How to express anger appropriately

“THE anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
So wrote James the Just, a prominent leader of the first century church. It’s an astute observation. Think of the times you have expressed your anger inappropriately and it has led to damaging accusations, criticism, and silence.
Thankfully, James was a practical man and prior to making this statement, he provides three steps to encourage us to express our anger in an appropriate way.
Step One: Be quick to hear.
Are you familiar with the old quip, “God gave us two ears and one mouth – which one do you think He wants you to use the most?”
When we feel threatened or under attack, our predisposition as human beings is to jump in quickly and defend ourselves, rather than listening to the other person. This inevitably leads us to making assumptions about what the person is saying or is going to say, resulting in frustration for both parties: one is left feeling unfairly misunderstood and the other, personally criticised again.
All of this can be diffused quite easily by simply taking the time to listen, really listen, to what the other person is trying to communicate.
Step Two: Be slow to speak.
This follows on naturally from the first piece of advice. There comes a time when you will need to speak, but even then, James says, “Don’t jump in too quickly!”
James is encouraging us to be thoughtful and reflective about our responses to what the other person is saying.
Have you ever said something which you later regretted?
I remember many years ago, early in our marriage when Karen and I were having an argument. At one point, Karen said something that really got under my skin – I cannot remember what it was – but I do remember it was quite close to her birthday and I blurted out angrily at her, “You don’t deserve a birthday!”
I regretted it instantly, especially when I saw the wounded look on her face. Chuck Swindoll once said, “I have never regretted a word I did not say, but there are many I regret having spoken!”
Learning to take time with your answers – being slow to speak – is a great discipline to cultivate and an excellent tool in helping you to keep a lid on your anger.
Step Three: Be slow to anger.
I know you are most likely thinking that this is easier said than done, but honestly, if you begin to apply the first two principles consistently, the third follows quite naturally.
The book of Proverbs puts it this way: “A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention.”
Ever noticed how angry outbursts usually produce the same response in others? You often see this at protest marches. Two sides oppose each other, there is a lot of angry yelling back and forth, with no one listening to each other and all too often it descends into physical violence.
But when someone takes the time to restrain their anger, even in the face of extreme provocation, it is like oil being poured over troubled waters. The situation begins to calm down and order is restored.
We see these three principles played out in the life of Jesus when He was betrayed and crucified.
When He is falsely accused by lying witnesses that He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it three days late, He remains silent.
When it does come time to answer His accusers, He replies wisely and thoughtfully: “I have spoken openly to the world.”
Finally, in the face of mocking abuse as He dies, He declares, “Father, forgive them.”
God’s righteousness – the gift of salvation for the whole world – is achieved while a world rages against Him. Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger will achieve right relationships – with God and others.

Filed under: Rob Furlong - Building Better RelationshipsTagged with: , ,