How can I manage my anger? What can I do to overcome a temper problem?
Being angry to the point of sin comes naturally to us, but God offers help in our anger management struggle.
First, realize that anger itself is not wrong and being angry is not always a sin. Galatians 5:20, which is part of the list of the “works of the flesh” we are to overcome, mentions “outbursts of wrath.” By contrast, verse 23 mentions the spiritual fruit of “self-control.” Ephesians 4:26-27 adds a few more pieces to the puzzle: “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”
These verses tell us that being angry to the point of sin comes naturally to us, that Satan encourages the wrong tendency even beyond our human nature and that we can control or manage anger with the help of the Holy Spirit. God does not say that we should try to squelch anger altogether; in fact, the Bible shows that this passionate emotion can motivate us to proper action. The challenge is in anger control. This is accomplished through the process of overcoming.
Anger management: the process of overcoming an anger problem
God promises to forgive those who repent, confess their sins, turn from them and turn toward a life of obedience. Most people stop at just feeling sorry when they get caught, but that doesn’t cut it. We also have to exercise the will to stop doing what’s wrong and put forth effort again to do what is right. Living the Christian way of life requires work. Sadly, many religious teachers convey that all that one needs to do is ask for forgiveness. We need to know what we’ve done wrong and what God calls right or righteous. While most assume they know these matters, the truth is, most do not! People who truly want God’s help must become educated about His will.
What happens after we repent of a sinful outburst of anger and ask for forgiveness? Because we still live in this present evil world and still have human nature, we will sin again. The apostle Paul candidly spoke of his ongoing struggle against human nature in Romans 7:14-25. The necessity to fight this battle should not discourage us, for, as Paul brings out, we can count on victory through Jesus Christ.
Many people do not realize that God’s forgiveness does not remove our human nature, that negative tendency within all people to commit sins like losing our temper. Our human nature is a product of sins that we committed in the past, the effect on our lives of the sins committed by others and the general influence of Satan over the entire world.
Using the strength of God’s Spirit to struggle against negative pulls helps us to develop godly character. By way of analogy, pulling against resistance is the only way to strengthen muscle tissue. On the other hand, muscle tissues atrophy and weaken if they have no weight to pull against. The human spirit is similar, in that a struggle to do what is right strengthens one’s character. But a person who never encounters struggles in life will be weak. Further, having to do spiritual battle to achieve anger management motivates us to continuously seek God and His help. That’s healthy, lest we become proud and independent. When Christians sin, we need to repeat the initial repentance process: acknowledge the sin before God; ask for His forgiveness and help to change (1 John 1:8-10).
Christ inspired Paul to write: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).
Battling temper temptations
Christ is telling us plainly that the battlefield on which we win or lose against temptations is the battlefield of thought. We have to learn to recognize wrong thoughts—temptations to react violently, to plot revenge, to seethe with rage—whether generated by our own natures or inserted into our minds through any one of numerous aspects of “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
Frankly, because modern Christianity misinforms them, most people who think of themselves as Christians never received the benefit of forgiveness and spiritual help. They think they are converted when they aren’t. They have been misled by false teachers into believing that all they need to do is pledge their lives to Christ, expecting Him to simply take over for them. This is far from what the Bible teaches about conversion, so these people never experience the spiritual help that God would like to give to them.
You might consider whether you have God’s Spirit in you in the way that He promises to give it to Christians. Review our booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion for a study of the Scriptures that explain the process. It includes repentance, faith, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and, finally, continuing in the Christian way of life.
In conclusion, here are four simple but effective things that all Christians need to do in order to be able to overcome. They apply to anger control too. They are:
(1) pray to God instantly when you find yourself tempted—before you actually sin;
(2) pray regularly and at length at least once every day, in order to maintain a relationship with your heavenly Father;
(3) study the Bible every day to learn and be reminded of His will; and
(4) meditate often, focusing your thoughts on this specific subject of anger for several minutes, thinking about when you have lost your temper and picturing yourself doing better at anger management.