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Anger

From mild annoyance and cold shoulders to violent rage and murder and all the different expressions of anger that we find between, the emotional experience of anger is one that we are all familiar with. We find ourselves frustrated when things do not go our way, annoyed with others when they don’t do what we want them to do and at times can become explosively angry for any number of reasons. When we look more closely at our anger, we notice that it can often be found together with the experiences of pain, discomfort, fear, disappointment, confusion, distress, grief and more. We often express anger as a way to protect ourselves from the vulnerability and exposure we might experience from these other emotions.

As with all emotions, anger is a full body experience. We express our anger with our body language, our word choices, our facial expression and other behaviours, often launching into action without any thought. Once the moment of intense anger passes, we have the tendence to justify, nurse or defend our anger. When we pay attention to what the bible has to say about our anger, we learn that holding on to our anger is not wise or biblical, instead we are called to take the time to reflect and question our anger.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

JAMES 1: 19-20

As we find space to reflect and pay attention to our anger we also find the space necessary to identify the other emotions we might be experiencing together with our anger.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

What Does Anger Look Like?

There are lots of different ways that we show our anger. What anger looks like is often influenced by our circumstances, personality, previous experiences and knowledge that we might have. Different expressions of anger include:

  • Holding back and hiding anger from others.
  • Denial and pushing anger from conscious awareness. Often the anger makes its appearance in other ways such as physical symptoms, anxiety, tension, depression or spiritual struggles.
  • Underhanded or backwards comments and behaviours (passive-aggressive).
  • Silent treatment and sulking.
  • Acting out: this includes yelling, screaming or shouting, physical violence and threats of violence (e.g. punching wall behind person, driving aggressively with them in the car).
  • Redirection of anger – it is taken out on an innocent person or channelled into other activities (e.g. aggression in driving, exercise, gaming or other activities).
  • Not reacting immediately and finding space to reflect on what is triggering the anger.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

– Proverbs 29:11

Righteous Anger?

Move Away From Anger

We often speak of righteous anger and it is true that in a of itself, anger is not a sin. We serve a holy God who expresses anger and wrath against injustice, betrayal and disobedience to the good and right rules of his kingdom. His anger is good and redemptive. On the other hand, we are very rarely righteously angry, our anger is self-serving, controlling, centring on the rules of our little kingdoms.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath and give no opportunity to the devil.

– Ephesians 4:26-27

Put Away Anger

The bible is very strong in telling us that anger is not an acceptable part of our lives. The relationships we have with God and those around us do not have space for anger, there is no place for us to be living for ourselves and acting out against those who do not serve the rules of our own little kingdoms. God calls us to put away all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Rather we must be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:31,32). As we grow to become more like Christ, we are able to put aside self-serving anger and grow in patience, self-control and love, we grow in serving God and those around us and as we do so our emotions and anger find themselves aligning with the rules of God’s kingdom.

The strategies shared by worldly ‘wisdom’ in dealing with our anger are not truly helpful if we wish to serve God and grow in godliness. So what is helpful?

Become aware of situations that make you angry.

Learn how you display anger in those situations.

Reflect on what values and beliefs are ruling you in your anger. What does your anger say about what you desire?

Understand the vicious cycle of your sin. Reflect on who God is and what he says about the values and beliefs you identified.

Confess your sin of anger to God. Ask him for help in your anger.

Reflect on the best way to honour God when those situations arise.

Continue to reflect on these things as you grow in honouring God through this.

These points are not a quick fix. Especially when our usual response is anger it can be challenging to move away from this. However, with the power of the Holy Spirit restoring us it is possible.

Recommended Books and Resources

Anger: Escaping the Maze David Powlison

Controlling Anger: Responding Constructively when Life goes Wrong David Powlison

Angry at God? Bring Him your Doubts and QuestionsRobert Jones

Anger, Anxiety, and Fear: A Biblical PerspectiveStuart Scott

Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and BitternessDavid Powlison

A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience and PeaceEd Welch

Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common ProblemRobert Jones

Anger and Stress Management God’s WayWayne Mack

Help! My Anger is out of ControlJim Newheiser

Anger: Calming your Heart Robert Jones

Jax’s Tail Twitches: When you are AngryDavid Powlison, Illustrated by Joe Cox

*We have a selection of books in the Trellis Library that are available for loan. If you would like to borrow a book, please get in touch with us to find out if we have a copy available. 

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