We all get angry. The Oxford Dictionary defines anger as, “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Whether it is anger at the pains of the world or that coworker who cannot do anything right, to feel anger is to be human.
We are often told that anger is wrong, and that to feel anger is sinful. We treat anger like something to be repressed. But that is not only impossible, it is unhealthy. Denying your anger leads to your anger controlling you. Like the pressure in an old school teakettle, anger must come out. How that happens is up to you.
Be angry but do not sin.
Too many times we put a “don’t” in front of “be angry…” in this verse. Or we take the verse to mean that to be angry is to sin. But that is not what Paul is saying.
“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.” – Ephesians 4:25-27, ESVLike us if you are enjoying this content.
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there is another emotion underneath it. We feel angry when we cannot grasp hold of sadness, regret, fear, pain, disappointment, frustration, etc. We cling to anger because that is the easier emotion. And when we let anger be our guide, it can lead us to say or do things we regret.
But Paul tells us to be angry but not sin. Do not let the snarky word come out. Do not send that text. Do not respond in vengeance. Instead, let your anger push you to something productive and good, even if all you are doing is admitting you are angry.
When we stuff anger, we deny what is going on. It doesn’t do any good to pretend we are not angry when we are. But often we need to step back and get at what’s underneath.
Women especially are told to control or deny their anger. We normalize men who punch a wall and yet decry women who take a stand or tell someone off. But knee-jerk violence and abject avoidance are not healthy ways of dealing with anger. They are both forms of sin.
Getting below the surface.
You are mad your wife was short-tempered with you – again! You can deny you are angry and let things fester, react in anger, and make it worse. Or you can let your temper calm enough to realize you are not angry but worried. If these short-tempered responses have become the norm it could be a sign of no margin or too much stress. It could have serious health consequences if not addressed.
Here is the passage in The Message paraphrase:
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. – Ephesians 4:25-27
“I am angry . . .” Three little words that have the power to change everything. If fueled by revenge they can ruin relationships, burn bridges, end careers, and push us toward action we cannot take back.
“I am angry . . .” If said in love, rooted in the truth, and coming from a place of relationship and peace, those words can bring about light and healing.
Do not stay angry. That does not mean denial. It is an invitation to tell the truth. It is a call to realize that when we refuse to acknowledge our anger, the only person we are hurting is ourselves.
In your anger, do not sin.
The hard reality is that to deny you are angry is to lie. It is as simple as that. To say you are not feeling something you are feeling is a form of fraud. You are deceiving yourself and those around you.For you to ever be able to let go of your anger (not go to bed angry) you must admit you are angry. “I am angry.” Sometimes that declarative sentence is a powerful first step.
Then ask: Why am I angry?
Let it out unfiltered. “I am angry because my wife snapped at me again. When she does that, I feel overlooked and hurt. Why can’t she keep her frustrations over work at work? Why am I her punching bag? I am tired of being her punching bag – it’s not right.”
Now that you have gotten to why you are angry (feeling taken advantage of and like you are being used as a punching bag), you can address what is happening.
The hard thing about admitting you are angry and then deciding to address the why with someone else is that you have no control over the other person’s response. You might go to your wife, and admit her words hurt, and she might choose to react with more misdirected anger. But the possibility of a bad reaction should not keep you from trying.
You are not alone.
It can be scary or feel impossible to start a conversation around “I am angry” and why. But you don’t have to do it alone. A counselor can help mediate these tricky discussions, providing a neutral third party to help both sides speak their truth. Please call our offices today if you need help addressing your anger, or the impact of someone else’s anger on your life.
The key to not sinning in our anger (either by denial or acting out of our aggression) is to let our anger push us toward healthy outlets.
Something triggered your anger. It can be a sense of injustice, a feeling of being overlooked, or another emotion that needs to be addressed. But when we deny or blow up, we are letting our anger win by allowing it to mask what is going on inside.
When we take the time to acknowledge our anger and then ask why, it lets the truth come out. It helps us identify issues or situations that upset us or behaviors in others we do not like. But the painful reality is that we will sometimes uncover that we are the issue.
Anger often covers an insecurity or fear within us. Sometimes we fly off the handle or overreact to a situation because something is unsettled inside. Perhaps your wife’s snapping at you is a reaction to the tone you are taking with her. But it is not until we stop letting anger control the show that we can see what is happening.
That is another reason why it is good to speak with a counselor. A therapist can help get at the root of why we are angry, but he or she can also help be a mirror back to our behavior.
Anger can become a foothold. It often covers other triggers. Left unattended, it can lead to serious damage. Whether we tend to avoid or to overreact, at the core is an unmet hurt that needs to be addressed.
It is okay to get mad. Let the emotion rise in you. It is okay to let your pulse race and your body tense, to feel the blood rush through you, to be met with the sensation that something is not right. But it is what you do next that matters.
Whether it is finding your voice or learning to control your reaction, our office is here to help. Learning to control your anger is how we move from sin to truth. God gave us anger for a reason. It is what we do with it that determines if we use it for His glory or our destruction.
“Rage”, Courtesy of Usman Yousaf, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Simran Sood, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Above and Below the Surface”, Courtesy of SIMON LEE, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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