“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” -Ambrose Bierce
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” -Mark Twain
This blog is coming out of a recent personal experience this week. On Monday, I felt like the “not-so-incredible” Hulk. After almost 10 hours of counseling, coming face to face with suicidality, addiction, affairs, anxiety, narcissism, pain, trauma, and depression… I felt spiritually strong (because of the power of the Holy Spirit), but mentally exhausted. Most concerning was how angry I felt at the hurt and pain I saw afflicting my client’s lives. Typically, I am able to “leave work at work,” but today, I stayed angry and was led to think about my own problems, and the friends and family I know who are going through unimaginable pain and trials as well.
I felt angry, and I needed something… someone to blame. How about the Devil? I went to the gym and worked out… hard. I pictured the Enemy attempting to destroy the lives of my clients, friends, and family and I got even more angry and “motivated”. I huffed and puffed and lifted and sprinted. I prayed intensely during my entire workout. I wanted to scream. And then, after the gym, felt almost total peace. Such a dramatic shift. On my way home, all of these questions flooded into my mind:
-Do I feel entitled to my anger?
-How much attention am I giving to the enemy?
-Am I actually neglecting God’s presence and justifying it by disguising it as “spiritual warfare” or am I contending and interceding, partnering with the Holy Spirit… Tearing down strongholds and fighting offensively? Both?
-Is my anger towards the demonic okay, or is it wasteful?
-Am I giving more power to the enemy by allowing myself to sit with the anger?
-If what I think and pray is made manifest immediately, what am I manifesting by choosing to engage in intercessory warfare from a place of angry indignation?
-Am I manifesting power and authority over the enemy? Or am I manifesting something else unintentionally?
-How can I shift my motivation if it is negative and is skewing the trajectory of my prayer and focus?
I talked and processed through some of this with a friend and with my wife. It was all so interesting to observe, pray about, and seek some answers for. I ended up having some illuminating and freeing realizations, and revelations. But, what I realized from the whole experience is that anger is very complex and something I am finding I know less and less about as I get more and more acquainted with it.
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise quietly hold it back,” (Proverbs 29:11)
First, I do not think this is a “bad” emotion, but at what level does anger become problematic?
When it comes to anger, I don’t personally get excited about simply “surviving” or “dealing with” it… I simply don’t want it to have that much power.
But, as I alluded to before, I think we actually like our anger or feel we “deserve it” and want to hold onto it… that it makes us feel more in control. I think we can trick ourselves into thinking that holding onto anger (which leads to bitterness, apathy, and hatred) is some grand form of revenge.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger, do not sin…” Notice, it doesn’t say “do not feel anger.” This is not a “bad” emotion, but is important that we learn how to identify and take responsibility over our emotions. Wise control of anger is not the same as repressing or “stuffing it”. One is conscious and proactive, and one is fearful and reactive. Just like acting on temptation, anger can become sinful and destructive.
Anger is tricky because it, like other emotions, partners with our physiology and can cause biological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of your energy hormones: adrenaline and noradrenaline. Whenever we have a physical reaction to something, it can feel like it is less and less in our control to change it. This is an illusion; you can learn how to control the way your body reacts to negative feelings. Anger is one of the most diverse emotions I observe day in a day out and seems to be the culprit for so many mental health issues. The truth is, anger that goes unchecked has detrimental effects. Without learning how to express anger in a healthy and constructive way, it manifests itself in frustration, jealousy, depression, control, rage, and defensiveness (just to name a few).
When it’s frustrated, it causes us to feel distracted and irritated, and makes us focus on negative thoughts.
When it’s jealous, it tells us to use painful words to try to hurt the other person; this language guilts, manipulates, puts others down and seeks vengeance.
When it’s afraid, it may bring about controlling, hyper-vigilant, judgmental thoughts and actions.
When it’s depressed, it causes us to inflict pain on ourselves, repress emotion, believe lies and negative statements about ourselves, create and engage in addiction, and become isolated.
When it’s out of control, it causes us to rage, attack, and become dangerous; we act and speak in ways that wound and abuse. It brings intense consequences and high levels of regret.
When it’s unexpressed, it causes us to become critical, hostile, cynical and passive-aggressive. It tells us to “defend” it, and makes us justify our emotion. It causes feelings of paranoia, and hypersensitivity. It disguises itself as “protection.” People with unexpressed anger struggle to maintain successful, meaningful relationships and connections with people.
I personally believe that the last one is the most dangerous and isolating. Look closely at your life and be honest with yourself. If you identify with any of these things, it is crucial that you seek help to remove these negative expressions of anger in your life. Now that we have identified the harmful, let’s look at the helpful and positive expressions of anger.
What Would Jesus Do?
“What about “righteous anger?” Isn’t that what Jesus felt when he got angry in the temple and flipped over tables?” (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:5; John 2:15). This passage is often the most quoted when we want to justify our sinful anger, even though the word “anger” is never even used in this passage. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it says that Jesus never sinned, but there are scriptures that refer to moments when Jesus did experience “anger,” let’s look at one of them:
In Mark 3:1-5, Jesus goes into the temple and sees a man with a deformed hand. Verses 2-5: “Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.”4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. 5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!”
Whenever Jesus experiences anger, it is never coupled with selfishness. Selfishness is what causes anger to transform into sin and destructive behavior. This story demonstrates that Jesus experienced anger and then immediate compassion because he could see the unhealthy heart condition of the experts of religious law. His anger was attended by grief over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. It had nothing to do with hatred; Jesus’ anger stemmed from love for the Pharisees and concern for their spiritual condition.
Anger Word Study:
-The word “anger” that is used in this passage is the Greek word “orgē” (or-gā’) means “agitation of the soul; indignation.”
-This word “indignant” is defined as “a feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust.” Sometimes there is action that results from initial anger that brings about change, restores relationships, glorifies God, and generates healing.
-This word “orgē” comes from the root, “oregō” (o-re’-gō) which means “to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.”
-The root of “oregō” is the word “oros” (o’-ros) meaning “mountain.”
What is the implication of this word when we put all of those meanings together?
The type of anger that Jesus expressed was a feeling in reaction to something that was unjust. The action that he took in response to this emotion led to healing and, ultimately, glorified God. Jesus desired to identify and destroy the “mountain” in the man’s life. He asked the man to “stretch out his hand” towards Jesus, and the man experienced restoration.
Questions for reflection:
Am I currently sinning in my anger? Where?
What do I need to do to eradicate frustration, jealousy, depression, rage, and unexpressed anger from my life?
How can I use the anger I may feel in reaction to unjust situations to level mountains, and help others to reach out for the healing they desire?
Please help me to dwell on the good and the positive in my life. I know that it is You who examines our hearts. Search the inner depths of my heart and expose anything that is not of You so I can be set free of it.
Lord, where I have directed anger toward others in my life or held anger inside of me, I confess that as sin and ask You to forgive me and take all the anger away. Heal any wounds that I have inflicted, through my words and actions, in others and myself. Help me to speak sweet words and healing, for I know that pleases You. Where I have shown anger toward others I confess it to you as sin. Bring Your restoration to every situation where it is needed.
Thank You, Lord, that You will redeem my soul in peace from the battle that is against me. I believe that You, the God of peace will crush the enemy under my feet. Help me to live righteously because I know there is a connection between obedience to Your ways and peace. Help me to depart from thoughts of anger and bouts with depression; help me to seek peace and actively pursue it. Thank You that You will take away all anger in me and keep me in perfect peace, because my mind is fixed on You Father. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
(Prayer from Christian blogger “Derrick” from RevivedLife Ministries)