Christian Counseling: The Good Side of Anger

Anger has been maligned, distorted, disgraced, judged and sentenced to death by the majority of conservative Christians. I see the consequences of its dismissal every day in counseling. The average Christian’s attitude and beliefs leave room only for quick acknowledgement and immediate confession. However, the truth is that kind of anger management is most often only an unhealthy psychological cutting off of emotions by spiritual means. Whether it is done as a result of too quickly giving in the pressure to forgive or because anger is viewed only as a destructive emotion or due to the fear of anger, the frequent end result is the dangerous repression of anger.

Before moving to discussing the good side of anger, consider these researched-based health risks of not facing and working out anger: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, muscle tension, back pain, TMJ and bruxism, immune suppression, disturbed sleep, decreased appetite, depression, chronic fatigue, paranoia, substance abuse, irritability, acts of violence, cognitive impairment (decreases ability to process information), and can make people relationally toxic. In the future, given more time to study unresolved anger’s impact, there will be other physical and emotional disorders that will be connected to mismanaged, denied and unresolved anger. The key point is that anger is not the problem, it is what we do or don't do with anger that has the great potential to harm ourselves and others.

The above consequences can serve to motivate people to handle anger more sensibly. I hope the following comments about the good side of anger will help positively alter attitudes, beliefs and feelings about anger. There are a number of benefits of being angry: motivates one to action, mobilizes psychological resources, boosts determination, seeks justice and corrects wrong behaviors, helps in overcoming negative feelings (fear, sadness and inadequacy), projects a strong image, protects against over vulnerability, holds others accountable, protects self and loved ones’ individual rights and freedoms by keeping others from having undue influence or control over oneself, and adds to our self-confidence in being prepared and able to handle life.

The majority of Christians need to revisit God’s words on anger and rework their theology. By doing so, here’s a sample of what can be found.

•  Even hatred must be a part of every human’s emotional nature (Proverbs 8:13).

•  In our English translation Ephesians contradicts itself—“Be angry” (4:26) and “Let all…anger…be put away from you” (4:31). The Greek words for anger in these two verses are different. In verse 26 it refers to anger without vengeful behavior, while the latter is anger that seeks vengeance. It is not anger that is wrong nor vengeful desires (never biblically condemned), but vengeful behavior.

•  Righteous anger is always righteous regardless if the Father, Jesus or you or I have it. My repeated experience in listening to others’ stories where anger played a role was that the far, far majority of the time it was righteous. We should not avoid anger because we may mistake unjustified anger for righteous anger and thereby sin, but be cautious about it. God gives us a mind, heart, wisdom, discernment and trusted others who can help us determine the appropriateness of angry feelings and even righteous expression. The operative word in the last sentence is “trusted” others, meaning those you know who have reworked their theology of anger according to biblical guidelines and no longer rely on personal preference or the mindset of the sleeping majority.

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