Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.—Aristotle
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.—Ephesians 4:25-32
Prone to anger?
So many men I know, are prone to anger. In fact, many men of the Bible, in the act of anger have inflicted grave injury on others in their rage. Moses is a prime example. In passion, he stepped in over his concern for the mistreatment of his fellow Hebrews. Yet his untamed passion brewed into a physical act of anger that resulted in homicide—in much the same way Cain acted with Able at the beginning of the Bible. And again later, when Moses was leading the people into the promised land, he was instructed by God to speak to the rock, and God would open a river of water for his thirsty and obstinate people. Moses, however, in frustration, struck the rock over the criticisms of the Hebrews. He was right to be passionate, but wrong to not control his holy dissatisfaction, which resulted in disobedience to God. Because of that one moment of defiant anger, he prevented by God from leading the people into the promised land.
In Cain's situation, his anger originated from misplaced selfishness and jealousy that resulted in violence. In Moses' case, he had a right to be angry, but his unchecked passion led to reckless fury. I am sure you can identify as we have all been guilty of the same—including posts that should not have been shared, emails that should not have been sent, or words that should never have been spoken. And there are even a few of us who have acted violently inflicting unjust physical injury on others.
So what can we learn?
Two Non-Negotiables About Anger
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One | Anger is not wrong
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil."—Ephesians 4:26-27
It's clear from many biblical texts that anger is not wrong. God himself expressed anger through many Old Testament prophets who he used to rebuke individuals to entire nations for sin—case in point; Sodom and Gomorrah. Or consider the perpetual evil of mankind which resulted in a world-wide flood wiping out corruption except for single faithful family—case in point; Noah the great flood. God justly hates evil and wickedness. And we too should know God's holy anger—but we must moderate this because we do not act from a position of perfect love, holiness, and righteousness like God.
Unfortunately, it not righteous anger that usually gets us into trouble. When our anger is lit, it becomes a destructive wildfire around issues that are far more personal and typically surrounds our loss of control. It's sparked when a child tests a boundary we have set. It burns into flame when we feel we are losing in discussion with our spouse. Its ignites when a colleague at work takes credit for what we have done. The problem is that if unchecked, our initial anger will burn into full flame, and then words and actions are used to inflict burning pain which damage relationships. Frequently, it is those we love most who experience the results of the anger we carry inside.
Two | Anger can result in wrongdoing.
"Give no opportunity to the devil."—Ephesians 4:27
Anger is a primary human emotion that all of us experience. It's a normal human reaction to everyday annoyances. However, that being said, how we handle our anger makes all the difference in the world. Unmoderated anger leads to unhealthy and often sinful actions, so our challenge is to bring our passion under control—or it might be better stated—under God's control. The following are five essential practices for us to keep our anger under His control.
The Five Practices
First | Wait
Don't feel the need to act immediately. There are a few situations that require immediate action, like a life-threatening situation, but for all others wait. Wait to respond until you have regained full access to your mental facilities when your emotions, tone, and temperament are under control. Like Paul says in the verse above, "Be angry and do not sin." Paul's is giving an allowance to anger but not the activity of the anger. The only way to do this is to wait to respond until you can do so in a measured and wise way.
Second | Keep short accounts
In the same verse, Paul says, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." Addressing the issue as soon as it is possible is of vast importance. This is especially true in covenantal relationships, like in a marriage, a family, or in a church where unresolved anger can lead to secrecy, resentment, bitterness, and conflict that prevents oneness. Many couples believe the application of this verse is literal, meaning two parties in disagreement don't sleep until the issue is resolved. While the application is not a bad practice, it may not be necessary. Learning to address the problem rather than bury it is the principle of the text—which means the short accounting method is excellent when it comes to matters of disagreement.
Third | Forgive
In Ephesians 4:32, Paul instructs us to "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." The longer you hold on to unforgiveness, the less kind and tender you become to others. Unforgiveness is a prison that robs many of real joy. The irony is this; the longer we hold onto unforgiveness, the more unforgiveness shackles us. Often the other party is entirely unaware of our issues; therefore, the only person we are binding is ourself. Consequently, we hold onto unforgiveness at our peril, but when we learn to forgive to become like Christ, who demonstrated complete forgiveness.
Fourth | Lean on the Spirit
Invite the Holy Spirit to help you. He dwells within you and is your counselor, teacher, and helper. It is hard to stay angry when we invite the Spirit to help, convict, guide, and direct. Jesus said in John 16:8, "And when [the Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." Admittedly there are deep wounds that need time and help to deal with, but in all cases, the Holy Spirit lives within us direct us toward right and righteousness.
Fifth | Practice fruitful engagement
Memorize and practice the fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially in situations where you are angry or irritated. Leaning on the products that come from being connected to the Spirit, help you to know when you are out of step with God's way. Allow the fruit to become your plumbline, and when you are out-of-line, let the Spirit guide you back. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23). While everyone is prone to moments of anger, don't let your anger control you, but instead, be controlled by the Spirit.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 16 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is 20 Lessons That Build A Leader.