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Perspectives on Anger

By: Pdt. Wilson Suwanto

Anger is hard to define, not because it is secretive or rare, but precisely because it is very common, and a daily occurrence. Turn on the TV and you will see violence, incidents, or conflicts driven by anger. Although we can’t always define anger accurately, we know what it is when it is directed to us. We know when our boss is angry with us, or our spouse is irritated by what we say or do. We can feel our coworker’s anger even without him or her saying it. The body language, the silence, and the look on the face tell the same story: anger. This is not what makes anger dangerous.

What makes anger especially dangerous is because we don’t often realize that we are actually being angry. When others are angry at us, we can tell, and it makes it easier for us to think of a way to defuse the tension that will reduce anger. But, when we are being angry, we don’t always feel it, and in fact, we often find a way to deny the fact of our anger. The truth is we are being angry; our words and acts are driven by anger. Denial of anger will make it worse.

The question is: why do we often deny that we are being angry? What makes anger a silent killer in our soul? Anger does the damage stealthily, and the victim doesn’t even realize that he or she is being damaged within. Just as we recognize anger in others, others often can sense that we are being angry. The reason for our denial is mostly pride. To be angry is to be out of control. To admit that we are angry, is to apologize for our lack of self-control.

Another reason for anger denial is guilt. When we are angry, we are often guilty. The Bible has a place for righteous anger, but most of our angers are not righteous. To admit that we are angry often means to admit that we are guilty. When we feel that we are being right, we are unwilling to admit it. What happens, then? Anger gets suppressed. Now, anger doesn’t go away when it is suppressed. It doesn’t go away either when it is being denied. How about expressing it?

Some people believe that expressing anger is a good way to let the steam out. If suppressing it is not good, then perhaps, expressing it is always good. Not quite. James says that we must be slow to anger, and Solomon associates frequent expression of anger with short-temperedness. Expressing anger is not always good. It can be necessary from time to time, but the question remains: How do you express it? When you express it emotionally and abusively, then it is sinful.

How do we deal with anger, then? First, confess it. Like anything else, God desires our honesty and openness. When we are angry, confess it to God. Let Him be the Judge. David often prays to let God search his heart; to see if there is anything not right in him. This is good and necessary. Ask God to search your heart, and ask Him to reveal any unhealthy emotion in us.

Second, examine the cause of our anger. Many people are being driven by anger over something that happened long time ago. The root of our anger often lies in the past. Unresolved conflict, unavenged embarrassment, the loss of face in public, the mar of our reputation due to slander and gossip, can provide a hiding place for anger for many years. When the present circumstances seem to remind us of the old unresolved embarrassment, we react angrily. We need to let the Holy Spirit heal our brokenness, and uproot the cause of our anger.

Third, exercise self-control at all times. After expressing anger, many of us feel regretful about it. I should’t have said that. I wish I can turn the clock and not say that. We learn a lesson from this kind of thinking: perhaps 99% of our anger is not necessary and in fact, harmful. It harms others, and it harms our relationship with God. Even when we feel that it is right to be angry, self-control helps us choose the right words to express our emotion in a godly way.

Our emotion needs constant sanctification. Let God cleanse it with His word. Let His love heal our brokenness. Let tenderheartedness and forgiveness replace bitterness and anger in our heart. God has every right to be angry at us all the time, and yet the Bible is crystal clear that He is patient with our weakness. His love is described as a longsuffering love. It is His patience that keeps the world alive and livable. I pray that God’s patient and longsuffering love give us strength and resources to deal with daily irritation.

The world doesn’t need any more anger. Violence, murder, abuses all tell us that it has had enough. It needs to hear that God is patiently waiting for their repentance. It needs to hear that the loving God leaves the door open for people to embrace His love in Christ. He still leaves the door open wide before the coming of the Day of Judgment. May His patience guide our emotion, and may His longsuffering love comfort us when we are tempted to hurt back those who hurt us.