We all have anger. But many of us, whether we want to admit it or not, have a problem with controlling our anger. Whether we blame others or ourselves … whether we express our anger orrepress it … whether we avoid or attack, our anger still exists. It doesn’tever go away. It just comes out in different ways.
The problem isn’t that we get angry; it’s what we do with our angryfeelings. Why does it matter so much? If left uncontrolled, our anger candestroy us and those around us.
So how do we tame our temper?And how can we get a hold of our anger, especially when it’sdestructive to our families, marriages, friendships and ministries?
The book of James was written to people who were experiencing hard times.James knew that under the intense pressure and stress they were facing,they would be likely to say and do regretful things to others out of theiranger and frustration.
So God inspired James to write a three-part anger management plan:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick tolisten, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s angerdoes not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James1:19)
Blowing up with anger or stuffing angry emotions doesn’t produce therighteous life that God requires. And the truth is our relationships don’tget better when our anger gets out of control — they only get worse.
Here’s how we can tame our temper in our lives, in our homes, and in ourworkplaces:
1. Be quick to hear.
This means having an openness and eagerness to listen. It means being readyand available and desiring to learn and to hear God’s truth and apply Hisword.
What James is saying is thatin our anger, our immediate response to God, to others, and to ourcircumstances should be to listen –to be receptive listeners, not reactionaryresponders.
This runs contrary to our instincts. For most of us when we’re hurt,frustrated or angry, our anger just comes spewing out. Even if we’re notyelling, our anger is evident in what we say and in the tone of our voice.
So how can we be quick to hear?
When we start feeling angry, we can pause and first ask ourselves:What is this anger telling me? Why am I angry? What is going on insideme?
Remember, anger is a secondary emotion – it’s not the problem. It’sactually God’s gift that tells us there’s something wrong. Sometimes that’sa good thing because there’s an injustice we need to address. But to findout we must first be willing to “hear” what’s really going on underneathour anger.
2. Be slow to speak.
This is a warning against rash and hasty words that wound other’s lives.This doesn’t mean we’re supposed to speak slowly, but we’re to think before we speak.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongueis wise. Proverbs 10:19
We are people of habit. Some of us have learned to blurt out our thoughts.We mistakenly think that if it’s in our mind, then it should come out ofour mouth. Believe it or not, I used to be one of those people!
If you struggle with this too, a good question to ask might be: What must I do to prevent a “verbal reflex response?”
For some of us, this means we might need to walk away or go for a walk to“cool down” and collect our thoughts. Others of us need to renew our mindswith God’s truth. A good way to do this is by memorizing scripture so theSpirit of truth can take the Word of truth and transform us from the insideout. But our part takes practice and discipline.
3. Be slow to anger.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in thelap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
When we think of anger, most of us immediately think of an explosive andemotional response. But being angry also includes resentment and bitternessthat silently builds up in our hearts. This is the kind of anger James istalking about.
So how do we be “slow” in allowing those resentful feelings from buildingup? Our life changing response to anger begins when we replace reaction with reflection.
A key question to ask would be:What root issue is behind this anger – am I hurt, frustrated, feelingthreatened?
With the help of God’s plan and a little practice, you can be on your wayto taming your temper.
For more information on this topic, check out Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, a 10-session study by Chip Ingram.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip