Handling Anger

Laurence J. Peter is best known for the formulation of the Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” But he is also well known for helping identify the noblest of all dogs: “The noblest of all dogs is the hot-dog; it feeds the hand that bites it.”

Peter also had something important (and humorous) to say about anger, and you probably haven’t heard this one: “Speak when you are angry — and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Anger is a volatile emotion, and it has to be handled very carefully. Really, for those of us who are Christ-followers, it has to be handled by Jesus. So what does it look like when Jesus lives inside of an angry person? How do we handle anger when Jesus guides our hearts and minds?

Paul describes that for us in Ephesians, chapter 4:

  • Anger is handled with truth.
  • Anger itself, while not a sin, is handled as a potential trap door easily leading to sin.
  • Anger is handled in a timely fashion. If at all possible, it is resolved daily, so that grudges don’t build.
  • Anger is handled without acts of revenge, like stealing to get back at someone.
  • Anger is handled with speech intended to build up, not rip apart or tear down.
  • Anger is handled by recalling that that the devil is the real enemy.
  • Anger is handled by recalling that the Holy Spirit has identified us as his own.
  • Anger is handled by deleting options like bitterness, rage, brawling, slander and malice.
  • Anger is handled with kindness and compassion.
  • Anger is handled with forgiveness.

And since God has every right to be angry with us because of our sins, the most important thing to remember is that we are sorely in need of forgiveness too. It is much easier to forgive and handle anger positively when we recall that we have hurt and angered God many times, and he has always forgiven us. And he always will forgive us.

Because forgiven people forgive others.

“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. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2, NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for forgiving me for all my sins. You have every reason to be angry with me. I have sinned against you in my thoughts, my words and my actions. And yet, you have forgiven me time and time again. Please help me to handle my anger with grace and mercy, and to show the same forgiveness and love to others who have hurt and angered me. Live in me so that you can handle my anger for me.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, September 26, is Isaiah 63:1 – 65:16, Ephesians 4:17 – 5:7 and Psalm 112:1-10.

Header image based on "Gazed and confused" by jazbeck, CC By 2.0