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The Character of Anger

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Anger can be a solution or a real problem.

Righteous Anger: Can anger be a "character?" Yes, when it is constrained! The Bible tells us that it is OK to be angry, but, not to allow it to cause one to sin! Jesus saw His house of worship and prayer turned into a market, and modeled to us the correct way to channel our hostility in fervent action. Anger can be a solution, or a real problem, depending on how you handle it (Proverbs 14:29, 15:18; 16:32;29:11; 22; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 18:15-17; 21:12-13; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 4:25-27; James 1:19-21)!

Bitterness, resentment, losing one's temper, and hostility are the opposites. These become evil, rotten fruits when anger is unhitched from our temper and control. They will harden our hearts, and cause us to become people who do not forgive, filled with resentfulness, contempt, defensiveness, bitterness, pride, critical nature, and withdrawal. They kill, they cause wars and hatred, they destroy relationships, society, and, put an end to our effectiveness in being a reflection of Christ's character and call.

Anger can be a good character, when we have it under control. Anger, in and of itself, is not wrong; it is not a sin if we handle it in the parameters of the Fruit of the Spirit, and Love. If it was wrong, God would be wrong, because, there are over 600 instances in Scripture of God being angry. Jesus Himself would have been a sinner, as well, when He became very angry in the temple. God was Just in His anger. God's anger is called righteous indignation, having a just cause and reason for it. And, that reason is our sin, and willful disobedience to His perfect love and care.

When we get angry, we have to ask if there is a just cause for it; if not, it is dangerous and volatile. It will soon become sin, as we lose our control and our temper. We are called to stay in control of our temper, which the Bible calls to be sober, and under self control! Self control is the governor to our Anger, and these two characters must work in unison, lest we lose the soberness of our temper, as well as eventually losing the other characters. When we have self control, anger can give us the motivation to resolve problems, respond to injustice, get God's point across, or get our attention, so we move in a better direction. Anger can convict us of sin, and place us back on God's path. Anger can help us get a point across that would not be heard otherwise, as Nehemiah did.

When we experience disappointments, frustration, and hurt, we will come face to face with anger, because anger is a response to our circumstances. Thus, when we are let down, we get angry. We have to ask, how do we handle disappointments? If not, we will lose control of our temper, and be representative of the ways of the world and the Devil, not Christ. We will cause destruction to His Church, to His people, and to all those around us! We have to know that people will always disappoint us, which will cause frustration and hurt, period! We cannot expect others to always treat us justly. Where our expectations or hopes are not realized, when we do not get what we want, or attain our goals, there will be anger. Pain and hurt that are inflicted upon us will cause anger. Disappointments create frustrations which lead to hurt. Each one of these is impacting to our emotions, and each one is codependent on the other, as each one will cause the other two to flare up. Each one can quickly tilt our temper into uncontrolled anger. When we are wise to our circumstances, with our eyes upon Him, we can have a better grip on our temper.

The key to handling anger is the ability to look past the annoyance, pain, and hurt we experience. Then, we can seek resolve to the issue in the framework of Galatians 5:22-23, and not Galatians 5:19-21. This is done by effective communication, understanding, and seeking reconciliation. It is to be a time of prayer. When we keep those who "bug" us in prayer, we can have a better control, and response, in good Christ-like character. If we do not handle our response to our circumstances in the right way, and let the pain overwhelm us, controlling our emotions and character, then, we will be unable to embrace healing.

Self control will help us develop discipline, so we can handle fear, antagonism, and even disillusionment. If not, we will betray relationships, and how we model our Lord. This will accumulate, increasing the anger, until it builds into bitterness and resentment, totally cutting us off from life, and, even God! None of the other characters will be able to function.

Here are some tips for handling anger (Colossians 3:8):

1. Anger is a natural defense reaction we all have, so, be sure you handle it as God calls us to. Resolve it quickly (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Ephesians 4:26)!

2. Anger can help you protect yourself, but, make sure it is not your fuel to rationalize yourself out of your responsibility (1 Samuel 31:4)!

3. It is OK to be angry; it is how you handle it that matters. Try to spend time in prayer, and read the Psalms to calm you down! Go for a walk (do not take a drive!) or exercise to help release your stress. Make sure you are praying for those causing you frustrations (Acts 24:16).

4. Focus on Christ, and His interests, not your own. Place your anger in His management (Philippians 2:4).

5. Focus on the root cause of anger, not the person, or situation (Proverbs 29:11)!

6. Ask yourself, have I analyzed the circumstances correctly, or am I overreacting? As a pastor, I would say that 95% of people overreact!

7. Ask for help from an impartial friend, counselor, or pastor, to help you through it. Make sure you do not aim your anger at them (Matthew 5:23-24)!

8. Ask yourself, why am I angry? Why do I feel this way? What I did I do to spur this on? Why am I threatened? What are my "hot buttons," the things that cause me to be excessively angry? Will my anger be a benefit, or a hindrance? Am I focused on God, or my expectations and comfort? How will my anger benefit my spiritual growth, my witness, and God's call in my life? There is a bigger picture and reason to life than what you may be feeling (Proverbs 15:18; 29:22)!

9. Seek what your part is in it, and resolve it. Do not rationalize everything as a personal attack upon you. You will do far better to focus on the problem, not the people, or yourself (Matthew 7:1-5).

