Anger is overrated, and so is “righteous anger.” Yes, there are certain moments that naturally generate anger. In fact, to not experience strong emotion in the face of injustice may speak to a character flaw. However, righteous anger is very unlike the vast majority of anger human beings will ever experience. Most of our anger is unrighteous, self-centered, and downright destructive.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27
How often have you heard the first half of this verse quoted? It’s often used as a blank check to be angry about anything and everything. “Be angry,” the Bible says, so anger can’t be that bad. Yet the second half of that verse is even more telling. Here in the Midwest, the sun goes down a little after 7 this time of year. That gives me plenty of time to cool off before I go to sleep. The point of the verse is that anger should always be short-lived and in control (if you’re going to bed with righteous anger, you’re doing it wrong.) Anger is a dangerous emotion to entertain (an opportunity to the devil)–and no one knew this better than the ancients.
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.Proverbs 25:28
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.Matthew 5:21-22
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.James 1:19-20
Anger is a driving force of addiction, let alone the damage it wreaks on health and relationships. Anger is a very unpleasant emotion, and people who are chronically angry will always be eager to obtain relief. How people medicate their anger says a lot about their character. Some people suffer in silence, while others turn to violence and other destructive behaviors like pornography. It’s a fact, however, that the more angry an individual is, the more likely they are to compromise their values. This is because anger keeps people emotionally off-balance and blinds them to the consequences of their actions.
Anger doesn’t fade with age, but has the tendency to grow and contaminate every area of life. Road rage is a prime example of what’s called displaced anger. Displaced anger is when an individual has lost touch with the true source of their anger and gets angry at the slightest life trigger. We can all think of people who fit this description. Maybe you are one of those people. Oftentimes, the source of displaced anger is an offense that took place years ago. Whenever we go to bed angry, we invite the chaos of this primal emotion into our lives.
The antidote to anger is love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness toward all things, including ourselves, God, and every human being we come in contact with. We’ve all made mistakes, and if you’re old enough you’ve probably made very serious ones. Forgive yourself and move forward. Most of us have questions for God about why certain things happened or didn’t happen in our lives–learn to be at peace with what you cannot control and be grateful for the blessings you currently enjoy. And, finally, other human beings may be the greatest source of anger on the planet. Expect less from others and more from yourself. And remember the ominous words of Jesus–if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. How we treat others influences the way God treats us.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 6:14-15