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Processing Anger Without Sin

Of all the emotions we know, anger may be the most difficult one to understand.

Anger is a complex emotion that can come with a lot of problems. Who has never said something in a moment of anger that they wish they could take back?

Or maybe you’ve been angry in silence and let something affect your mood for a long time. Even though we usually think of a typically angry person when we think of anger (road rage comes to mind), everyone experiences anger differently.

In this blog post, we’ll see what the Bible has to say about anger, what kind of emotion anger is, and how to be angry in a way that is wholesome and helpful to yourself and the people around you.

What is anger?

Anger is one of the six universal emotions that scientists usually agree are the foundations of our emotional life (the others are joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, and fear).

Anger is unique in a lot of ways. Most people experience similar emotions in similar situations, but everyone gets angry for different reasons. What triggers one person may not matter at all to someone else.

Experts on anger and anger management have pointed out that anger is always the result of something else. When we get angry, we are in a defensive mode of self-preservation. Getting angry means that you don’t feel valued, that you are fighting for respect.

Anger itself is not a sin. In the Bible, God describes himself as angry, and the most famous passage on anger in the Bible comes from Paul, who says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).  He then continues by telling his audience that they should find ways to resolve their issues before their anger gets out of hand.

How to get angry without sinning?

So how do we keep anger from getting out of hand? First of all, it’s important to realize that there are two main ways of dealing with anger that are not helpful. One is to overreact. This is where the image of road rage comes up again.

Someone cuts you off, you feel disrespected and before you know it, you’re leaning on the horn for half a minute and aggressively follow the car while your head fills with fantasies of pulling over in a parking lot and letting that driver have a piece of your mind, and maybe even more.

Then there’s the way of never letting your anger out. It’s not that you don’t get angry, it’s just that you feel that there’s no need for shouting, waving your fist, or saying anything hurtful. You tuck the anger away and wait for the feelings to pass.

Although this may seem like a better approach at first sight, it comes with a lot of problems. Your anger isn’t gone at all, but is now slowly occupying your mind. Instead of shouting and confronting, you’re building resentment, bad communication, and hurt feelings.

That can be just as poisonous as the overreaction you’re trying to prevent. This is what Paul is talking about in the same passage when he says one sentence later, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Your anger needs somewhere to go, and you need to deal with it without sinning.

It seems that we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. If the two main ways people deal with anger are giving way to sin are not helpful, there must be a third way that is helpful.

At the basis of this third option is a very important biblical principle. Because anger means that you don’t feel valued or respected, you must first of all realized that the God who created the universe cares deeply about you, loves you beyond measure, and respects you, too. Once you believe and know that, nothing can shake you as badly as before.

But that doesn’t mean your anger will be gone. People will still be able to hurt your feelings, and if someone doesn’t respect you the way they should, anger is a healthy emotion. Jesus had an unshakeable belief that God loved him, but he still got angry.

So how do we get angry in a healthy way without sinning?

How can we move on from anger?

There are five steps to dealing with anger in a healthy way. Unlike, the two common ways people process anger discussed above, this approach will allow you to process anger without sin. Below, we’ll discuss every step in detail:

1. Acceptance

First of all, we need to accept that we’re angry.

This may sound like a redundant step, but how many times have we said or done something we regretted only to realize we were doing that because we were angry? On the other side of the spectrum, accepting that you’re angry means that you can stop trying to attach different emotions to it, or avoid it altogether.

2. Introspection

Next, we need to find out where our anger comes from. If anger is an emotion that is the result of not feeling valued or respected, why do we feel that way? Is it fair to feel that? Is there a chance the person you’re angry with is feeling hurt or disrespected?

By analyzing the problem behind your anger, you can address the right issue and solve the real problem.

3. Optimism

The third step is a mindset. To address your problems and be angry in a healthy way, you need to realize that you can change things. That most people don’t mean to disrespect you, that talking to them will help the both of you, and that being angry in the right way will be the best possible outcome. Realizing all this will help you get to the final step.

4. Forwardness

When you know you’re angry, you know why you feel that way, and you believe things can change, it’s time to take action.

If you’re angry with someone, create a situation where you can tell them that you are angry, why you are angry, and that you’d like to change the situation in the future. Call that person, take them aside for a moment, or find another way to make sure you have their attention so they can listen to your story. When you have gone through the previous three steps, you’re most likely able to stay calm and respectful.

5. Forgiveness

Once you’ve spoken to the offender, you may need to extend them the hand of forgiveness. Perhaps they are sorry for what they have done, and are begging for your forgiveness, or perhaps they disrespected you again by refusing to admit wrongdoing. Either way, God commands His children to forgive others (Matthew 6:14). Forgiveness can be hard: draw on God’s strength and the knowledge that He has already given you the forgiveness that you didn’t deserve.

In the end, holding onto your anger or expressing it inappropriately will do you more harm than good. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you any lingering anger in your heart, and that He will help you to forgive any and all things done against you so that you can live a life honouring to God.

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