Christian anger management

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Do not confuse temptation with sin.

In and of itself, anger is just one of many feelings that are morally neutral.

Don't feel guilty about feeling angry

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us that anger can lead us astray.

Mt 5:22
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.

Jesus did not command us not to feel angry. Feeling angry is a natural reaction to the perception that someone is acting unjustly against us or against those whom we love. The moral question is how we act in response to our feelings of anger.

Sin is in the will, not in feelings. Jesus commands us not to will violence toward others. Paul makes this distinction between feeling and choosing very clear:

"Be angry but sin not" (Eph 4:26).

ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε

Jesus Himself felt angry (see below), but did not sin in doing so.

Passive aggression is aggression

"You have two emotions, silence and rage" (Midnight Run).

We may identify our enemies--and forgive them!

Difference between suppressed anger (cold rage) and sublimated anger (love of our enemies).

We are commanded to forgive our enemies.

This does not mean that we condone what they did to us.

It means that we let go of our natural reaction to their evildoing.

This requires God's power at work in us. Fortunately, when Jesus commands us to forgive our enemies, He gives us the power to do so.

Righteous anger

Those who do not feel angry at evil done to them or to other innocent victims are not healthy human beings.

The proper response to injustice is anger.

The purpose of this anger is to motivate the hard work that it takes to act against injustice.

Jesus' anger

At His disciples

Mk 3:5
καὶ περιβλεψάμενος αὐτοὺς μετ’ ὀργῆς, συλλυπούμενος ἐπὶ τῇ πωρώσει τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρα. (σου) καὶ ἐξέτεινεν, καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ.
Looking around at them with anger [wrath!] and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
Mark 9:19
He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”

At Pharisees

Mt 23:13-36
There are seven "woes" in this passage.

13 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’

17 Blind fools, [moroi][1] which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?

18 And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’

19 You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

20 One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;

21 one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it;

22 one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.

23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

24 Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.

26 Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.

28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous,

30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’

31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;

32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!

33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?

34 Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,

35 so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

36 Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Cleansing the Temple

Before the high priest

"If I have spoken wrongly," Jesus answered him, "give evidence about the wrong; but if rightly, why do you hit Me?" (Jn 18:23).

Unrighteous anger

Rage is a combination of anger and insecurity.

It is out of proportion to the injury (allegedly) suffered.

It breaks relationships.

It is a sin in and of itself. The sin committed against the person who rages does not justify the rage.

Distinguish between assertiveness and aggression

When we assert our rights, we grant the same rights to everyone else.

When we act aggressively, we deny others the rights we claim for ourselves.

Assertiveness is good.

Aggressiveness is bad.

Paul's anger

Galatians 5:12
Ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς.[2]
Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!

1 Cor. 7:6-9, 25-26

Home remedies

If you can't say anything nice ...

We have the right to remain silent. If we feel that we might lose control, it is better to bite our tongues and pray silently for the gift of peace.

Count to ten

This is one of my favorite proverbs about anger management: "A few moments of patience now will spare me a hundred days of regret."

Walk away

"Let go and let God." We do not have to stay and listen to abuse if our antagonist has become angry with us. We may leave the room or the house or the neighborhood in order to collect our thoughts and calm down.

Refrain and Reframe

This is a great lesson from cognitive psychology. Often it is not the action of others that causes us grief, but our reaction to it, based on our interpretation of the event.

Refrain from over-reacting.

Reframe the event.

Wait on the Lord; wait in the Lord; keep peace in your heart and keep peace with your neighbor.

References

  1. Jesus literally calls the Pharisess "morons" in spite of His teaching in this same gospel that "whoever says, ‘You fool’ [moron], will be liable to fiery Gehenna" (Mt 5:22).
  2. Bible Hub, Study Bible, Gal 5:12.

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