Christ carried all our offenses. We don’t have the right to carry any offenses of others.
“If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things God wants done” (James 1:20).
"I’m so mad I could . . ."
Ever said that? How could we justify that anger we feel?
Anger can seem to be a valid excuse for unleashed passion, but when we consider what Scripture has to say about anger, we are given pause. We cannot do any of the good things God wants done if we are angry. What a heavy cost and consequence for letting our anger fly instead of taming it.
People who have given into momentary anger have never felt good about it afterward, right? So, the best way to stop anger in its tracks is to think about how we will respond before we are in a situation that typically evokes anger. Habitual anger reveals that we have given up trying to rightly process anger. Don’t believe the lie that you have to give in to anger. Below are some strategies that can help you overcome anger when it rises:
Truth #1 It’s Not Personal
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV).
Everything isn’t about you. Anger is typified by taking an offense as if someone intended to hurt us, but sometimes that is not the case. And even if it is the case, we don’t have to take it personally. This is challenging in relationships when people say hurtful things, but when we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, our purposes shift and we care more about God’s glory than our own. We can recognize that people are fallible like us and make mistakes. Christ carried all our offenses. We don’t have the right to carry any offenses of others.
Remember, it’s not about you.
When you are tempted to give in to anger, remember to not take things personally. How will being angry solve the offenses you are choosing to carry?
Truth #2 It’s Not Fair
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16, ESV).
Being mad about something that isn’t fair is driven by a competitive spirit that wants to be first and best. That certainly isn’t fair, right? Anger can be driven by jealousy, which is ultimately hatred (Proverbs 27:4). Jealousy is essentially saying that we don’t trust God to give us our fair portion, so we respond with anger and seek to make things “fair”. Truly, if fairness was what we were after, we would be ok with letting someone else have what we thought we deserved.
Remember, choose grace over wrath.
When you are tempted to give in to anger, reflect on what you truly deserve. God’s grace reminds us that He chose to place His wrath on His only Son and give us what we did not deserve—grace and forgiveness.
Truth #3 It Won’t Heal Our Hurt
“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, ESV).
We never feel good after unleashing our anger. In fact, expressing our anger ends up hurting us. Theologian Frederick Buechner revealed the real victim of our anger:
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back--in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
The phrase, “hurt people hurt people” has always bugged me. It is as if there is no way out of hurting others if you have ever been hurt. But when we are healed of our hurt, we have learned to respond differently. Healed people heal people.
Remember, seek to heal rather than to hurt.
When we feel hurt, we can think about our anger all the way through. Anger responding to hurt just increases the hurt for all parties.
Truth #4 It Reveals Our Lack of Control
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV).
Anger is an attempt to control a situation or a person, but ironically, it reveals our inability to stay in control of ourselves. Trying to control everything and everyone also reveals a lack of trust. Can we be ok when things don’t go our way? In truth, we never were in control. But God is. And He is trustworthy. Ultimately, self-control is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we bear in our lives as we submit to God’s control.
Remember, choose submission over control.
When we feel panicky that things did not go our way, we can choose to be flexible knowing that God works all things together for our good and His glory. Submit to God rather than the flesh.
Truth #5 It Exposes Our Pride
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3, ESV).
Pride fuels anger but humility extinguishes it. We never have a right to be angry. Pride wells up because we feel minimized or maybe because we feel we are not heard. But instead of being provoked to anger, we can look at Christ’s example. He cared more about winning our souls than avoiding the pain and suffering He went through to save us. Do we care for those we are angry with? Or do we just want to humble them?
Remember, care for others more than your pride.
When we feel justified in our anger, we can choose to care for those we are angry with more than caring for our pride.
We can master our anger rather than be mastered by it—if we are willing to expose the roots behind our anger. Anger reveals our lack of self-control and rises from the pride, jealousy, hurt, and offenses that we carry. Momentary and chronic anger are fixed on our purposes, not God’s.
Remembering that God chose to redeem us rather than unleash His anger on us helps us to see that we can do the same. Loving and caring for those we are in conflict with rather than giving in to anger glorifies God. Anger is a temporary solution that only magnifies our problems. When we get rid of all the baggage that anger carries, we are better able to handle situations that can provoke an angry response.
Ultimately, as we let go of anger and choose redemption and forgiveness, we pave the way for healing and learn to operate in a different culture of grace and forbearance.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV).
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