Do you ever get irritated with friends who believe differently than you do about politics or Covid? Do you get annoyed with the faults of a spouse or family member? Do you get frustrated with people who drive at a different speed than you drive? If so, today’s post and podcast will help. We’ll be discussing how to stop being angry. Before we do that, though, let’s look at what anger is.
What is anger?
When I first started helping people let go of anger, I discovered people have different definitions for anger. Many picture anger as the person who is yelling and swearing, but anger is more than that. It also includes resentment, irritation, annoyance, and frustration. Often we stuff feelings of anger because we feel bad about it. But if you stuff those emotions for too long, you may not even know you’re angry.
How do you know you’re angry?
If you’re used to stuffing or denying your anger, it will be hard to spot it in the beginning. Look for times when you feel out of sorts. Then think back to the last few hours. Did something just happen to upset you? Did you read something on the news? A post on social media? Did someone say something hurtful?
Ask yourself, “What emotion am I feeling?” This will help you begin to recognize your emotions. Anger, resentment, irritation, frustration, and bitterness all fall into the category of anger. Judgement and pride are accompanying emotions.
What causes anger?
Have you ever been in a situation where you were angry and your friend wasn’t? Even though you were both witnessing the same thing happening? We all get angry at different things because of our different life experiences, beliefs, and personalities. If we know why we’re angry, it will be easier to stop being angry. Begin by asking yourself, “Why am I angry?” Here are a few reasons we get angry, irritated, annoyed, or resentful:
- We think we’re right–and get mad at all those wrong people out there.
- We think others need to make us happy–and get mad when they don’t.
- We think life should be easy–and get frustrated when it’s not.
- We think we shouldn’t have to suffer–and get mad when people expect us to do things that are hard.
- We compare our strengths to other’s faults–and get mad when they’re not more like us.
- We care too much about what others think–and get mad when they don’t give us enough praise or affirmation.
- People we love do scary things–and our fear comes out as anger.
- People we love say and do things to hurt us–and our pain comes out as anger.
- Politicians do things we think will harm people or destroy our way of life–and our fear comes out as anger toward both the politicians and all the people who follow them.
Is anger bad?
Any time I teach on anger in a Bible study, I’ll always have at least one person in the room bring up righteous anger. The idea is that there are good forms of anger and bad forms of anger. The problem is that even if there are good forms of anger, we engage in the bad form 95% of the time. So rather than defend ourselves for the 5%, we’re better off if we work on the 95% of unrighteous anger!
It’s true that God is angry in the Bible at times and since we know God never sins, we know it’s possible to be angry and not sin. But Romans 3:10 tells us that “none is righteous, no not one.” So my question is, can an unrighteous person have righteous anger? That question is up for debate and people will answer it in different ways.
One of the ways people answer it is to point out how you need righteous anger to right all the wrongs in the world–to help save the innocent from their abusers, for example. My question is, could you help the innocent with a motive of love rather than an emotion of anger? When Jesus died on the cross, I don’t think he was angry.
Jesus appears to be angry in the temple when he is overturning tables and it’s possible he was–but if you look at those passages, it doesn’t actually say he was. Although if he was, He would be another example of God–who is 100% righteous–being angry.
I think you could make a biblical case for both points of view, so I usually try to avoid this part of the anger topic. But since it’s a topic that always comes up, I thought I should at least mention it.
What does the Bible say about anger?
If you look up anger in the Bible, you’ll find some examples of God being angry and all kinds of verses telling us not to be angry. The only passage that seems like it’s saying we can be angry is Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry and yet do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Here’s the interesting thing, though. In the Greek, the verb for “be angry” can either be translated “be angry” or “you are being angry.” The reason for this is that the imperative 2nd person plural form (be angry) is the same as the present active indicative 2nd person plural form (you are continually being angry) in the Greek. (See pages 12 and 111 in Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers, Broadman Press, 1950.)
But even if we use the imperative form, the verse still tells us to let go of our anger before we go to sleep. Why? Because otherwise we’ll give the devil an opportunity. I don’t know how many times I’ve given the devil an opportunity by holding onto my anger for not just a day but weeks and months and even years. When we do that, we hurt ourselves and others.
How does anger hurt us and others?
Here are just a few of the ways our anger, irritation, annoyance, and resentment hurt ourselves and others:
- Anger destroys relationships. When we hold onto our anger, we don’t want to be with the person we’re angry with. We’re not thinking of any of their positive traits, just their faults. This makes us dislike and even hate them and there goes the relationship. Just think of what would happen if every married person followed Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:26-27. Divorce lawyers would go bankrupt!
- Anger hurts our relationship with God. Have you ever been so annoyed with a person that you can’t let go of it? I have. And during the seasons of my life when that happened, I noticed I didn’t feel as close to God. James 4:6 says that God is opposed to the proud. Anger often reflects a proud heart and it distances us from God.
