Last year, I wrote a post about dealing with negative emotions. The very first of the ten emotions I dealt with was anger. Scrolling through social media and speaking with people in real life, I see such a celebration of anger. There’s strong encouragement from peanut galleries all over the world to “slap so-and-so” or “cuss such-and-such out.” It’s almost as if self-control is considered weak, and anger is the new black.
Those that know me in real life often describe me as stoic, jovial, and in command of my emotions. But they have no idea what I had to go through to get here, and the daily work that I’m still enduring in this area. Here are seven lessons I learned about managing my anger, and seven scriptures and prayers that helped me through it.
1. What you say has consequences.
You can’t un-crack an egg and you can’t unring a bell. As such, words spoken cannot be unheard. A cross word has led to many a permanently strained relationship, lost job, or even death. Many a fight has started with a person writing a verbal check that their butt couldn’t cash. It is imperative that we understand the permanence and power of what we say, for good or for harm. To paraphrase Bernard Meltzer, it is best that we discipline our tongues to that which is necessary, true, kind, and helpful. I’m not saying don’t confront issues as they arise, but try this litmus test on what you say to determine when you should say it.
Furthermore, did you know that you indeed have the option to say nothing at all? Sure there’s validation that comes from speaking your peace, but rash words spoken in the heat of the moment often yield very little else. As a matter of fact, when you give your enemy a piece of your mind, you’ve done just that. You’ve given them a precious gift – your peace of mind.
*See also James 3.
Prayer: Lord, may the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight. If my words, in my anger, displease or dishonor you, change my heart and give me the discipline to keep them to myself.
2. Your demeanor often dictates the response.
Speaking of what you say, how you say a thing greatly impacts its reception. A soft towel isn’t so cozy if you’re being popped with it. Addressing people in the manner in which you would like to be spoken to is common courtesy, not weakness. It is water to a raging fire. If both parties involved in a disagreement continue to fuel the fire with bad attitudes and nasty exchanges, the blaze will continue to burn.
And let’s not limit this to words. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the cashier didn’t greet you and had a negative disposition? Without uttering a word, the cashier gave you an uneasy feeling about how you would be treated (and even the quality of your food). For many of us, our mouths are fine, but our faces need deliverance. You don’t have to fake the funk, but be mindful of the story your body language, facial expressions, and actions tell. Respect is a minimum, but it can also be forfeited. No one is required to pacify your nasty attitude.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being gentle with me. Help me to bear the fruit of your Holy Spirit by being kind and gentle to all people, even those who upset me.
3. No good comes from simmering.
This is one of several areas where I am indeed a work in progress. I learned at a young age that it was not appropriate to express my anger in negative ways, but in exchange, I stopped feeling safe to express my anger at all. I instead learned to suppress my anger until I exploded and feel ashamed when I did so.
While I’m thankful for my progress in disciplining my responses to negativity, it has cost me a great deal emotionally. In addition to inadvertently unleashing my suppressed wrath in negative ways, withholding my true feelings stunts my growth and my relationships. I recognize that it is unfair to expect others to read my mind. I rob myself of the release and others of the chance to know and rectify the grievance.
Prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to know what to say to ________, and when and how to say it. Give me strength and courage, knowing that you are my shelter, and you will protect me from harm. No matter the outcome, be glorified in peaceful fellowship between me and _______ and help me to let it go.
4. Anger causes rash decisions.
Making decisions while you are angry is equivalent to going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Anger is a master at clouding your judgment and commandeering your actions. Anger promotes a one-track, “in the moment” attitude that powers decisions with negativity. The emotion of it blocks your ability to hear and inspires a level of selfishness that causes us to believe what we feel, do, and say is instantly more important than anything else. Pride and vanity cause us to strive for vengeance, but if we really seek God’s glory, we will step back and allow Him to fix it His way.
Prayer: Lord, open my heart and my ears to hear you and hear others without bias. If I’m wrong, show me, and allow me to make my transgressions right. If not, confirm it for me. I surrender my problem and allow you to work on my behalf and direct my path.
5. Seething with anger allows others to live in your mind rent-free.
There are few worse feelings than dwelling on someone that is not dwelling on you. To be human, it sucks to let an enemy know you’re thinking about them. Fixating yourself on maintaining your anger is what breeds bitterness and it’s unbecoming (read more about shaking bitterness here). It also leaves you more vulnerable to the pain of what you think others may be thinking about you. Half the time, you’re left hurting and they’ve moved on. Don’t give your enemy – or THE enemy- the satisfaction of inhabiting your thoughts.
Prayer: Lord, deliver me from the bondage of my negative thoughts. Free me to set my mind on higher things.
6. True love does not behave angrily.
In relationships, we tend to bear with one another’s humanity until we cannot anymore. We make excuses for why we behave certain ways or why the other person’s behavior justifies ours. If we love one another in a manner that reflects God’s love for us, there is no room for such. I Corinthians 13, affectionately referred to as “The Love Chapter” by some, so beautifully lays out the character of love. In doing so, it specifically calls for us to put off some of the chief symptoms of anger, such as arrogance, rudeness, irritability, and resentfulness. If we walk in these things, we do not reflect love, and subsequently do not reflect the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as love is a fruit of such.
Much like people know Jesus (the vine) by us (the branches), our loved ones know love by the way we show it. Too many of the negative attributes I just named, and they begin to question our love for them. Act wisely, and never take them knowing your love for granted.
Prayer: Lord, let my love reflect your character. Forgive me for behaving _________. Teach me new ways to labor with ________, that they would always be assured of the certainty of my love.
7. Anger without action is unproductive.
There’s no use in being angry for the sake of being angry. What good is harboring all those feelings if you do not seek to release them? Why be bitter when you can be better?
Anger is a natural emotion to feel, and it is quite “energetic.” However, what you do with that anger is up to you. Are you angry at a situation? Seek to resolve it. If you’re angry at yourself, seek transformation. Just because the emotion is negative doesn’t mean the outcome has to be. Historically, anger and outrage have driven people to protest and fight for the most important human and civil rights improvements we’ve ever seen. Whatever it may be, don’t allow that angry energy to fester unused. Let the heat and pressure of your anger turn that lump of coal into a refined diamond, then go and be angry no more.
Prayer: Lord, _____ is making me so mad right now. Show me what work you are driving me to in my life, in the world, or on myself. Empower me to do that work and replace my anger with joyful passion.
What skills have you learned to help you manage your anger? Share in the comments below!