10. Perhaps God is using you to confront someone; if so, do it with tact (Proverbs 15:1; Ephesians 4:15-25).

11. Realize that sometimes, there is no outlet for your anger, because, it could hurt someone more than help. However, you can always go to God with it. You can also try to write it down in a journal (Psalm 10:1-18; I Peter 5:6-7)!

12. Do you have un-confessed sin? We all do, so, repent! Un-confessed sin will quickly become rationalized and projected onto others, which will fuel your insecurity and anger (Matthew 7:11; 2 Corinthians 5:7)!

13. Anger can teach us about ourselves, our weaknesses, and areas we need to improve on, as well as how we treat events and people around us. Anger will show real love. The key is being able to honestly look at yourself, at what you need to "put off" and, to "put on". So, seek Christ, and improve, with His precepts working in you (Proverbs 14:17; 29:11; Ephesians 4:22-24: 1 Peter 4:8)!

14. Anger can spur on Forgiveness, the essential component to healing relationships (Matthew 5:43-46; 6:12; Ephesians 4:32-5:2).

15. Let Scripture guide you in how you handle yourself, not the waves of your emotions (Matthew 18:15; Romans 12:17-21; Colossians 3:16)!

16. You cannot change people; so, keep your focus on the power of Christ, that can change lives and attitudes (Philippians 4:13).

17. Anger is no excuse to lose control of your emotions, or, to put others down. Learn how to react more slowly, and see the situation from a bigger perspective (Proverbs 14:29; Ephesians 4:32; Psalm 4:4; 103: 11-12).

18. Never let anger turn into hatred or bitterness. If you do, you will be far away from God's will (Proverbs 16:14; Zephaniah 3:8; James 1:19, 20)!

19. People will disappoint you, and, at times, be better than you! Be aware that jealousy, un-forgiveness, and envy will incite your anger. Expect it, and have a plan to handle it (Proverbs 3:31; 6:32-35; 23:17; 27:4).

20. When a bomb is dropped on you, do not hang on to it; let it go, or it will explode! You have to come to a point where you let the anger go. If not, you may repress it to explode at a later, inopportune time, or, it will fester inside you, building into bitterness (Proverbs 10:18).

21. You may not be able to change your situation, but, you can change yourself. Letting Anger go can only happen from a growing and or mature relationship with Christ. You cannot do it alone (Proverbs 29:11; Hebrews 4:12)!

22. How you handle anger is directly related to how you understand your relationship with Christ. This will shape your view of people and events, and build the maturity to handle all that life throws at you. Thus, time spent in His Word and in prayer will shape you greatly, and make you one who behaves as a wise person, and not the fool of Proverbs fame. If you want to change your feelings, then you need to change your thinking (Romans 12:2)!

23. A lot of times we become angry because we are selfish, or have skewed ideas or expectations of God. His concern is our growth and maturity, not our wealth or comfort. When we change our thinking, we will change our feelings (Romans 12; 2 Corinthians 5:16-19)!

24. Learn to trust and have confidence in God, and not in your situation. Our security is in Christ, and nothing else (Psalm 23:4; 27:1-14; Proverbs 1:7; 3:3-10; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:17)!

25. Remember this important point; God uses people and circumstances to improve your character. So, make the most of your harsh circumstances, and surrender yourselves to Christ as Lord (Galatians 2:20-21; 5:16; 1 Peter 4:12-16)!

Is the Character of controlled Anger working in you?

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character, this Fruit of Anger, from God's most precious Word, so it is coming from Galatians 5: 22-23 and not Galatians 5:19-21. Now ask yourself:

  1. How do I exhibit Anger, in a righteous way, in my life when I have to?

  2. What can I do to develop a better control of my temper, so I value people rather than allowing them to annoy me?

  3. What blocks the control of Anger from working and being exhibited in me?

  4. How can I control my Anger, so that goodness functions better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?

· Here are positive examples from Scripture (Exodus 17: 10-13; 22:22-24; Numbers 22:20f; 31:1; Nehemiah 5:6-7; Matthew 4:1-11; 5:23-26; 21:12-13; Mark 3:5)

· Here are negative examples from Scripture (Genesis 4:1-14; 34:13-31; 49:5; Numbers 20:10-12; 1 Samuel 17:28-32; Acts 24:24-26)

Further Questions

  1. How would you define Anger? What is the difference between righteous Anger, and bad Anger? Read Nehemiah 5:6-7; how is Nehemiah righteous in his anger? How can this help you model anger in a right way?

  1. What makes you angry? How does your response to anger differ from person to person, or situation? When we know that Anger is caused by disappointments, we can have a better handle on it by placing our focus upon Christ, who never disappoints us!

  1. How does losing your temper or, resentment counteract the right use of Anger? What is the cost to others (God, family, friends, neighbors, church, workplace, etc.) when you lose your temper?

  1. What happens to your church and community, and the opportunities God gives you, when you are controlled by bitterness?

  1. When have you been filled with righteous Anger the most, and, why?

  1. Can you think of a situation when you failed to handle your temper? What happened?

  1. What issue, in your church, would improve with a more effective channeling and/or use of Anger?

  1. Think through the steps you need to take to put righteous Anger into action in a specific instance, such as, how can I refuse to allow myself to be overcome with anger, when family and friends push my buttons, or provoke me? What can I do to set up a system to warn me when my anger is starting to override my character?

© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership,
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