Be angry, yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not give the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4: 26, 27 NASB).
"For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind."Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to the American Psychological Association, anger is "a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion." To not feel anger is to not be human; even Jesus experienced anger, but there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways of expressing our anger.
Anger is a powerful emotion that affects us both psychologically and biologically. During moments of anger, one's heart rate and blood pressure increases as do levels of certain hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Feelings of anger can be triggered by internal factors such as unpleasant thoughts and memories or by external factors such as people and circumstances. Recalling a particularly hurtful conversation that occurred years ago can trigger feelings of anger; similarly, feelings of anger can be prompted by external causes such as a flat tire, a lost wallet, or a rude coworker.
Anger is normal, but out-of-control anger is both abnormal and destructive. When feelings of anger are not kept in check, serious consequences may follow. The after-effects of out of control anger may include acts of violence, damage to personal relationships, and troubles in the workplace. Not every outburst ends in physical violence, but uncontrolled anger may lead to the loss of a friendship, divorce, or unemployment.
Anger can be good, even useful, in some situations. As an example, anger produces adrenaline that equips a normally placid person with an extra measure of strength and determination necessary for standing firm and fending off an attacker. In extreme circumstances as this, anger becomes a tool for survival. Unfortunately, anger is a double-edged sword that can cut a dear friend as easily as an enemy attacker.
It is vitally important that we learn to properly express our anger. Unexpressed anger may result in hypertension, elevated blood pressure, or even depression; therefore, simply suppressing anger is not the key. The Bible teaches that we are not to sin in our anger. How is this managed? We are to
be assertive without being overly aggressive or abusive
clearly express thoughts and feelings without inflicting hurt on others
be respectful without being unduly assertive or aggressive
avoid passive-aggressive tendencies that seeks to lash out at the offender rather than confronting him or her openly and directly
avoid the use of intentionally cruel, hurtful language
give ourselves an opportunity to calm down, cool off, blow steam, and take a few deep breaths before allowing reckless anger to run its dangerous course
We may not be able to change the people, circumstances, events, or situations that make us angry, but we can learn to control our behavior when anger occurs.
Attempting to resolve a dispute during a fit of rage is analogous to quenching a blazing fire with gasoline. For those whose are prone to uncontrollable outbursts of anger, one solution is simply to remove oneself from the presence of the person, situation, or circumstance inciting one's raw emotions and allowing for a "cooling down" period. Before a situation gets out of hand, get out! You may also try
prayerthe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-controlstrife is quickly quenched when God's Spirit is allowed to do His healing work
deep breathing exercises that can reduce tension and promote a sense of calm
avoiding exaggeration in our thoughts and in our speechanger may cause one to see a situation worse than it really is
Fatigue, stress, poor health, financial difficulties, worry, and depression can compound one's tendencies toward anger; therefore, recognizing situations and circumstances that are potentially volatile and taking appropriate avoidance measures can be useful in safeguarding one's self against the risks inherent to uncontrollable anger.
Because of uncontrolled anger, friendships have been spoiled, marriages have been ruined, reputations have been damaged, and careers have been lost. Hurtful word, once spoken, cannot be retracted. American author Ambrose Bierce wrote, "Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."
Dr. Michael Blunk is a staff writer for an apologetics ministry and serves full time as a chaplain with Wayside Christian Mission. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org