“My default is anger.”
I remember the surprise in myself and in the face of my friend the first time I confessed this realization to her; the first time I truly came face to face with the fact that, due to a lack of self-awareness growing up and other factors outside my control, I’d developed a mental rut that defaulted to frustration or anger at inconvenience.
I know I’m not the only one. For many people, anger comes naturally at the first stroke of imbalance in life. There are many things that can develop this anger-default in our thinking—one of which is the notion that we shouldn’t be angry at all!
This idea that especially as Christians, we should stuff our anger and put on happy faces all the time, is so harmful! What we must be conscious of with anger is to check and balance it; feeling anger at times is totally understandable, but we must control it, not allow it to control us.
We are not living in sin when we feel angry; but if anger is allowed to run amok, it can lead us to sin, and that’s what we’ve got to watch out for.
Additionally, when anger becomes our default, we begin operating from a place of negativity, and this adversely affects our physical, mental, and even spiritual health; it toxifies our environment; and ultimately it can have a seriously negative impact on our ability to live as witnesses for Christ. The only people who want to hang out with angry people all the time are usually angry themselves; so we’ve got to make sure that we’re keeping that anger in check. That we’re getting angry about the right things, not blowing up at every tiny distraction; and that when we do feel anger, we’re handling it in a way that makes Jesus proud.
What is Anger?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism.”
Many Christians wonder if it’s wrong to be angry. In the sense of whether feeling anger is a sin—not in itself, no. But God warns us to get rid of all anger because the danger lies in the risk that sitting in our anger will lead us to sin, due to that pesky feeling of antagonism and displeasure. When anger drives us to hit back, that’s where we’re primed to step into sin.
So while we are not sinning if we feel angry about things, we do need to train ourselves not to fall back on anger as our first and lasting response. We don’t want to invite anger and all its companionable bad habits into our lives.
What Does the Bible Say About Anger?
Ephesians 4:3 – Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and angry shouting and defaming speech, along with all malice…
Colossians 3:8 – but now you too must put away all these things: anger, rage, malice, defaming speech, obscene talk out of your mouth.
Ephesians 4:26 – Be angry and yet do not sin! Do not let the sun go down on your angry mood…
How Can I Become Less Angry?
Learning to tame anger is an arduous and truly lifelong process. While we have the power of holy spirit moving in us to help eradicate the chokehold of anger from our lives, we will continue to struggle with it in this life because we will always encounter things that make us feel discouraged, displeased, and a host of other emotions that can quickly morph into anger.
But just because anger will always be there does not mean we should give over to it. We have a new nature from the moment Jesus becomes our Lord, and we should always be fighting against the steep slope of anger that can lead down to sin.
One of the primary ways we do that is through redirecting our thoughts. When we find ourselves festering in anger, we have the power to lift the matter up in prayer and then shift our focus to a godly, healthy, and proactive approach. We can also avoid anger triggers—for example, if reading or watching the news causes you to sit and stew in anger, consider cutting back or nixing your intake entirely.
Another key to managing anger is to recognize when we need outside help with it. Some people have a harder time dealing with their angry emotions than others, and there’s no shame in seeking aid from skilled professionals or talented councilors who know techniques to keep anger from becoming a massive monster too big for us to defeat.
Ultimately, the key to becoming less angry is to lean into and walk by the spirit of God. The more we are living a spirit-driven life, the less room we have for things like impatience, short-temperedness, uncontrolled and unkind behavior, etc.—all of which fuel our dance with anger.
Take careful note this week of the things that make you angry. Can you avoid those triggers? For those you can’t, take the matter to God and ask Him to specifically work in that area of your life to help patience and peace become your default rather than anger.