Anger seems to be getting a stronghold on Americans these days especially in the areas of political discourse. Everybody seems to be mad about something. Never before in human history has there been so much violence and so many angry people. Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:6, 7 that in the Last Days we would be especially exposed to an increase of hostilities. Although anger is a God-given emotion, God has anger but never sins, human history is full of hostilities that occurred because people have crossed the line with their anger and ended up sinning with their anger. Anger is the number one way Christians give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26, 27 says, Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath; (v 27) Neither give place to the devil. Anger can cause us to say wrong things or in a wrong way as well as hear things wrong.
There are two sides to anger because we are told to, “Be ye angry, and sin not… Ephesians 4:27,” and in Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness, and wrath (outbursts of anger), and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” So it must be permissible or justified to feel angry, feel the emotion of it, but not be sinning (usually when something righteous or holy from God’s standards is violated; when God’s enemies take away the rights of the righteous…). There must be impermissible or unjustified anger we should restrain and not act upon its impulse (when it comes from a wrong motive; when we don’t get our way; we react quickly before getting the facts; we avenge ourselves…).
There are different words for anger in Ephesians 4:27, 31.
Anger (orge) – An impulse, desire, or disposition that indicates a more settled or abiding condition of mind frequently with a view to taking revenge; it’s less sudden in its rise than wrath (thumos) but more lasting.
Wrath (thumos) – a more agitated condition of angry feelings; an outburst of wrath from inward indignation; it rises suddenly (quickly blazes) and quickly subsides. It may issue in revenge but doesn’t necessarily include it.
We can sin with our anger in one of two ways by allowing our anger to go outward or inward. We can:
- Blow up – ventilate the anger – fight back, seek vengeance, win at all cost, fire back. (Battleship type) Anger goes out. In the battleship type of anger (blow up) we mix our God-given emotion of anger with a revenge motive to hurt back, pay back, win.
It can take the form of physical actions – physical abuse, slamming doors, throwing stuff, etc. It can take the form of verbal actions – put downs, name calling, yelling, screams, sarcasm, profanity, etc.
- Clam up – internalize the anger – withdraw, (submarine type) go silent; hold a grudge; internally plot our revenge and response. In the submarine type of anger (or clam up), we mix our God-given emotion of anger with withdrawal and stuff our feelings, saying nothing about our hurt, frustration, threat, or injustice but hold them deep inside in a grudge, bitterness, ill will, malice, and unforgiveness.
Here is a key to understanding and controlling anger: anger is a secondary emotion; it is never the first thing you feel. When we are angry it is because of something else that triggers it that the grace of forgiveness must bring release to. It can be from Frustration, Injustice, Guilt, Hurt, or Threat.
FRUSTRATION – something standing in the way, blocking or hindering a goal, expectation, desire, or the timing of them.
INJUSTICE – something not fair, definitely wrong, and we are in the right and are a victim of someone else’s failure.
GUILT – we are guilty of an offense and when out of fellowship with God we feel guilty and often react in anger to cover guilt.
HURT – Someone did something they should not have done, or someone did not do something they should have done.
THREAT – whenever we are criticized, humiliated, embarrassed, rejected, or made aware of our imperfections, our view of ourselves is threatened, and we feel vulnerable. We respond in anger as a defense to hide what we feel.