What makes you angry? Do you get upset when you’re stuck in traffic? When there is a miscommunication with your boss or spouse? Do you get angry when your kids are fighting amongst each other, or when a child gets a bad grade at school?
Do you get angry when it is your turn to take out the trash or walk the dog, and you don’t feel like doing it at that time? Do you get irritated easily when a specific person talks with you? What about when someone spills a drink on you?
We all have triggers that make us angry. Some are easier than others to identify. Expression of anger has many forms, and all of them can be deleterious when anger is not handled properly. Reacting to a person who is annoying us by yelling and screaming is likely to be met with more of the same.
Verbally abusing someone with vitriolic language because they accidentally spilled something on us in a restaurant can have long-lasting effects on those witnessing the event, not to mention the guilt we might later experience ourselves.
When is getting angry an automatic reaction; and how can we, as Christians, mitigate that response in a healthier way? Sometimes, that means simply taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and taking the necessary time to calm down and reassess the situation so that you can implement a healthier coping response. Sometimes, it means taking a longer period to calm down, such as taking a walk or tabling a heated conversation for a later time.
The good news is that anger is normal. Everyone gets angry at some point. The important point is to recognize the triggers and situations that cause your anger; how you can best handle your anger in the immediate situation; and how you can best keep your anger from escalating into an explosive event that can cause irreparable damage in your relationships.
Unforgiveness and holding grudges are the most dangerous forms of anger for a Christian. The Bible tells us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. Recognizing anger before it turns to unforgiveness – and before that unforgiveness turns to bitterness – is critical to the success of our relationship with God.
We also must learn to recognize unforgiveness when it is disguised as righteous anger. What may seem righteous to us may not be in the eyes of God. God is not going to fall apart because we get angry; however, He expects us to deal with the anger, forgive others, and get back on track.
Causes of Anger
- From a clinical perspective, some common causes of anger include:
- Personal problems, such as missing a promotion at work or relationship difficulties
- A problem caused by another person, such as canceling plans
- An event like bad traffic or getting in a car accident
- Memories of a traumatic or enraging event
(Healthline Media, 2005-2020)
Two primary causes of anger include interpersonal conflicts in relationships and miscommunications. Learning how to handle interpersonal conflicts and miscommunications without getting angry, or at least without anger getting the upper hand, requires regular practice of healthy coping skills.
Words said in the heat of anger can damage or even end relationships. Some practical healthy coping skills include taking assessment of your thoughts before speaking; practicing forgiveness; taking a break; relaxing; using humor to diffuse the situation; and using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. When you are unable to implement healthy coping interventions, that is the time to seek counseling from a therapist or a pastor.
Symptoms of Anger
Some signs that your anger is not normal include:
- Anger that affects your relationships and social life
- Feeling that you must hide or hold in your anger
- Constant negative thinking and focusing on negative experiences
- Constantly feeling impatient, irritated, and hostile
- Arguing with others often, and getting angrier in the process
- Being physically violent when you’re angry
- Threatening violence to people or their property
- An inability to control your anger
- Feeling compelled to do, or doing, violent or impulsive things because you feel angry, such as driving recklessly or destroying things
- Staying away from certain situations because you’re anxious or depressed about your angry outbursts
(Healthline Media, 2005-2020)
Explosive Anger (Intermittent Explosive Disorder)
When anger is more frequent and/or explosive, it is important to assess for Intermittent Explosive Disorder. This diagnosis includes meeting the following criteria as listed in the DSM-5:
- Verbal aggression (e.g. – temper tantrums, tirades, verbal arguments, or fights) or physical aggression toward property, animals, or other individuals, occurring twice weekly, on average, for a period of 3 months. The physical aggression does not result in damage or destruction of property and does not result in physical injury to animals or other individuals.
- Three behavioral outbursts involving damage or destruction of property and/or physical assault involving physical injury against animals or other individuals occurring within a 12-month period.
(American Psychiatric Association, 2013)
Generally, males are at higher risk for Intermittent Explosive Disorder. However, that does not mean that females have no risk and are not susceptible. If females meet the criteria and are exposed to other risk factors, they can also be diagnosed with this disorder.
Additional risk factors include:
- Exposure to violence at an early age
- Exposure to explosive behaviors at home
- Having experienced physical trauma
- Having experienced emotional trauma
- History of substance abuse
- Certain medical conditions
(Valley Behavioral Health System, 2020)
Anger in the Bible: 19 Scriptures on Anger
There are plenty of passages about anger in the Bible, and the Scriptures also include interventions on both avoiding it and handling it as it arises. It also provides instruction when the anger has gone too far: Be quick to forgive!
Here are 19 verses relating to anger in the Bible:
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. – Colossians 3:8
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest. – Ecclesiastes 10:4
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. – Ephesians 4:26
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” – Isaiah 57:21
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. – Ephesians 4:31
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. – Psalm 34:14
Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. – Psalm 37:8
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. – Proverbs 15:18
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man. – Proverbs 22:24
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. – Proverbs 29:22
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. – 1 Timothy 2:8
So, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:22
Christian Counseling for Anger Issues
Beyond studying and contemplating verses about anger in the Bible, you may consider pursuing Christian counseling for anger management. Feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment.
American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing.
Healthline Media. (2005-2020). Why I am so angry? https://www.healthline.com/health/why-am-i-so-angry#causes
Valley Behavioral Health System. (2020). Signs & symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder. https://www.valleybehavioral.com/disorders/ied/signs-symptoms-causes/
“Mad”, Colurtesy of Marco Jimenez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Crowd Dynamics”, Courtesy of Matthieu Joannon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Frustration”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Meditate”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License