Anger & Guilt for Christians… 5/11/07

It seems that anger has gotten a bad rap in the Christian community. Most Christians have difficulty expressing anger and frustration without feeling guilty and preachers connote anger with sin. We know that anger was expressed in the Bible by godly men such as Nehemiah (in Neh. 5:6-7}when he felt very angry over the injustices occurring at the time to his countrymen. He takes on the problem in a very confrontive manner. Paul angrily confronts Peter in Galatians accusing him of “not keeping in line with gospel” (Gal. 2:11**read below). In John 2:12-17  Jesus reacts in anger towards those who are selling goods in His Father’s house – by throwing over the tables and using a whip to chase out animals.

So, why is it that good and righteous anger is not acceptable amongst Christians when there are numerous examples of God and his people becoming angry in the Bible? Maybe it’s because as Christians we are prone to sin and it’s hard to decifer whether anger is appropriate or inappropriate. 

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, but, don’t sin… don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  There are some principles we can glean from this and other verses for “being good and angry“.

1. Be angry. This verse says that there is a place for anger in the life of a Christian. Obviously, that anger must be under God’s control in order for it to be “good” or “righteous” anger. Rom. 1:17 says, “the righteous shall walk by faith”.  Therefore, we can conclude that any display of anger that emanates from our sinful nature and is not faith controlled will be expressed wrongly.

2. Don’t sin. What does sinful anger look like?  Fits of rage. Yelling and outbursts. Slanderous remarks. Demeaning, disrespectful put-downs. Verbal abuse. Character assassinations. Threatening or harrassing behavior. Anytime you harm someone or destroy their property, etc., etc., etc.
Here’s what anger without sin should look like: respectful, courteous, caring, forthright, open, honest, tactful, compassionate, safe, non-threatening, empathic, etc.

3. Don’t pout and ruminate on your anger: Resentment will build and anger will escalate when we continue to give anger room to grow in our lives. The Bible says, “forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Col. 3:13)  There are no qualifications or “ifs” about forgiveness. We have to forgive our enemies. We are told to forgive anyone who has offended us. It’s hard. It’s not easy to forgive and it doesn’t mean we allow people to continue to abuse or manipulate us. But, we can’t hold on to anger. Anger will keep us from moving forward, ruin our lives and relationships.So, how can you feel ok about anger and not feel guilty after getting angry? Sometimes, it’s false guilt. Other times, the guilt is a good measure of anger mismanagement and over-reaction to anger. How can you determine whether your guilt is true or false? 

Here is a questionnaire you could complete after any incidents in which you felt angry:

1. Describe the situation which occurred.What was the issue?

2. How did I respond?
Did I talk harshly___, loudly___, disrespectfully___, critically___, in a threatening___ or judgmental way___?
Did I make character assassinations?___

3. Was my response measured,___ respectful___, tactful___, honest___? Did I keep to the issue described in question one? ___
I listened___
I paraphrased what was said to me___
I demonstrated empathy (put myself in the other person’s shoes)___
I stated my feelings in a calm manner along with the facts___

4. What could I have done differently?How could I have responded in a healthier manner?
Used more tact___
Been more respectful___
Kept the tone of my voice down___
Listened more___
Summarized what was said to me___
Showed more empathy___
Stated my feelings firmly but calmly___

Measuring whether your guilt is true or false:
In order to determine whether you did something right or wrong – score your questionnaire this way:
1. If you checked anything in question 2 or 4 – your guilt is probably right-on. You most likely should apologize.
2. If you didn’t check anything in question 2 or 4 but, checked many of the items in question 3 – your guilt is most likely false. Ultimately, for the Christian – God is the real judge of whether your guilt is true or false. Pray about the situation and ask the Lord to convict you if you have offended someone and should apologize.If you haven’t done anything wrong and your conscience is clear – don’t apologize but, stay humble. Take responsibility for your actions and let the other person take responsibility for theirs. If the other person says you were harsh or loud – you can apologize that your behavior offended them and that you didn’t mean to offend them.  

Learn some anger management skills to help you cope with these situations.
Listen to the podcast:

Is Anger Always Sinful?
Most religious people believe anger is wrong. Many don’t act on their anger when injustice is taking place. Learn what it means to ‘be angry and not sin’.
Click to listen

And anther helpful podcast: Talk-Out Your Anger!
“Most people tend to hold anger in or explode. Some use manipulation. Learn some no-guilt techniques to assertively express your anger and get your needs met without squashing others.”

See www.whatsgoodaboutanger.com for FAQs, Quick Tips for Managing Anger Podcasts and the All About Anger blog.

**Gal 2:11-16  When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?  15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  NIV  Gal 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong. TLB  Gal 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.  TEV Gal 2:11 But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I protested and opposed him to his face [concerning his conduct there], for he was blameable and stood condemned. AMP_____________________________________________________________
© copyright 2007 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC, Anger Management Specialist
What’s Good About Anger podcasts, blog, resources

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