- Anger keeps others from recognizing their sin and repenting. Just think of the last time someone was angry with you. Did it make you think, Oh, I need to change my ways. I just realized I’m sinning! Or did it make you think, This person is such a jerk for being angry with me! Romans 2:4 tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. This is true for us as well. People will be more likely to recognize their sin and feel bad for it if we’re kind to them.
- Anger keeps us from recognizing our sin and repenting. When we’re angry, we’re so focused on the sins or faults of others, that we don’t notice our own sin. We feel like we have a right to our anger and forget all the verses in the Bible talking about giving grace and forgiving others. In truth, our own sins of pride, judgment, and sustained resentment are just as bad or worse than the sins of the people we’re angry with.
- Anger robs our joy. Have you ever been angry and joyful at the same time? Probably not! Anger robs our joy. It keeps us from experiencing the abundant life. God wants us to love others well, but He also wants us to live joyful lives. The sooner we get rid of our anger, the better!
- Anger robs the joy of others. No one likes to listen to an angry person yell. Not the people who are being yelled at and not the innocent bystanders. Even if we’re angry and not yelling, people can sense our resentment and it robs their joy. It’s hard to hide anger–much better to work at getting rid of it!
How do you control angry outbursts?
So how do you stop being angry? Much of the literature on how to stop being angry focuses on how to control our anger. With this approach, we’re still angry. We’re just learning how to control it.
I agree that we need to learn to control our anger. We don’t want to have outbursts because they hurt people and scare people. But what if we could let go of the angry feelings altogether? If we could do that, we wouldn’t have to control our anger because it wouldn’t be there to control. This is actually possible, and I’ve experienced it myself.
My brother once said, “Barb, you say the things everyone else is thinking but are afraid to say.” This is true. That’s why it was so much more helpful for me to learn how to get rid of the angry thoughts, than just control the anger. Because if it was in my head, I was going to say it.
God did teach me how to let go of anger, and although I still get annoyed at times, it’s no longer a big issue in my life. God can do the same for you. Following are 12 tips to help you stop being angry.
How to Stop Being Angry – 12 Tips
When I first started practicing these tips, I thought I was inviting myself to life of misery. A life of everyone else getting what they wanted but not me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The more I learned to let go of my idea of what had to happen for me to be happy, the happier I became. Here are the steps I took–and you can take–to stop being angry.
- Don’t beat yourself up about it. I was lucky because I was never a yeller. Because of that, I didn’t feel guilty about my anger when I first started working on it. I just calmly renewed my mind every time I got angry. But if you’re a yeller, you may spend a lot of time beating yourself up. Try not to do that. The truth is that everyone has faults, and anger is just one of many. Is it important to work on? Yes! But work on it from the safety of your Father’s arms, knowing that He loves you as is.
- Renew your mind every time you’re angry. The first thing I learned when I started working on anger was that I believed some lies that were making me angry. The more I got rid of the lies, the less I got angry. Renewing is a skill that takes time and effort to learn. Check out the renewing of the mind tools tab at the top of this blog for more help with renewing. You can also use the anger questions from I Deserve a Donut (and Other Lies That Make You Eat) or the Renewing of the Mind Project to renew. I’ll give you an example of renewing with those questions at the end of today’s podcast episode. Another way to renew is with truth journaling. Here’s an example of truth journaling for anger: Renewing when angry at your spouse.
- Recognize the consequences of your anger. When we’re angry, we’re so wrapped up in how that person is hurting us or others that we don’t see how our anger is hurting us and others. Option charts can help you see the consequences of your anger. This podcast episode shows the option chart in action: Option Charts: Tool for a Happy Christian Marriage. Option charts take a bit of time to learn, but they’re incredibly helpful in letting go of anger. Why? Because they help us see in black and white how anger is affecting our walk with God, relationships, enjoyment of life, and even our chances of being able to change the person who is making us angry. Seeing the consequences of anger makes us want to let go of it.
- Accept what you need to accept. If you live in a rich western country, you probably grew up with the idea that you can change anything you want to change. But this is a lie. For example, how successful were you in changing your governor’s position on Covid? How successful have you been with changing your spouse’s or friend’s bad habits? Often the only thing we can change is our attitude–because like it or not, God hasn’t give us the power to change other people. This post will help with this step: Accepting the Unacceptable. Option charts (tip 3) also help with accepting the unacceptable.
- Don’t assume you’re right and everyone else is wrong. Think of it this way: have scientists ever believed one thing at one stage of history and then changed their minds years later? Or on a personal level, have you ever believed one thing at one stage of your life and another thing at another stage of our life? God is the only person alive who is right 100% of the time. That means we could be wrong. The more we’re willing to recognize we might be wrong, the easier it will be to give others the benefit of the doubt and not be angry with them.
