We had an interesting discussion about anger at our Bible Explored group tonight. Anger is a difficult emotion and has the potential to be very destructive, but on occasions it can also be fully justified. I came away with three questions that helped me clarify my thoughts on anger.
What is it that triggers my anger? Sometimes my anger is not actually about the matter in hand, but it is a response to something has happened previously. Being aware of what winds me up, and why, is an important first step in learning to control anger.
Is my anger justified? There are two sorts of anger in the Bible. There is human anger, which is self-centred and self-righteous. I am angry because I perceive I have been hurt, and I am not seeking to understand why the other person acted as they did, or what reaction they were expecting. But there is also divine anger. Jesus himself got angry with the money-changers in the temple, and with those who were horrified that He was prepared to heal on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5). Anger at an abuse of power, or lack of faith can be a proper response. But we do need to weigh the situation carefully. There’s good reason why James writes “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jam 1:19)
What do I do with my anger? Anger if unchecked can lead to words that can never be unspoken, actions that can never be taken back, even to violence. Of course there is a time when a rebuke is necessary, or something simply has to be done. That kind of situation in my experience represents a real test of how close you are keeping in step with the Spirit! Anger of course can also be directed at institutions or groups of people, and at its best it can be a powerful force for change.
We don’t talk much about how to handle anger, but it’s an important discipline we need to learn. After all, sometimes anger can flare up even in the most unexpected moments, even when we are silent before God and a particular situation comes to mind. Dealing with anger is a sign of wisdom, and it’s one that I need to learn.