Do you ever get angry? Angry at the person who cuts you off in traffic? Angry at the choices someone else makes that wounds you or those you love? Angry at yourself for your own choices? Over the course of the last year, one of the most frequently searched topics on my blog is anger. So what do I do if I am angry?
“Don’t teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” – Lyman Abbott
The Apostle Paul provides us with great counsel in answering this important question.
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 ESV)
Often times when we are angry we feel guilt or embarrassed after the fact. Ephesians 4:25-32 reveals that not all anger is sinful – unresolved anger is!
Notice Paul warns that unresolved anger gives an opportunity to the devil. I have noticed that hurt people, hurt people. Check out Matthew 18:34-35 for some warnings from Jesus regarding unresolved anger.
“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die.” – Marty Sholars
Notice Paul also warns that unresolved anger can grieve the Holy Spirit. Uncontrolled anger removes God from having control of your life and puts anger in its place.
“He who angers you conquers you.” – Elizabeth Kenny
So how do I deal with my anger? As we explore Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 4:25-32 we find four steps to take in dealing with personal anger.
Step One: Apologize for your anger!
In Ephesians 4:28-29 Paul provides two specific examples of this step (stealing and cutting others down with your words). To see what Jesus has to say about it check out Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 7:3-5. Are you angry? The first step in dealing with it is to go to others and apologize for what you have said or did even if it is being angry with them for something they have done to you that has caused your anger.
Step Two: Acknowledge your hurt!
Paul shares that we are to speak the truth in love. In order to deal with your anger, you must speak the truth in love to the person who hurt you. Is that awkward? Emotional? Difficult? Yes! But Paul says it is necessary. Once again, revisit Jesus’ teaching on this idea in Matthew 18:15. The word “confrontation” comes from a Latin word meaning “to turn your face toward.”
Step Three: Forgive the person who hurt you!
Once again this isn’t easy, but it is essential! If you are follower of Jesus, the Scriptures teach us that forgiveness is not an option but a command (Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:13). Our motivation in forgiving others is not whether they deserve it. We are to extend forgiveness because God in Christ has extended forgiveness to us when we did not deserve it. In the Greek language, “forgiveness” means to release or let go or the voluntary cancellation of a debt.”
Forgiveness is not overlooking a wrong done to us. Forgiveness is not excusing a wrong done to us. Forgiveness is not blaming ourselves. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting.
Forgiveness is about what has been done in the past. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you will necessarily reconcile. Just because you forgive does not mean you trust the person who has wronged you. Forgiveness is releasing the debt of the past.
Step Four: Be gracious.
Once again, notice what Paul says in Ephesians 4:19. When we have walked through the first three steps then we are in a place where we allow God to use us to build others up with our words. Paul says we are to build up others. It is the picture of an architect. With our words, we are to be architects that draw and design beautiful things into the lives of others as the Spirit works within us and through us.
If you are angry, ask the Lord to heal your heart and then allow the Truth of His Word to guide you in how to deal with your anger.