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We have five basic choices in managing the emotion of anger.
Suppression (worldly) – the conscious intentional exclusion from consciousness of a thought or feeling. This choice stops healthy processing. It also contributes to a toxic level of internalized anger.
Aggression (worldly) – any offensive action, assault or attack. This choice seeks to hurt others openly and to exact revenge.
Passive Aggression (worldly) – expression of negative emotions in passive, indirect ways such as manipulation or noncooperation. This choice pretends to be ok, but seeks revenge covertly rather than openly.
If we choose any of these (suppression, aggression or passive aggression) we are attempting to process our anger without God’s help. It won’t work.
Assertive to bring about good change (Godly) – faith-led effort to protect others. This choice has phenomenal potential to use suffering and anger so others can be protected against similar suffering and anger.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is an example of using anger from a loss to bring about social change to protect others in the future.
Drop it (Godly) – release desire to understand or get even. This
choice is challenging because it forces us to trust God and rely on faith. It can be the most liberating.
If we choose either of these (assertive to bring about good change or drop it) we are obeying God’s command: “In your anger do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) This allows God to direct our response and the processing of the anger.
God has provided clear instructions and a timeline for processing anger.
Consider the following Scripture. It holds some keys for how we can handle anger in the way that God instructs us.
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
Now, let’s take the verses apart and examine them:
“In your anger do not sin.”
God does not tell us to never experience anger. He tells us not to sin through the expression of our anger. Only by faith can we process our anger. If we express anger apart from faith, we sin. Romans 14:23b says, “. . . and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
I cannot keep the sun from going down. I can, with God’s help, be aware of and process my anger as I go through the day.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31) “…and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians. 4:27)
Spiritual footholds almost always come about as a result of sin. The devil knows how important faith and forgiveness are to God. He also knows that our sin grieves the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). When the Holy Spirit is grieved, He withholds the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) This allows the devil, through our sinful nature, to produce the fruit of the flesh, which includes sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21)