The Path from Anger to Calmness
Have you ever been told you have anger issues? Has someone ever suggested an anger management course? I’m going to let you in on something – you’re not the only one.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines anger as “a strong feeling that makes you want to hurt someone or be unpleasant because of something unfair or unkind that has happened.”
We live in a fallen world filled with sin, which means we are treated unfairly and unkindly from time to time.
Anger is a real feeling, and if it is not dealt with, it could have eternal consequences.
The good news is we do not have to stay angry.
We can break free from the chains of anger.
Since anger is an issue many people deal with in their everyday lives, let’s look at practical tips to help you recognize anger for what it is in order to overcome it.
The booklet, Anger: Escaping the Maze, by David Powlison, is our guide.
Even God Gets Angry
Scripture tells us God gets angry.
Powlison says, “The fact that he does tells us that anger can be utterly right, good, appropriate, beautiful, the only fair response to something evil, and the loving response on behalf of evil’s victims.”
As a result, we can also experience righteous anger.
However, most of the time, the anger we experience is sinful.
Recognizing Sinful Anger for What It Is
Many people mistakenly believe anger is something inside them they have no control over. This is incorrect.
Anger is actually a moral act. We “get” angry. We “act” angry.
Therefore, to control anger, we must understand that anger comes from our hearts.
Anger may be the result of pride, rebellion, self-righteousness, or unbelief.
For instance, you are angry because one of these sins is in the driver’s seat.
Once we recognize our anger for the sin it is, we can repent and find the pathway to calmness.
Powlinson uses eight questions to help people move from anger toward resolution.
The first four questions are designed to help people assess their anger and the final four questions lead to resolution.
For illustration purposes, let’s use a common anger inciter: a long line in the grocery store.
Questions to Assess Anger
It may be difficult in the heat of the moment to calm down but try to think through the following four questions to give you clarity.
- What is My Situation?
What is the situation provoking your anger?
In this scenario, you are in a rush to get groceries, so you can get home to make dinner for visiting friends.
You felt rushed, but the long, slow-moving line has churned up angry feelings.
- How Do I React?
Very simply, how are you expressing your anger in this situation?
Are you huffing, rolling your eyes, thinking unkind thoughts about the cashier or people holding up the line, or beating yourself up for not going to the store at a different time?
How’s your body? Are you clenching your muscles? Are you holding your breath?
Do you vocally express anger?
Does your body language let everyone around you know you’re angry and disgusted?
- What are My Motives?
Now that you’ve answered the first two questions, it is time to get to the heart of the matter – your heart in the matter.
Is it a pride issue, an entitlement issue, a false belief, or a fear of man issue?
For example, are you worried your neighbors will think less of you because you are running late?
What is really driving you toward sinful anger?
- What are the Consequences?
There are consequences to our anger.
Powlinson explains, “Perhaps I reap emotional and physical consequences: guilt, tension, stomachache, and headache.”
But sometimes the consequences are more serious.
Your unkind words to someone in line may turn into a brawl, hurt someone deeply, or needlessly kill a relationship. All of these responses often lead to deep regret.
Questions to Lead from Anger to Calm
Through God’s grace, we can move from anger to calm.
The Holy Spirit can help us battle anger when we are tempted by it.
- What is True?
No matter the situation, begin by asking yourself what you know to be true, not what you think is true, but what you know for sure!
First, God is present and in control.
Second, God’s law can guide you.
Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
When tempted by anger, let these two commandments guide your reactions and interactions.
And … don’t forget 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Third, Jesus forgives my sins and can help me overcome them (1 John 1:8).
- How Can I Turn to God for Help?
Go to Him.
Confess your sin.
Ask for forgiveness.
Believe the gospel, and ask God for wisdom to know how to respond in love instead of anger.
- How Can I Respond in This Situation to Glorify God?
According to Powlinson, “Repentance and faith lead to concrete changes in behavior, emotions, thoughts.”
We allow God to change us.
In this situation, rather than huffing and puffing, we trust God and release our grip.
We smile at those around us, and maybe we even let someone get in front of us in line.
- What are the Consequences of Faith and Obedience?
You may not see the consequences of your faith and obedience, but your reaction and actions will affect those around you.
We’ve all had an experience where things felt tense until someone said just the right thing to change the mood of the room.
That person can be you!
Moreover, as you work through the process of identifying anger and moving towards calm, you’ll understand what others are going through and can minister to them.
Powlinson explains, “I will understand my friend’s temptations to anger, fear, and despair because I’ve understood my own. And I’ve come to understand the way of escape.”
We live in a sinful world, so we face situations all day long that tempt us towards anger. But, by focusing on the hope we have in Christ, we can move from anger to peace.
Powlison, D. (2000). Anger: Escaping the Maze. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company.