So much has been written about this subject. There are lots of books and workbooks on the market. I would like to address this subject from my own personal experiences in hope that you might learn from my experiences.
Anger is an emotion that we all have. Anger is not necessarily bad. Sometimes we have a good reason to be angry. The problem is how to express our anger. How do you react when angry?
We can feel anger whenever we believe our self-worth or character is being attacked. We can feel anger whenever we are involved in a disagreement or argument and this emotion gets out of hand in the heat of verbal battle. Sometimes it is so important for us to believe we are right, that we lose control in our effort to persuade someone that we are right. Sometimes our anger is an effort to control or intimidate someone. Usually that someone is very close to us.
Anger can take many forms. These emotions can range from rage, intimidation, a loud and rough tone of voice, shouting, name-calling, cursing, irritability, impatience, withdrawal, silence, or even physical abuse.
Anger is a learned behavior. We are not born with the knowledge to express our anger. We learn by watching other people. Our parents, family and friends are our models for us when we are young. Whenever you lose control of yourself, think back to when you first saw someone, probably a parent, angry, and see if you may be repeating his or her actions.
I will never forget the time when I was just four or five years old. We were at the supper table, and my Father and Mother were arguing with each other. This was a normal occurrence in our family. The arguing became worse and the words from my Father were getting louder and very profane. The incident escalated until Father was out of control. He jumped up from the table and started throwing food and dishes every which way. He grabbed the ketchup bottle and spun completely around the room in a full circle. Ketchup was sprayed over all four walls of the kitchen. Father stalked out of the room and we kids just sat in stunned silence. We knew better to say anything to Father in these circumstances. Of course Mother cleaned up the mess as usual. This was a common( it seemed like an everyday) occurrence in our house. My Father, by his actions taught me how to express my anger. I acted just like him whenever I became angry. I thought this was how everyone acted when angry. I never knew of another way to act. Even though as I grew up and left home, and vowed that I would not have a wife and family that acted like Father and Mother, I found that I had become just like Father.
Whenever someone disagreed with me, I felt “put down” and degraded as a person. These feelings came from my own belief of inadequacy. I would feel attacked and I would attack right back. I attacked with name-calling and yelling and screaming. I would lose control and start throwing anything around I could get my hands on. I did whatever it took to intimidate and be in control of the situation. In trying to take control, I was, in reality, losing control of my anger. I lived like this until my early forties. I constantly had a chip on my shoulder. I was always ready for a confrontation with anyone. My relationships were full of arguing and fighting. One person trying to prove to another that they were right and the other person was wrong. Trying to “win’ the fight or argument in an effort to show someone I could be a winner. At least in my own eyes. I needed to win at something in order to feel good about myself. Somehow there was never a winner and I never felt good about myself.
The key to change was becoming aware of my feelings and that I could control them. I grew up thinking I was the way I was and that was it. During my mid-forties, I began seeking some peace and joy in my life. My journey to wholeness and taking control of my anger came when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, one cold, dark and lonely night in December, 1994, just before Christmas. I surrendered my life to Him that night and gave Him control of my life. The Holy Spirit came into my life, and gave me guidance and direction. My healing had begun.
I came to realize that God gave us free will and choices in life. I learned that I made a choice to be angry and out of control. I had always blamed someone else for “making” me angry. If only that person would have acted differently or said something else, I would not have gotten angry. When I figured out that it was my choice to be angry or not, then I started taking responsibility for my actions. The first step was to become aware that I could change, and the second step was to take responsibility for my actions.
I sought the Word of God concerning anger. The following are some verses that I believe are very important concerning anger:
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.
11 People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.
5 So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.
26 And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil
21 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder…. 22 But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! …. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious;
he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.
1 Corinthians 13:5
5 Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
Galatians 5: 19-23
Works of the fleshFruit of the Spirit
sexual immorality, impure thoughtsLove
lustful pleasure, idolatry,joy
demonic activities, hostilitypeace
outbursts of angerkindness
Selfish ambition, divisions,goodness
feeling that everyone is wrong exceptfaithfulness
your own little group, envy, drunkennessgentleness
It basically boils down to who is in control of your life. Is the flesh(self) in control, or does the Holy Spirit control your life? To the degree that you surrender yourself to God, is the degree that the Spirit controls your life. That is our choice to make. We choose to allow God to be in control or not. Look at the two lists above and see the results of the flesh being in control. You can see that outbursts of anger are a work of the flesh. When the Spirit is in control you can see the spiritual fruit in your life. This fruit can and will help you to overcome your anger.
As I have matured as a Christian and studied God’s Word, I believe I have found the answer to control my anger. Each morning when I pray, I ask God to help me be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. God is slow to be angry with me and I want to follow His example. I make it a priority to live my life in such a way that it is pleasing to God. I daily surrender myself to the Holy Spirit’s control. Jesus gave us a new commandment in John 13:34-35
34 so now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I love everyone with unconditional love as Jesus does. I do not always love a person’s actions, but Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners, even before we knew him. I try to follow this example each day. I try to be respectful of another’s feelings. I try to treat them as I would like to be treated. I have learned that I am not responsible for another’s actions. I try to overlook as many wrongs as possible that may be directed toward me. If I feel a need to confront someone about a wrong, I confront him or her in love. Even though they may become angry with me because of this, I try to use gentle words without provocation. They are ultimately responsible and accountable to God for their anger toward me. I have learned that being angry about the behavior and actions of a person differs from holding on to my anger and bitterness toward that person. I acknowledge the pain they have caused, be angry about it, then let it go and move on.
Of course, I am an imperfect being and I do sometimes become angry. I try not to allow this anger to be out of control in a sinful way. I have learned to be aware of the physical and emotional changes that occur within me, as I become angrier. As I observe this escalation, I learn to back away. I take a break, and cool off. I do not allow my anger to escalate beyond a certain point. On the few occasions that I have lost control, I seek forgiveness from that person and from God. I John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
My focus each day is on pleasing God and bringing him glory in what I say and do. When I am in difficult situations with other people I try to think what Jesus would do in each situation and try to model my life and actions after him.
I know I have not covered every situation in life that may cause you to become angry. Although everyone’s situation and experience is different, I believe the answer is the same for everyone. The only thing that anger and bitterness does is to keep you angry and bitter. Our anger and bitterness hurts no one but ourselves. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can overcome this anger. Becoming aware about our anger and ourselves is the first step. Learning to love others and to forgive them in spite of their hurtful actions and words is another. Knowing this pleases God (see Gal. 1:10) should become reward enough for doing the right thing. When pleasing God becomes more important than winning that argument or trying to prove you are as good or better than the next person, then you are going in the right direction. You are on the path to wholeness. Good luck.