day God confronted me and said, "Joyce, are you going to let that make you bitter or better?" That got my attention, and I eventually had to find a positive way to process my anger. That was a place of new beginnings for me. When you face your anger and decide to deal with it God's way, you can overcome it. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be stable and walk in the fruit of the Spirit. We have the power to forgive those who do injustices in our lives and to love the unlovely.
Take Steps Toward Freedom
People are born to be free; it’s a gift from God. We’re not to be free from responsibility, but free to be led by the Holy Spirit. Any time our freedom is taken away or given away, we experience anger. Are you willing to go through whatever it takes to be free, or do you want to stay in the mess you're in for the rest of your life? If you want to be free, just start doing what God wants you to do, one step at a time, and you’ll eventually walk out of your messes. When we are battling anger, we must realize that ...We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12 KJV). When Satan makes you angry, remember that he's trying to keep you from accomplishing the will of God in your life.
In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul told Timothy to be calm, cool and collected and to keep performing the duties of his ministry. That’s good advice for all of us. When we get angry, we should calm down and start doing what God has called us to do. You can be bitter or better—it's up to you! If you're mad about something, instead of letting it ruin your life, turn it into something good. Overcome evil and anger by praying for those who hurt and abuse you. Forgive them and be a blessing to them. It may not be easy at first, but when you make the decision and stick with it, God will take care of the rest.
We do not need to strive for power or hope to have power someday; we have power now! The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us (see Rom. 8:11) and we can be quickened (filled with life) by that power. This is not a onetime filling that slowly drains out of us as the days go by, but we can be filled day by day and even moment by moment. We can constantly and continually experience God’s presence and power in our lives. When we belong to Him, there is never a time when His power is not accessible to us.