Written By: Judy E. Denby
Iíve been doing a lot of reading lately about anger. It was always one of those emotions that I felt was negative. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that there was something wrong with being angry, that it wasnít ladylike or Christ-like or whatever. I did my best to hide my own anger, and had a lot of trouble dealing with it when I saw it in others. Oh, I could appear calm and patient, but on the inside... boy, did I have some turmoil. A former coworker, who is now a very close friend, was in the process of dealing with issues of abuse from her past about which she was VERY angry, and that anger came out in bursts over several relatively minor work issues. I was her supervisor, and she would come to my office and rant and rave and yell and slam the door. I would try to be supportive but her anger made me cringe. I found myself (and noted the same behavior in other employees) tiptoeing around her, avoiding anything that would set her off, sacrificing my own personal good or doing some of the jobs she was responsible for, just to keep her peaceful. But inevitably something would happen, and the fireworks would begin again. 
I finally talked about it with a Christian counselor, and she was the one who helped me see that anger wasnít a bad thing. It is one of the emotions God gave us, so how could it be sinful? What we DO with it is different, but in itself anger is merely a way of helping us realize that something is wrong with the situation and we need to make a change. 	
The problem is that many of us are led to believe, as I was, that anger is not proper. After all, we reason, didnít Christ say turn the other cheek? (Matthew 5:39) Forgive others as you have been forgiven? (Matthew 18:21-22) We see these wonderfully controlled people who never seem to get upset over anything, and then we use them as our role models. Actually we should be setting ourselves in the way of the only Role Model we needóJesus Christ. While He seemed to show an incredible amount of patience and kindness, remember the scene in the temple? If not, read Matthew 21:12 or Mark 11:15. Jesus was angry and it showed. He was angry for a good reason (the moneychangers and others were using His Fatherís house for their own greed) and He did something about it. Iíll bet it was talked about for a good long time by the people who witnessed it! But the point here is that Jesus saw something that was terribly wrong, and it made Him angry, so He did something about it.
As I have said, anger in itself is not sinful, but what we do with it can lead us to commit some very sinful actions. How many of us say things in anger that we almost immediately regret, but although we try frantically to take the words back, the damage has been done. As a friend reminded me, it takes something like 10 positive comments to equal one negative comment. So getting upset with your son and telling him, in anger, that he is stupid or evil or unworthy does damage that will take a long time to heal, as does hitting children out of anger. Now I do not intend to get in to a debate on the merits of spanking; in fact, I think that spanking, done properly, can be a good way to get a childís attention and let him or her know that you are serious. I donít know how many times Iíve had to deal with young children who definitely needed it! - BUT parents need to be careful that they are not administering a beating while they are angry. If we allow anger to direct our actions, we can really harm both the childís body and his psyche, and teach him nothing about what he did wrong. We only teach him to fear our anger. 	
We MUST deal with our anger and release it, however. There are many ways that I can suggest. The first is that if someone has done something to cause your anger, and you can confront this person without fear for your own safety, do it - and do it as soon as possible! Holding in our anger only causes pressure to build up. Gary Smalley, a noted counselor and writer, likens it to our bodies being a pressurized can. If we keep holding it in, stuffing our anger down, we increase the pressure, and eventually we will explode. If you are unable to confront the person, sometimes it helps to write about it. Most counselors recommend writing. It is therapeutic and helps us to get in touch with ourselves. It is also a safe way to release our anger. I canít tell you how many hundreds of letters Iíve written to people who have upset me. I donít mail them, usually; they just help me release the steam so I can deal with the situation and get on with life. Talking about the situation to a trusted friend or spouse helps too. Sometimes we need to get physical, and work it out through exercise. A friend found it therapeutic to chop wood. Some people tear up phone books. Whatever it takes and however you do it, you need to acknowledge and release your anger. Being unable to deal with your anger can have many repercussions that can drag you down for years. Many therapists feel that anger, if stuffed, can lead to depression and/or a host of health problems and physical complaints. Sometimes we can misdirect our anger, aiming it inappropriately at someone who doesnít deserve it, thereby damaging a relationship. It can cause us to hold back a part of ourselves from others, so that we never really get close to anyone, and cannot appreciate the full joys of friendship, marriage, and children. It can leave us obsessing over revenge, or how to make sure the other guy gets what he deserves. And it can push people away. I used to be friendly with a woman who could never let go of her anger, and although I am ashamed to admit it, after a few years I found I had no desire to spend any time with her. She was smart and pleasant, and we had had some very good times together as two single girls. But I got so tired of constantly hearing the litany of people who had hurt her and how she hoped they would rot in hell. She was a good person who unfortunately let her anger eat at her until the bitterness took over her life. It even prevented her from hearing the Gospel when I tried to share it with her repeatedly. All she could do was talk about the hypocritical Christians she knew who had wronged her, and she had no desire to join the club, even though she acknowledged that I was not one of those. Eventually, I inadvertently did something that angered her; she had always talked about the fact that she had good morals and prayed to God, so she would go to heaven. I tried to point out to her that there was a lot more involved if she wanted to confirm her citizenship in heaven, and presto! My name was added to her list and I never heard from her again. Years later I tried to make contact, but found she was still holding a grudge. The worst part is that while I am concerned about her and still feel a desire to try to talk to her once more about Jesus, thereís a part of me that is relieved that I donít have to listen to her anymore. 
It is okay to get angry and in fact there are times when we should be angry. When innocents are being harmed, when injustice is present, and when we see the ways in which the Gospel is being misinterpreted, corrupted and then presented, we need to get good and angry, and do something about it. The key is to avoid sinning in our anger. I think of those who bomb abortion clinics. While I side with them on the issue and in ways admire them for taking a stand, they teach the world nothing about what is Godly and good when they harm or kill others. As the old saying goes, two wrongs donít make a right. But anger, used appropriately, can and will make a difference to ourselves and others. In Ephesians 4:26, we are told ďBe ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrathĒ. That pretty much sums up what counselors and therapists tell us about our anger. Now back in Biblical times they didnít have psychologists, but the message has stayed the same. Itís okay to be angry; just be careful what you do because of it, and deal with it as quickly as possible. 
I cannot stress enough the need to release your anger. Some people easily confront others and can immediately vent their anger and forget it. Others (and I typically fall in this category) will do just about anything to avoid a confrontation, and hold their anger in as it eats away at them and erodes their relationship with the person who made them so upset. It wasnít easy, but eventually I learned to speak up, defend myself, and voice my opinion in a non-threatening manner. And in those times when there just isnít the opportunity to do that, I write the person (or people) a letter. As you may have noticed, I can write a lot, and in those letters I do, until my anger is gone. I would encourage you to evaluate how you act when you are angry, and then to see if there is a better way to deal with it. It is definitely worth it.