This article is not intended to convince you that there is a problem with anger or that there are consequences that result from anger. I am starting with the assumption that you don’t have to be convinced about that or you wouldn’t be here already. My goal here is to give you real Bible answers for dealing with anger. As you read and make the application of these verses I hope you will consider learning more about what the Bible says by doing our free Bible study course. Here now are 5 Biblical steps to overcoming anger.
Steps to overcoming anger
Decide to stop anger – Psalm 37:8 “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.”
Step 1 may sound over simplistic but let me be clear, you will never make any headway on dealing with anger until you make the decision that you are going to eliminate it in your life. You do not need to just get better control of it, that is like having control of a wild beast, it may seem in control but if it ever gets out it will destroy.
You need to eliminate it from your life and you must make the decision that you are going to do just that. Until you make a full commitment to dealing with anger you will continue to struggle with it.
Let me give you my personal testimony here.
I had a terrible anger problem. I was constantly fighting with my wife, I would yell and scream, at times I got so angry I would punch the wall. I stomped my feet and even threw things, never at my wife but I believe that was just a progression away from where I was headed.
I knew that my anger was a major problem but I didn’t know what to do about it. One night in church God got hold of my heart about my anger issue. I don’t remember what the preacher was talking about, I do not believe it had anything to do with anger to be honest with you but that is what God was dealing with me about.
For the first time in my life I realized that I must deal with my anger or it was going to cost me my family. I went to the alter that service and confessed to God that I had an anger problem and I turned myself over to Him in that area. I made a commitment to God that I would not allow anger to have dominance over me any longer and that I would dedicate myself to learning how to deal with problems from a Biblical prospective rather than trying to solve problems in my anger.
The reality is that anger is deceptive because it does seem to aid in solving problems but it doesn’t actually accomplish what it seems to. If people stop an action out of fear they have not had a change of heart about the issue and thus we are going to have continued problems and now we have compounded them by anger.
I went home and I told my wife that I had made a commitment to God to get rid of anger in my life and I would not be fighting with here any more. I want you to know that my decision to remove anger and not fight any longer was sincere but that does not mean it wasn’t tested. I had allowed anger to become the normal way of dealing with conflict in my home and my wife had not made the same commitment that I had.
It took time to show her that I was serious about not resorting to anger to solve problems. I will deal with that issue more fully when we talk about restoring relationships damaged by anger.
Suffice it so say for now that you must make this decision and commit yourself to God in it.
Eliminate wrong expectations – Psalm 62:5 “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” If you are going to deal with anger you must evaluate your expectations. When you get angry you must ask the question what expectation did I have and is it in line with God’s plan for expectations.
It is ok to have a desires, to desire someone to do right is ok, but to expect them to is not ok. Desire is for their best, they are at their best when they do what they should but expectation puts them under a burden to perform and makes us the one holding the weight of their performance. Remember everyone in this world including you is only human, everyone fails, everyone messes up including you.
The golden rule is so applicable here, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Despite what you might think you are not perfect, your way is not the only way and you must treat others with the same respect that you desire when you fail.
Don’t be hasty – this is mentioned 3 times in the Bible, it says in Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”; In Proverbs 14:17 “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.”; and in Proverbs 14:29 “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”
Often anger is associated with the phrase a quick temper. One thing you often will hear people talk about in regard to anger is to count to 10 before you respond.
This is actually an application of what the Bible says here about not being hasty in anger. The word hasty means rash, not deliberate, irritable, or easily excited to wrath. This is a state of mind not just a response. In other words, you must train your mind to be deliberate and at ease. You cannot live on the edge of anger and avoid falling into it.
If you are going to avoid anger you must learn to control your mind rather than allow it to control you. The Bible talks about this constantly. It gives a patter for this in Philippians 4:4-8,
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Notice the process here,
1. Develop a positive outlook through praise.
2. Practice having a moderate spirit so that others can see you are not hasty or rash.
3. Exercise thankfulness in your life through prayer.
4. Keep your mind stayed on that which is good rather than that which is bad.
Do you notice how much thanksgiving and praise are a part of having a mind that is controlled rather than one that is rash. Remember how the issue of ingratitude results from exercising anger?
If you are going to develop a mind that is free from hast to anger you can begin with doing what we call a stroke file. This is a tool to help you gain victory over negative thinking. Take a 3×5 card each morning and write the date in the top right corner. On the left write A.M, Noon, P.M. then on each of these occasions write 3 things that you can see to thank God for. On the back write one thing you can be thankful for about the person you struggle with anger the most with.
This process will help you keep a mind that is content rather than one looking for offence at every turn.
Another tool that will help you in slowing down anger is to do what we call a trigger list.
Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse. When you get angry make a record of it with date and time. Write down the event that stirred up anger and then a short evaluation the real reason you are angry. What I mean by that is separate the action from the reason. The action may have been that someone spoke rudely to you but the reason for your anger is internal not external so take a real evaluation, I expect people to be polite.
Here we identify the real issue, our expectation. Thus we can identify and move on. As you do this you will possible find that there are certain times of the day that you struggle with anger more than others, there may be certain things that stimulate anger more than others and as you make this determination you can plan against allowing anger to control you by either modifying your day or preparing against such stimulus.
Learn to exercise discretion and prudence – Proverbs 19:11, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”
Proverbs 12:16 “A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.”
