Righteous anger can be used as a tool of transformation in an uncertain world.
What has the power to turn —
- Caring, loving parents into screaming adults who repeat the same demands over and over into the blank stares of their kids?
- A loving couple into cold, critical roommates who despise having to share a home?
- The festive holiday family gathering into a no-holds-barred family feud that never gets resolved?
- A kind, conscientious worker and turn him into a gun-carrying murderer?
What has the power to turn normal human beings who, on most days, are kind and considerate, into people who seep anger or explode violently?
The answer is our emotions.
EMOTIONS CAN DESTROY
Given the right (or wrong) circumstances, we are all just one bad decision away from blowing a fuse. Even though it looks different for each of us, we’ve all been there.
Some of us stuff our emotions and others let them out as quickly as they are received. Each of us has a method for dealing with our feelings — particularly the emotion of anger — and some of our responses can destroy our day, our relationships, or even our lives.
Thankfully, the Creator of our emotions has wisdom to share on anger — both righteous and unhealthy. Let’s explore His perspective on this sometimes-volatile subject.
To quickly jump to the 5 steps that take anger from mad to missional, simply use the links below.
- Identify the presence of anger in your life.
- Understand the origin of your anger.
- Discover ways to communicate and express anger.
- Learn to bridle anger.
- Use righteous anger to get on mission.
EMOTIONS ARE A GIFT
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Instead of forbidding anger, James instructs us to be patient. Then he explains why it’s important — to live righteously. The Scriptures do not forbid anger.
In fact, consider the recordings of holy, righteous anger in the Bible.
Moses got angry.
“When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19)
David got angry.
“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” (1 Samuel 17:45)
Jesus got angry.
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16)
These are examples of righteous anger. As you can see, the anger of these individuals propelled them into doing something about the injustice or wrongdoing at hand. They DID something. When handled properly, anger can be a positive emotion!
A great explanation of this kind of “holy” anger can be found in this article on Crosswalk:
“Righteous anger stems from an anger that arises when we witness an offense against God or His Word.”
Of course, the trouble is when we allow our anger to drag us into sin. Paul talked about this specifically:
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Let’s explore the Scriptures and uncover the wisdom for identifying and managing our anger righteously and using it for good.
5 Steps to Get us From Mad to Missional
1. Identify the presence of anger in your life.
Every one of us encounters situations that will cause us to experience anger. Identifying how we interact with that emotion will help us to manage it and direct it to good use. Here are three different masks we wear to handle our anger.
- Spewers send a message that anger is necessary. Expressing anger gives spewers a false sense of control and power and helps them release negative emotions. The result is wounds — for themselves and for others.
- Stuffers either repress anger or avoid it altogether. At their core, Stuffers believe anger is bad and the emotion is sinful. Sometimes, they become a doormat and are likely to experience physical ailments as a result of burying their anger.
- Leakers are also known as passive-aggressive. Like the Stuffer, they believe anger is wrong. But, instead of completely denying their feelings, they tuck it under their arm to be used later when they have the chance to punish the perpetrator. To free themselves, the leaker needs to accept that anger is okay and learn to communicate it effectively.
Which mask do you wear?
2. Understand the origin of your anger.
A critical step in overcoming the destructive power of anger is the COURAGE to look below the surface. Where did your anger come from? I’ve narrowed it down to three areas:
- You’re HURT by unmet needs.
- You’re FRUSTRATED by unmet expectations.
- You’re INSECURE from attacks on your worth.
Whether these are based on truth or not, the perceptions are causing us significant pain and, ultimately, to react with anger.
Reconciliation steps: 5 Positive Behaviors To Resolve Relationship Conflict Today
3. Discover ways to communicate and express anger.
Looking again at the kind of anger Jesus expressed, some might say it doesn’t fit their picture of a meek and mild teacher.
Jesus’ anger was visibly angry. His anger was verbal and physical. Jesus did not shy away from expressing His righteous anger.
Learning to properly handle your anger — which sometimes looks like flipping tables and other times looks like turning your cheek — is not about getting along better with your spouse or making a better impression on strangers. God gave us this gift of anger to transform our lives and make us more like Christ.
The emotion of anger is a powerful tool. Like a shovel, you can use it to dig and make progress or you can use it to bang people over the head.Learning how to manage anger isn't for the purpose of getting along better with your spouse or offending less people. God gave us this powerful gift of anger to transform our lives and make us more like Christ. Click To Tweet
4. Learn to bridle anger.
In addition to the wisdom of James, there are 4 steps to recall when you’re in a position where your anger needs bridling.
- Remember that anger is a choice.
- Realize that anger is a secondary emotion.
- Understand that it’s not wrong to feel angry, it’s what you do with it.
- Learn to acknowledge the anger and its primary cause and then make the best PLAN for dealing with it.
How do you diffuse anger in your life? Most of us don’t have the sense to think through these steps but imagine the difference it would make if we did.
5. Use righteous anger to get on mission.
The verse in Ephesians 4 commands us to be angry — just be sure you’re getting angry about the right stuff.
Since we’re made in God’s image, we SHOULD be mad about the impact of sin in the world and the injustice we see daily. And yet for most of us, the majority of our anger comes from daily annoyances or frustrations that we fail to put into perspective.
When the money changers were taking advantage of the temple visitors, Jesus got angry. He flipped tables and made a scene. For the charge at hand, Jesus’ reaction fit the crime.We SHOULD be getting angry -- we just need to get angry about the right stuff. Jesus flipped tables and Moses smashed an idol. Is your anger being used as a gift to a fallen world or as a way to express your frustrations or… Click To Tweet
For most of us, our reactions do not fit the crime. Thankfully, God provides instructions for handling anger before it simmers and turns into bitterness and rage:
…and to do so as quickly as we can.
Resolving it quickly will remove a foothold of the Enemy and give you more opportunities to be on mission and grow in the likeness of Christ.
RIGHTEOUS ANGER FOR A FALLEN WORLD
When we identify it, learn its origin, discover healthy ways to express it, bridle it, anger will be experienced as the God-given gift that it is to spur on transformation.
Here’s my prayer: That you would get such a grasp on anger that it would be a tool, a weapon, and resource designed to enable you to respond in a powerful way to be on mission in a fallen world.
Learn more about turning anger into purpose and living peacefully in my YouTube series entitled Overcoming Emotions That Destroy.
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