“Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil” – Ephesians 4:26-27 (CEV)
Is all anger bad anger? Not at all!
Remember, anger is a message from our body to us that our physical or emotional well-being may be under some form of threat and that we need to “come to our own assistance” in order to create safety or protection for ourselves.
Just as the scripture above suggests, “be angry,” because we may need to be aware of what is going on inside us and in our environment, and we may need the energy provided to us by our anger to make some quick (but insightful) decisions to change our situation.
Keep in mind though when we feel the emotion of anger, in the split second that occurs between “feeling the feeling” and delivering a response (verbal or behavioral), we sometimes forget that we do have a choice regarding how we will behave and what response we will implement when our anger is felt or “triggered.”
At times, we may not “tap the brakes” with our anger, like we would do if we were behind the wheel of our car when we notice a dangerous situation ahead (or, if we just see a stop sign). We engage in this form of self-awareness and manage our vehicle effectively, but fall short of achieving a similar outcome with the management of our anger, and sometimes with other emotions as well. Is it possible that we can become so skilled or “automatic” in producing safe outcomes with our anger, just like we do when we exert skill to prevent automobile accidents? I think it is possible.
What follows are some suggestions to help us accomplish our resolve in dealing effectively with our anger, with more suggestions to follow in Part 3, “The Ephesians 4:26-27 Communication Tool.” We are encouraged to “be angry” with our feelings but also counseled to “not sin” or err in our response, especially when it comes to managing your anger.
A Constructive Response (Ephesians 4: 31 – “THUMOS”)
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” – Ephesians 4:31 (NIV)
We are encouraged to act constructively with anger in this verse by “getting rid” of anger. If I might be so bold as to suggest that Paul means we get rid of our anger by engaging in processes of communication to resolve our anger. What follows are a few words to suggest how we can “get rid” of our anger and in the process, achieve positive outcomes with this emotion.
Our English words thermometer (that which gauges temperature variations), thermostat (that which helps to regulate temperature changes), as well as thermos (that which allows us to handle hot liquids safely), come from this word Thumos.
Inferred with the use of the word Thumos is that these “tools” could help us to read our emotions (thermometer), make adjustments to our thinking and behavior if we discover our anger has skyrocketed “out of control” (thermostat) then deliver our thoughts and feelings to others in a contained way that does not harm them (thermos). These items are important in that they help us to become emotionally self-aware, then guide us toward making constructive personal and relational responses with our behavior.
Other brief but helpful suggestions in the management of your anger are:
If you are in “conflict mode” with another person, probably the best expression of your anger is to Confess it (versus Repressing it, Suppressing it or violently Expressing it). Anger, if it is to have a constructive conclusion with its expression, is better achieved if expressed through words that don’t wound versus behavior that harms self and others.
When you are angry, don’t deny it: Admit it and share or “confess” your feelings to a friend or a “teammate.” Take some time to talk about the emotion you are feeling and then determine the next constructive step to take.
Identify the pain, hurt, frustration connected to past or current experiences that could be fueling your anger: This could be done by writing or talking about your experiences to reveal specifically and to whom confession and maybe forgiveness needs to be directed to. Use the “Anger Management Tool: My Feelings Letter” (Part 4 of 4) to work through your initial feelings about those experiences.
Try to identify what triggers your anger and if there are predictable ways you express anger destructively: This could be accomplished by discussing with your teammate(s) possible “blind spot” areas in your life, which may continue to create problems in your relationships with others. You may also want to process or talk through the times when the angry feelings arise, and be open to suggested and alternative ways from others regarding how to express anger effectively.
Develop an anger “fire drill” plan: This plan needs to incorporate the “S – T – A – R” principle (Stop, Think, Act & Review). When you encounter a situation and you feel you temperature rising, go on “automatic pilot“ and Stop, assess the problem, Think about the best choice for you to implement, Act, by putting your plan into action to accomplish your short-range goal, and Review, to see if you “put out the fire.” If you feel you did not fully accomplish your goal, then repeat the principle immediately.
Develop specific, socially and spiritually acceptable and non-defeating ways to handle angry feelings: This could be accomplished by attending assertiveness or communication classes, role-playing how to handle potentially volatile situations, as well as learning and implementing other biblical responses to angry and self-defeating thoughts and behavior (see Romans 12: 14 – 20 below).
“Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status.
Don’t think that you’re so smart. Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.
Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head” – Romans 12:14-20 (NIV).
Feel free to leave a comment or pass this post to others who you think would like to read it and by all means please visit my other page at dr ken mcgill’s blog for more helpful “counseling” information.