Let us begin with this reality: there were times when Jesus got angry. For instance, when Jesus was grieved because of certain people’s hardness of heart, He “looked around at them with anger” (Mark 3:5). Since Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22), He did not violate God’s will when He was angry.
First-century Christians were instructed, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Such teaching again makes it plain that it is not always wrong to be angry. That does not mean that the Lord gives us “a green light” to be angry without control or to be angry over every single thing that occurs in life.
There is another part of the picture that we must face. “Wrath” (KJV)/“outbursts of wrath” (NKJV) is counted as a work of the flesh, which means it is something that will prevent a person from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20,21). The Greek word employed in verse twenty is “ /thumos,” which is defined as “passion, angry, heat, anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again” [Thayer, word no. 2372, e-Sword].
When I Googled “anger management,” this came up: “The true goal of anger management isn’t to suppress feelings of anger, but rather to understand the message behind the emotion and express it in a healthy way without losing control.”
Let’s face it: some people have anger issues. Such folks erupt like a volcano. Some of them have what we call a “violent temper.” Or, as we say, they have “a short fuse.” Nebuchadnezzar was one who was “full of fury” (Daniel 3:19). Does that sound familiar? There are politicians, athletes, coaches, spouses, parents, and kids who have terrible tempers. Not all of them are non-Christians. Perhaps you have observed that even some gospel preachers have temper issues.
Be clear about this: no member of God’s family should have the reputation of being “hotheaded,” having “an explosive temper,” or one who easily and habitually “flies off the handle.” When one becomes a new creation in the Christ, the God of heaven expects him to put off the old man’s anger and wrath (Colossians 3:8). Let these Bible truths sink down in your soul: God wants each of us to be “slow to wrath . . . for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19,20).
We should not try to excuse ourselves for any inappropriate outburst of anger. It is not okay to claim, “Well, that is just my personality. Some people are calm, but I have a bad temper. All of us are different.” Such a defense mechanism is silly and unacceptable.
Read carefully these timeless nuggets of wisdom from the book of Proverbs:
“He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (14:29). “A wrathful man stirs up strife; but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (15:18). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (16:32)
If I am a Christian, I need to hold myself accountable. If I have a temper that sometimes “gets the best of me,” I need to recognize that fault and work to correct it. At the same time, it would be beneficial to spend time with people who also hold me accountable for my attitude, speech, and actions.
Another positive insight is to avoid situations and people which we know tend to bring out our anger. We probably can identify people in our lives who seem to know how to bring out the worst in us, including our temper. The Master’s words to His apostles would apply to our effort to work out any anger issues we might have: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
In a secular article entitled “How Can I Control My Temper?,” it was suggested: “Buying some time can be fundamental in limiting an angry response.” The author observed that it can be helpful to count to ten, go for a short walk, or make contact with someone who is not involved in the situation that is stirring up the anger.
The same author proposed that applying certain techniques “can help calm a person or distract them long enough to process the thoughts in a constructive way.” He listed some different techniques that people have found to be effective, including deep, slow breathing, easing physical tension, physical exercise to use up excess adrenalin, finding alternative channels to release anger in a way that does not affect others, creating distractions by throwing yourself into some constructive activity, or even keeping an anger diary. “Getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night also contributes to mental and physical health. Researchers have linked sleep deprivation to a number of health problems, including irritability and anger” [article by Christian Nordqvist, accessed on 29 May 2020; www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/162035.php].
We all get angry from time to time. What we do once we become angry is what defines us. Whether or not we practice self-control is the difference between entering God’s eternal kingdom and having a vain religion (2 Peter 1:6-11; James 1:26).
“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11).
— Roger D. Campbell