Anger is a powerful emotion. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” That can be easier said than done, can’t it?
If you’re not careful, unrestrained anger has the potential to destroy your life and relationships. Mismanaged anger can create a lifetime worth of regret.
How can you control your anger? How can you manage your anger in a way that is helpful, not harmful?
Here are a few tips:
1. Restrain your reactions.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19
Don’t feel like you have to respond or fix the situation right away. Unless it’s an emergency, attempting to resolve a situation when you’re angry is rarely a good idea. Pastor Craig Groeschel says, “When emotions are high, wisdom is usually low.”
If you’re in a heated discussion with another person, let them know you need time to think about the situation and you’ll touch base with them as soon as you can.
One of the best actions you can take when you’re angry is to give yourself time to cool down before you follow up. Pause. Breath. Count to 10 (or 100 if you need to). Doing something physical like going for a walk or run can help you get your emotions out without hurting yourself or someone else. Find healthy ways to rest and recharge, like working on a hobby, reading, journaling, take a bath, etc. Letting yourself relax now will help you respond better later.
2. Reflect on your next steps.
“…The prudent carefully consider their steps.” – Proverbs 14:15b
How would you want the other person to respond to you if the situation were reversed? What would a wise, successful person you trust do if they were in your position? What would you advise a friend if they came to you for guidance about a similar experience. Reflect on this question from Andy Stanley’s book, Ask It: “In light of my past experiences, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wisest thing for me to do?”
3. Request help.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
Don’t be too proud or afraid to ask for advice. Reach out to family and friends you can trust. Talk to someone you look up to. Schedule time to talk to one of the pastors at your church.
For ongoing issues with anger, join a small group at your church. Consider counseling and meeting with a support group like Celebrate Recovery. REMEMBER: You don’t have to do this alone. Here are a few resources you may want to look at:
4. Respond in a godly way.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” – Colossians 3:17
Own your piece of the problem. Apologize for anything you did wrong (without making excuses) and ask how you can make things right.
When confronting someone who has hurt you, go to them privately. Calmly explain how they hurt you and ask for a change. Avoid using judgmental statements like, “You always…”, “You never…”, “You’re so…” Instead, use a phrase like, “I feel…when you…because…” If that doesn’t work, try taking a safe person with you like a pastor or trusted friend who can help the two of you work things out.
If it’s not safe or possible to reconcile with them, set boundaries to protect yourself. Minimize your time together if they won’t change. Change jobs, churches, neighborhoods, etc. Unfollow them on social media and block them on your devices. Avoid places you know they will be as much as possible – even family gatherings if need be.
If what they did to you was criminal, abusive, etc, call the police and find a safe place to stay. God doesn’t want you to live in an abusive or dangerous situation.
5. Rely on God.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Don’t try to handle your anger with your own power. Plug in to God’s power. Pray and read Scripture daily. Listen to worship music. Sing praise songs to God. Set time aside for silence and solitude. When you mess up, confess it to God, trust him to forgive you and keep moving forward, one day at a time.