The three posts after the introduction in this current series focused on “Why” men need to manage their emotions, “How” God’s gift of emotions became distorted, and “What” do with our emotions to become more godly men. In this next post, I get into the first of the 8 emotions that I believe men need to learn how to manage: our Anger.
Anger is one of the most challenging emotions for men, especially since it is most often associated with negative reactions leading to poor choices, damaged relationships, and sometimes even violence.
Unfortunately, many men never learned to experience and express anger in a healthy manner. They use anger to hide their hurt and fear because those aren’t considered “manly” emotions. Unhealthy anger gives us the illusion of maintaining power or control but it actually conceals our true feelings and blinds our ability to identify the wrong that’s been done.
It is important to start by noting that there are two types of anger: sinful anger and righteous anger.
Generally defined, Dictionary.com describes anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually a response to an actively expressed opposition or hostility.”
Cambridge Dictionary further states anger as a strong feeling that “makes you want to hurt someone or be unpleasant because of something unfair or unkind that has happened.”
Wikipedia says anger is also known as rage, which “is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and hostile response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.”
There is also the good use of this emotion called “righteous” anger. This is a strong yet positive reaction about mistreatment, insult, or the malice of another person. Righteous anger means acting in accord with the divine or moral law and free from guilt or sin. It is a morally right or justifiable decision or action that arises from an outraged sense of justice and morality.
Environmental and Physiological Reaction to Anger
According to an article titled, The Negative Effects of Anger On You and Others from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, anger causes people to feel put off, upset, intimidated, afraid, or experience a handful of other unpleasant emotions. Anger also increases the risk of pushing loved ones out of your life for good.
As I stated in the last post, start by identifying the emotion of anger and circumstances causing it. This is critical since anger first manifests itself in the brain before you’re even aware of it.
As detailed in this infographic from The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, the first spark of anger activates the amygdala section of your brain which affects your body’s reactions. The amygdala first activates the hypothalamus that signals the pituitary gland, which activates the adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Too much cortisol decreases the hormone called serotonin that makes you happy. A decrease in serotonin makes you feel anger and pain more easily, as well as increases some aggressive behavior that can lead to depression.
Stress hormones also affect your cardiovascular system, immune system, and digestive system.
Anger is also an integral part of our fight-or-flight response.
However, anger often gets a bad rap.
Most of the time, it is acted out destructively or inappropriately but it is a powerful and positive emotion when it is acknowledged, understood, and channeled correctly.
According to a post titled, The Value of Anger, there are many reasons it’s good to get angry. More and more social and evolutionary psychologists, brain scientists, and mental health professionals suggest anger has valuable qualities and can be beneficial to the human condition.
Anger is a protective emotion that lets us know when we are not being treated fairly. Anger helps us recognize when others are not being treated well. Righteous anger is an energizing emotion that calls people to an action that helps fuel change. It leads to assertiveness, problem-solving, and activism. It is the energy and motivation required to change what isn’t working. It is standing up and protecting your family and friends and fighting against racism and discrimination.
But anger is good only when it is used for righteous reasons.
What the Bible says about Anger
Some Christian doctrines consider righteous anger as the only form of anger that is not a sin whereas some consider wrath as one of the seven deadly sins (along with Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, and Pride, although these are not explicitly listed as such in the Bible).
However, many in today’s “non-judgmental” culture would rather not hear about God’s wrath and judgment. In fact, some Christians would even rather focus only on the love of Jesus in the New Testament since God of the Old Testament seems so wrathful.
But God’s wrath is often misunderstood since it actually opens the way for His loving grace.
God doesn’t show anger toward His people because He hates us. God hates seeing our sin but loves us so much that He was willing to come as Jesus Christ to die on the cross on our behalf to offer us His grace even though we don’t deserve it.
All that said, I’m drawn specifically to a few specific Bible verses about anger, the first is about protecting the state of our heart:
“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”—Ecclesiastes 7:9 (English Standard Version)
The book of James also reminds us to be slow to get angry and use it for the right reasons:
“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
Lastly, my wife and I have used this one from Ephesians for 30+ years in our marriage about not ending your day in anger since that is sinful:
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”—Ephesians 4:26
These reminders all lead to the heart transformation we need to become godly men as much as any behavior modifications also needed to help root out our sinful anger.
How God Buddies Respond to Anger
If you struggle with anger, talk through it with your God Buddy. Once you’ve established that type of deeper-level relationship, start by confessing your struggle with controlling your anger (See James 5:16 about confessing sins to one another).
A key component of your relationship is to also give your GB permission to speak the truth in love to you at any time. This will allow him to point out your “blind-spots”; whenever he sees that you are overly angry or possibly even stuffing your anger.
Your GB doesn’t have to provide answers or try to “fix” you; he just needs to be a good listener. Ask him to pray with you and continue to pray for you to have better control over your anger.
Of course, if your anger and rage is out of control, seek professional help. Unhealthy anger is not something you should try to handle on your own.
To conclude this post, I’d suggest that God Buddies use their anger to help right the wrongs in this world but leave the final judgment of sins up to our Creator. As hard as it is, learning to manage our anger and using it to promote righteousness, is one of the major steps that help you come closer to becoming more like Jesus.
The next post is about Fear, especially, our fear of failure.