Facing the Fire Within

Firefighters know the danger of letting a fire get out of control. They are trained to respond quickly. You, too, must respond quickly to control the flames of anger before they consume your life and leave a smoldering ditch of destruction.

“An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins”

(Proverbs 29:22)

What Are the Degrees of Anger?

Anger is an emotional agitation that occurs when a need or expectation is not met. Like heat, anger has many degrees, ranging from mild irritations to hot explosions.

  1. Indignation-simmering anger provoked by something unjust and often perceived a justified.
  2. Wrath-burning anger accompanied by a desire to avenge.
  3. Fury-fiery anger so fierce that it destroys common sense.
  4. Rage-blazing anger resulting in loss of self-control, often to the extreme of violence and temporary insanity.

What Are Misconceptions About Anger?

Is it a sin for a person to be angry? No, the initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way you express this emotion determines whether your anger becomes sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.”

How can a person keep from feeling guilty when he is angry? Your anger is a signal that something is wrong. The purpose of the red warning light on a car dashboard is to propel you into action-to cause you to stop, evaluate, and do what is needed. For example, Jesus became angry at the hypocritical religious leaders who interpreted “resting on the Sabbath” to excess: “He look around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’…and his hand was completely restored” (Marked 3:5).

What Are the Four Sources of Anger?

Hurt-Your heart is wounded. Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away.

Injustice-Your right is violated. Everyone has an inner moral code that produces sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or other (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart.

Fear-Your future is threatened. Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened, or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan for your life.

Frustration-Your effort is unsuccessful. Everyone has a God-given need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations of yourself or of others is a major source of anger.

What Is the Root Cause of Anger?

When we feel that our real or perceived rights have been violated, we can each respond with anger.

Wrong Belief:

“Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about my disappointments and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me”

Right Belief:

“Because the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointment to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

How Can Past Anger Be Resolved?

Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationships with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit. So how is this anger resolved?

Realize Your Anger

  • Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger.
  • Ask God to reveal any anger buried in your heart.
  • Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger.
  • Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor.

(Proverbs 21:2)

Revisit Your Root Feelings

  • Did you feel hurt (rejected, betrayed, unloved, ignored)?
  • Did you experience injustice (cheated, wronged, maligned, attacked)?
  • Did you feel fearful (threatened, insecure, out of control, powerless)?
  • Did you feel frustrated (inadequate, inferior, hindered, controlled)?

(Psalm 139:23-24)

Release Your Rights

  • Confess that harboring anger in your heart is sin.
  • Give your desire for revenge to God.
  • Refuse to hold on to your past hurts by releasing them to God.
  • Pray for God work in the life of the one who has wronged you and to change your heart toward that person.
  • Release the one who hurt you into the hands of God-forgive as God forgave you!

(Colossians 3:13)

Rejoice in God’s Purpose

  • Thank God for the ways he will use this trail in your life.
  • Know that God can use your resolved past anger for your good and for the good of those around you.
  • Praise God for His Commitment to use all the circumstance in your life to devolp Christ’s Character within you, making you strong, firm, and steadfast.

(Romans 8:28-29)

Restore the Relationship When Appropriate

Forgiveness looks at the offense; reconciliation looks at the relationship. Forgiveness can be done without the other person changing, but reconciliation requires trust to be rebuilt by both. When there is refusal to admit sin, reconciliation cannot happen. In the case of infidelity in marriage, the innocent party can forgive, but full restoration requires the adultery to stop. Spousal abuse can be forgiven, but it must stop before there can be reconciliation. The anger fueling an abusive attitude does not develop quickly and it will not dissipate immediately. Do not force reconciliation until there is truly a change of heart by the offender.

(2 Corinthians 5:20)

How Can I Release “Present Anger” Constructively?

“Anger is one letter short of Danger.” More than a catchy phrase, these words reflect the painful truth. And because too many times the tongue has not been tamed, conversations escalate out of control. These steps will help you learn to handle your anger constructively and biblically.

Acknowledge Your Anger

  • Be willing to admit you are angry.
  • Be aware of when you feel angry.
  • Become aware of suppressing or repressing you anger, because of fear.
  • Be willing to take responsibility for any inappropriate anger.

(Proverbs 28:13)

Analyze Your Style

  • How often do you feel angry?
  • How do you know when you are angry?
  • How do others know when you are angry?
  • How do you release your anger?

(Psalm 139:23-24)

Assess the Source

  • Hurt, injustice, fear, frustration. “surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you touch me wisdom in the inmost place” (Psalm 51:6).

Appraise Your Thinking

  • Are you expecting others to meet your standards?

“She should take better care of her children.”

“He ought to notice what I do for him.”

“He must be here before 7:00 p.m.”

“She’d better not call during dinner!”

  • Are you guilty of distorted thinking?

Exaggerating the situation

Assuming the worst

Labeling one action based on other actions

Generalizing by saying. “You never…” or “You always…”

(Proverbs 21:29)

Admit Your Needs

Anger is often used as a tactic to get inner needs met.

  • Do you use anger as a manipulative ploy to demand certain “musts” in an attempt to feel loved?
  • Do you use explosive anger to get your way in an attempt to feel significant?
  • Do you use controlling anger, insisting on certain conditions in order to feel secure?
  • Do you know that only Christ can ultimately meet all your needs?

(Philippians 4:19)

Abandon Your Demands

Instead of demanding that others meet your inner needs for love, significance, and security, learn to look to the Lord to meet your needs.

  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more love from other, I know that you love me unconditionally.”

“I have loved you with and everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more significant to those around me, I know that I am significant in your eyes.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • “Lord, though I wish I felt more secure in my relationship, I know I am secure in my relationship with You.” (Psalm 118:6).
  • “Lord, though I wish others would be more responsive to my needs, I know that You have promised to meet all my needs.” (2 Peter 1:3).

Alter Your Attitudes

Take the following steps, which are outlined in Philippians 2:2-8:

  • Have the goal to be like-minded with Christ.
  • Do not think of yourself first.
  • Give the other person preferential treatment.
  • Consider the other person’s interests.
  • Have the attitude of Jesus Christ.
  • Do not emphasize your position or rights.
  • Look for ways to demonstrate a servant’s heart.
  • Speak and act with a humble spirit.
  • Be willing to die to your own desires.

Address Your Anger

  • Determine whether your anger is really justified.
  • Decide on the appropriate response.

How important is the issue?

Would a good purpose be served if I mention it?

Should I acknowledge my anger only to the Lord?

  • Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
  • Develop constructive dialogue when you confront.
  • Don’t speak from a heart of unforgiveness. Think before you speak.
  • Don’t use phrases such as, “How could you?” or “Why can’t you?”

Use personal statements, such as “I feel…”

  • Don’t bring up past grievances. Stay focused on the present issue.
  • Don’t assume the other person is wrong. Listen for feedback from another point of view.
  • Don’t expect instant understanding. Be patient and keep responding with gentleness.
  • Demonstrate the grace of God by saying the following to yourself:

“I placed my anger on the cross with Christ.”

“I am no longer controlled by anger.”

“I am alive with Christ living inside me.”

“I will let Christ forgive through me.”

“I will let Christ love through me.”

“I will let Christ reveal truth through me.”

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”

(Galatians 2:20)