According to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary discretion is that discernment which enables a person to judge critically what is correct and proper, discretion should be united with caution. In other words, discretion is to be cautious not to act quickly without exercising proper judgment as to what would be the proper response.
Prudence according to the same dictionary implies “a caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes. Prudence is principally in reference to actions to be done and the due means, order, season and method in doing or not doing them.”
When a problem comes in your life you have generally responded in one of two ways.
You have either externalized by blowing up and taking your anger out on those around you including your spouse and children; or you have internalized your anger allowing it to build up causing you to have increasing emotional stress.
Both of these methods are bad because they either kill your relationships or they kill you. The real answer to this is found in the admonition to discretion and prudence. You must learn to deal with the problem.
The problem is never an individual, it is the beliefs that are motivating them. If you are going to gain victory over the problem you must separate the problem from the individual and evaluate what it is they are doing that is actually causing your anger. Then you must deal with that issue. To do this you most likely will need to express the problem to them in a way that they will receive it.
That means that you must not attack them with accusations about the issue this will only cause them to become defensive and protect themselves from change. To help others see the need to change you need to employ that techniques that Jesus taught us when He taught how to pray.
It says in Matthew 6:9-13 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Without going into a full lesson on this I will outline just the basic format for you:
1. Begin with a positive comment of praise for the individual.
2. Ask if there is anything that you can do to assist them.
3. Make your request for their help.
4. Ask for and extend forgiveness for past conflicts.
5. End with a positive statement.
Practice the put off/put on principle – Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
If you are going to get long term victory over anger you must put the right practices in its place so that it has no room to come back in. to illustrate this I want you to consider this drawing, here you have the negative actions listed in Ephesians 4:31, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour (repeated loud outbursts), evil speaking (talking bad about someone or something, and malice (intent to do harm).
In order to put these things off you are to put in their place what is listed in verse 32. Kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. Let’s talk about his issue of forgiveness for just a moment so that you understand forgiveness as God does.
There are basically 3 options for forgiveness that are practiced.
One is logical forgiveness, this means that you forgive because it makes sense to forgive. It would be bad for you if you didn’t forgive and thus the reasonable thing to do is let it go and move on. The problem with this is that eventually it doesn’t make sense any more. This is what Peter was questioning when He asked Jesus how often should I forgive my brother, is seven times enough? Jesus blew Peter’s mind when He said, seven times seventy. Let’s be honest tonight the idea of forgiving someone seven times for the same offence is far more than what most of us would be willing to do. I think the rule in America is three strikes your out. There does come a point where forgiveness doesn’t make logical sense.
The second type of forgiveness is emotional forgiveness, that is I feel like forgiving. I don’t feel like being angry any more so I am going to just let it go and forgive. The issue here is that feelings also change. This is why I heard a man say once that when his wife got angry at him she became historical, she brought up everything he had ever done. She felt like forgiving him at the time but she didn’t feel like it at that time. Emotional forgiveness doesn’t work any better than logical forgiveness.
The only type of forgiveness that actually works is spiritual forgiveness and that is what Paul was speaking about in Ephesians 4:32. He said there forgive even as God for Christ sake has forgiven you. Notice that God’s forgiveness is not based upon his thinking or feelings, it is based upon the action of Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for sin. It is a legislative forgiveness. It counts the payment of Christ sufficient to cover any offense. When a person comes to God and asks forgiveness He doesn’t have to think about it, He doesn’t weigh how He feels about them or what they have done, He has already made up His mind that He will extend forgiveness to everyone for everything based upon the fixed and never changing basis of Christ dying on the cross to pay the penalty of sin.
Paul admonishes us that the way we are to forgive is the same way that God Himself forgives.
We are to base all our forgiveness on the cross of Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:10, “ To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;” Paul’s personal experience with forgiveness was based upon this same principle, he forgave others in the person of Christ.
This is to say, when I consider the offence I compare it to what Christ did to forgive me and I choose Him over my offences. Certainly my own sin that cost Jesus Christ His life on the cross was far more severe than any individual offence that could be committed against me. The Bible says that Jesus bore all of our sin in His own body on the cross.
He died for every one of my sins, He died for all the lies in the world, all the murders, all the rapes, all the thefts, all the adulteries and idolatries all of these things were put on Him while He was on the cross and He made the choice to pay the penalty for them.
After the model prayer Jesus makes the following dramatic statement, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:14-15 God says that an individual receiving forgiveness from Him is dependent upon them extending forgiveness to others in the same fashion. Here is why, how could you rightly say that you deserve God’s forgiveness and others do not.
To refuse to extend the same forgiveness that you have received is to despise the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the payment of sin. truly they do not deserve forgiveness, but neither do you. God’s forgiveness was not based upon deserving it, it was based upon His love. God loved you so much that He was willing to pay the penalty for your sin Himself on the cross. This is the message of the gospel.
Let me say, if you have never acknowledged your sin before God and put your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin then you are still responsible for the payment of your sin.
God wants to forgive you, He has paid the price to forgive you but you must accept that forgiveness that He has offered. It says in Romans 10:8-10, “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
You cannot give something you have never received yourself, and once you have received God’s forgiveness you would not be able to refuse it to others.
Never hold onto things – Ephesians 4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” The last admonition that I want you to see on overcoming anger is that you cannot hold onto things and maintain victory over anger. When the Bible says here don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath it is saying, deal with it properly today instead of letting it fester into resentment and bitterness. If you will follow the steps that we have outlined here you will not have the problem of holding onto grudges.
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