How to Diffuse Anger
My phone chimed once, twice, three times (although, not a lady).
I read the messages, trying to make sense of them because when will Apple figure out how to deliver successive texts in the order in which they were sent? I feel like it shouldn’t be that difficult…
I read the texts and felt it come over me as if someone had lit me on fire. FIRE, I tell you.
Anger. Hot ire threatening to overflow the boundaries of my heart. And I knew it would fill my mouth quick (or texting fingers, in this case) if I didn’t do something to stop it quicker.
I set the phone down. I breathed in. Out. In. Out. I prayed between breaths, “Father, help me honor You. Calm me.”
And I talked to myself, “I don’t have to react in anger. Doing so won’t help the situation. I don’t even have all the details. The greatest chance at peace and communication is to calm down and wait to talk about things when my heart can be respectful. This is not about me; this is not a personal attack. I don’t have to be defensive. I do have to honor God.”
The texts kept coming.
We agreed to talk in a couple hours.
My blood pressure returned to normal.
I felt good about myself, proud, even, telling my feelings what to do… not lashing out in anger for once…
Until we talked later. And the anger flared once more, and I spoke but couldn’t listen for all the rage rendering my ears useless.
I hung up the phone and thought to myself, “Well. Clearly, I was not ready to talk about that…”
So I turned to the scriptures to read about anger.
And you know what?
God was angry. A. Lot.
Yahweh was angry with the Israelites every other page of the Old Testament, and Jesus was often angry in the New Testament, mostly with dense Pharisees.
The Bible says God is slow to anger (Psalm 86:15), meaning it takes a lot to push Him over the edge, and He is only angry for a moment (Psalm 30:5), meaning He processes it quickly.
That’s great for God. But what about us? What about me – the woman who is enraged by children spilling milk because how many times have I told them not to play with their cups? The woman who is still angry at bedtime about the offense that happened over breakfast?
Well, the Bible speaks to us too.
Ephesians 4:31 tells us to “get rid of…rage and anger”. It’s okay to feel angry initially, but don’t let that feeling hang around. God doesn’t; we shouldn’t.
And just how, exactly, are we supposed to do that? Perhaps the next verse tells us how?
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32).
If I’m being kind and compassionate and forgiving, there’s not much room for anger to linger.
But what if I don’t want to get rid of anger? What if my anger is justified? Other than that whole “imitate God” thing (Ephesians 5:1-2), why should we want to get rid of our anger?
“Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” (James 1:20).
It just doesn’t.
Anger doesn’t bear in us correct thinking or spur us onto correct acting.
We want to act right (i.e., how God tells us to act) because our obedience is an expression of love to Him (John 14:23) and produces joy in us (John 15:10-11).
Anger blocks us from accomplishing those things.
It’s okay to feel anger initially. That’s just being human. (And, apparently, it is a sign we are made in God’s image because God feels angry at times, too).
But once we feel it, we have to learn how to diffuse anger as quickly as possible by being kind and compassionate and forgiving, just as Christ forgave us. That is how we express affection for God when we feel angry, and that is how our joy is made complete.
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