One hundred percent of us get angry. No one is exempt. And when we get angry, bad things often happen.
So, we find it shocking that the Bible says to be angry.
Be angry and do not sin…
– Ephesians 4:26a
Anger is not always bad, and we know this because God himself gets angry. But there is a difference between being angry and becoming an angry person.
I was in a restaurant with friends some time ago, and in the middle of our lunch, a customer was yelling across the restaurant at his server. He was raging. Clearly, he wanted everyone to hear that he was red-faced, steaming mad about the hair in his food. It was impossible not to.
Now look, that is unfortunate—it’s gross—but you and I both know it’s not worthy of blowing a gasket.
The man was also not alone. He was with a woman, probably his wife, and I wondered, how is she doing now? How is she feeling watching all of this happen?
I bet people walk on eggshells at his house all the time. This guy might have been someone’s boss, neighbor, coworker, friend, or dad! There have been scores of people in this guy’s life, and I’m sure they have stories to tell. Some of them may even have scars to hide.
So, why was this guy so angry? What made him lash out?
Well, anger demands results. It works! Anger makes you feel empowered. People cannot ignore you! Anger helps to reclaim the illusion of power at home, the office, or anywhere in life. Anger helps you feel like you’re winning, but then it really doesn’t.
Angry people eventually lose.
Here are the three reasons why:
1. Anger Injures
Anger is injurious to others, even if it is not acted out. There is a shriveling effect in the souls of people who get a regular dose of toxic anger. Ask anyone who is working with people whose parents or spouse have a problem with anger and you will find that anger creates a kind of insecurity in life. Anger leaves injuries that cuts deep into the soul.
2. Anger Alienates
The high cost of unmanaged anger is that you lose intimacy in relationships. You forfeit friendships, miss out on your spouse and kids, and cut ties of healthy relationships with co-workers. You will probably find yourself and those close to you living with a deep cavern of disconnectedness and loneliness. Anger is like acid on the skin in a relationship.
3. Anger Kills
Uncontrolled anger is deadly. It causes blood pressure to rise and heart rates to increase. But I am not talking really about physical death. Instead, it is relationships, dreams, self-respect, marriages, and families that die.
So, let’s assume this man from the restaurant, comes to you. He blew a gasket, but has a moment of sanity and wants help with his anger. Or maybe it’s you. You know you’ve blown it over and over again, and you want to change. How can we be transformed from being angry people to those who walk in a manner worthy of the Lord?
In Ephesians, Paul describes the process:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds… But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17, 20-24)
Those who know Christ and believe in his gospel enter a process of transformation. This is the secret to anger that doesn’t consume us or harm others. Disciples of Christ can be angry, but we also must take responsibility for how we are angry. Keep in mind responsibility does not equal control. Most people who struggle with anger have a hard time letting go of control.
We want to try to change by being in control of a few clear steps, even if they are hard, but that’s not actually how God changes us. Change happens progressively as we surrender our lives to God, as we experience his grace toward us, and live in a moment-by-moment connection with God. God does not seek to judge us. Whether you are a liar, a rage-aholic, or a thief, he doesn’t seek to judge you, but to transform you.
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. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
– Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Anger is not always bad, but we must take responsibility for how we respond to anger, and this responsibility is rooted in how God treats us. We are transformed by his grace toward us, his forgiveness toward us, and his love toward us. Through this grace, forgiveness, and love, we should become more like him: sometimes angry, but always loving.