Anger is a natural human emotion that we all feel at one time or another.
Anger itself seems to convey conflicting messages when we read scripture. On the one hand, Christ obviously feels this emotion of anger and expresses it. Yet, on the other hand, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus admonishes us to remember what He has said regarding the matter of anger:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:22 CEB)
When Christ says, “Everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment,” He is saying that we cannot hold sustained anger towards one another, because that type of anger turns into vengeance or bitterness. Instead, we should focus on the fact that temporary moments of anger are natural, and we must be aware of how we handle that emotion and how we react when we feel and experience it.
As we know, it can be quite easy to get angry. If we let it, anger can fester, build and grow out of control.
Anger has a tendency to take on many traits of fire. If we view anger like a fire, it’s simple to understand that all it takes sometimes is a little spark—a spark so small that we might not even recognize it or know where it came from. Then, once the fire is started, all it takes is a little effort and fanning from some other source to grow and intensify.
We would be remiss to not mention the actual qualities of a fire. When thinking about the logistics of it: Fire is hot and it has a dual use. On the one hand it provides warmth, light and has the ability to cook food and kill bacteria or diseases that might be present in it. Yet, fire is also capable of consuming so much. It can engulf and overcome things, it can leave lifetime reminders in the form of scars and burns, and it can cause living things to lose their life.
Fire is serious business. So is anger.
In his article “Anger: When Adults Act Like Children—and Why,” Dr. Leon Seltzer had this to say regarding anger:
“Very few of us have any difficulty recognizing that crying conveys hurt. But far fewer of us realize that getting mad—as a reaction to some perceived threat, insult, or injustice—is a desperate attempt to cover up that hurt.”
Instead of brushing anger aside, we should respect anger and learn to use it appropriately.
Not all anger is bad. Anger can teach us to stand up for ourselves or others; to not take oppressions, injustices, or mistreatment as they are handed out.
For the anger that is detrimental and destructive, our goal should be to better learn how to deal with it and sometimes even prevent it.
One simple trick when you feel anger welling up is to take deep breaths. Just breathe deeply for at least 20-30 seconds, and you’ll feel yourself calming down. You can also use the old technique of counting to ten, which can be coupled with deep breathing. And you can always talk with someone else about how you feel, especially when you recognize that your anger is motivated by hurt.
We can’t completely abolish anger; instead, we should focus on using it in a healthy way as we try to live as Christ’s disciples. Know that it is fine to be angry, but we shouldn’t stay angry and get consumed by the fire.