Getting Help When You’re Angry

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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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

The What, How, and Why of Anger: Part 5

In yesterday's reflection, I suggested that the "get your anger out on the table right away" approach is not required by Ephesians 4:26. Yes, we are not to let the sun go down on our wrath in a metaphorical sense. We mustn't let our anger putrefy within us for days, months, or even years. And, yes, we do need to confront directly one who has wronged us. But the proper timing for such a conversation requires more than a legalistic sundial.

I also suggested that one of the best ways of dealing with anger, even in the midst of white-hot feelings, is telling God about it. With the Lord, we find the safety to lay out our souls without fear. We can trust God with what is hidden inside of us, even if it isn't pretty. God is big enough, wise enough, and gracious enough to handle it.

But God has given us something incarnational to help us when we're angry. This something is easily missed when Ephesians is read by people from individualistic cultures, like the American culture in which I was raised, for example. You see, Paul's counsel in verse 26 comes on the heels of verse 25. Here's how the whole passage from verse 25 through verse 27 reads: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. '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."

How does verse 25 help us when we are angry? It reminds us that we are part of the body of Christ. When I'm angry with someone, this is not just my business or that person's business. Rather, it is the business of the body of Christ. So, practically speaking, if I am feeling angry and need to find a way to tone down my angry feelings before I speak with one who hurt me, I might turn to a fellow member of the body. I might speak truthfully to this person about what I'm feeling and why. To be sure, this person must be mature enough to avoid a gripe session or gossip fest. A good listener not only allows me to calm down, but also might help me to see things in a fresh perspective and to decide how best to seek reconciliation with the one who wronged me.

Recently, I experienced this very thing. Someone close to me hurt me, or at least that's how it seemed to me. I was angry. By God's grace, I avoided the temptation to dash off an email. (Rule of thumb: When angry, never use email.) Rather, I shared my feelings with my wife, who made sure I talked with a wise brother in Christ. He listened well. He helped me see things I had missed. By the time I got off the phone, I felt considerably calmer and, to be honest, more aware that the wrong I experienced was not nearly as bad as I had felt it to be.

So, if you're feeling anger toward someone that would make it hard for you not to sin if you confronted that person, let me encourage you to share what you're feeling with the Lord and also with a mature brother or sister in Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever done the kind of thing I'm suggesting in this reflection? What are potential dangers inherent in sharing your anger with an uninvolved person? What are the potential benefits? Are you harboring anger right now that needs to be shared with the Lord and/or a member of the body of Christ?

PRAYER: Gracious God, first of all, I thank you once again for being a safe place for me to pour out my soul. Thank you for hearing me, even when what I have to say isn't pretty.

Thank you also, Lord, for making me a member of your body. Thank you for fellow members with whom I am to speak truthfully. Thank you for giving me flesh-and-blood people with whom to share my feelings of hurt and anger. Thank you for the friend who heard me out recently. Thank you for so many others who have served in this role throughout my life.

Help me, Lord, to turn to you and to others when I need help. Moreover, I pray that I might offer a wise listening ear to others when they need it. Amen.


P.S. from Mark: Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. If you're wondering about the meaning of the holy day and how some Christians keep it, you might find helpful a short piece I've written on the subject: Ash Wednesday: Meaning and Practice. Also, I've written a short introduction to Lent: How Lent Can Make a Difference in Your Relationship With God.

The Work of Play

Play is not just for kids. If you are under pressure in your work, a spirit of play can lead to balance, creativity, and good health. In our hyper-productive world, we need to learn how to play again—at home, on the job, and even in worship. This article is part of our series The Work of Play. If someone you know needs to rediscover the joy of play, invite them to the conversation on The High Calling.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.