- Don’t people please. When we people please, we feel like we have to act a certain way for people to like us. Because of that we often resent the people we’re trying to please. We resent them for two reasons. First, we’re mad we have to act a certain way for them to like us. (Even though we’re often wrong about that. Often, they really will like us no matter what.) And second, we resent them because we may be doing things we don’t want to do to make them happy. There’s a big difference between people pleasing and doing things out of a sacrificial love for others. Either way we’re doing things we don’t want to do. But with sacrificial love, we feel like we have a choice. We’re doing it as a conscious decision to love others well. With people pleasing, we feel like we have to do it–and that makes us annoyed.
- Don’t compare your strengths to other people’s faults. Often we get angry and think, Why can’t this person be more like us? Well, here’s the truth. They’re not like us! They have different weaknesses and different strengths. When we compare our strengths to their weaknesses, we become angry with them. When we compare our weaknesses with their strengths, we become angry with us. Much better to stop comparing altogether!
- Be humble. (AKA recognize your own faults.) I found it was far easier to accept my husband’s faults when I took a good hard look at my own faults. I started out thinking he was the bad guy. But after renewing and doing the option charts, I realized that I was also a bad guy! In fact, I may even have been the worst guy. This works with relationships, but it also works with politics. Instead of looking at the faults of the other political party, look at the faults of your own party. Neither party is perfect. I’ve also found it helpful to think of ten good things about the president in charge when it wasn’t the president I voted for.
- Let go of unrealistic expectations. One of my friends once said, “If you keep expecting a person to act one way when he’s always show himself to act another way, you’re inviting yourself to be a victim all over again.” One way to let go of anger quickly is to just say, “Of course he just did (or said) that. He always does (or says) things like that.” Now granted, it’s not true that he always does this. But the quicker we can recognize, that hey, he does things like this, the more we can just it go. Everyone has faults. We don’t want to excuse things like actual abuse, but we also don’t want to jump on every single fault. The more we practice the next tip, the happier we’ll be.
- Give grace. Some people are natural grace-givers. I wasn’t. The first time I learned how to give grace (back in those angry wife years), I couldn’t believe how freeing it was. I went from thinking everyone had to act a certain way for me to be happy to being able to enjoy people in their as-is condition. It was life-changing. Just this incredible feeling of freedom and joy. God asks us to give grace, not just for others, but also for ourselves.
- Rely on God to get your emotional, relational, and safety needs met. I had a hard time deciding if this step should be “Learn to be content in all situations,” “Don’t expect others to make you happy,” or “Rely on God to get your needs met.” But the truth is that relying on God to get our needs met is what allows us to be content in all situations. When we feel things have to go a certain way for us to be happy, we’ll be angry with anyone who keeps that from happening. But when we believe deep down that we only need God to be happy, we’ll stop being mad at all those people who are getting in the way of our happiness. The key is to develop such a close walk with God that we actually experience Him meeting our needs. Here is a post and podcast on growing closer to God: 7 Ways to Get Closer to God.
- Work on changing whatever God wants you to change. Sometimes this will be your own heart–making a commitment to do some of the things I mentioned in this blog post. But other times it may be a plan to change the situation that’s annoying you. For example, you may decide to go into politics or start a community program or stop watching the news. You may decide to put up boundaries or end a dating relationship or go to a counselor. Or you may just start by getting a Bible study that will help with your problem or doing an Internet search to see how others deal with it. It’s good to work on problems. But it’s far better to work on problems from a heart that feels that even if you don’t come up with perfect solutions, life can still be good.
If you decide to make a project of letting go of anger, try to remember that life isn’t fair, nor is it easy. Letting go of anger is an act of laying down your life to love others well. That’s not easy. When I worked on it, I made a commitment to renew my mind every time I was annoyed with my husband. In two months, I saw a huge change in my attitude. It’s worth going through the effort to let go of this emotion!
Jesus came to give us abundant life. That abundant life is only dependent on us walking in the Spirit. It’s not dependent on us controlling all the people in our lives so they don’t hurt us. It’s also not dependent on all the leaders in the world making policies that will keep people safe and allow all of us to live the lives we want to live. The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. All of those things are the opposite of anger. My prayer is that God will continue to help each of us grow in walking with Him so that each year, we see more of His fruit in our lives.
More Resources to Help You Stop Being Angry
- On the podcast episode of this blog post, I go through the anger questions from I Deserve a Donut (and Other Lies That Make You Eat) and the Renewing of the Mind Project. If you’d like to hear what those look like in action, go to the podcast links at the bottom of this post and you can hear that at the xx minute mark.
- The Live in Peace tab at the top of this blog: If you look under this tab, you’ll see different emotions listed. Look under the anger heading and you’ll find different posts on anger, resentment, and irritation. Also, read this post to find out how to make a project out of letting go of anger.
- Renewing of the Mind Tools tab at the top of this blog: Click on the Renew Your Mind tab first, then the Renewing of the Mind Tools tab. This tab includes all kinds of resources to help you renew your mind.
- Freedom from Emotional Eating: Although I don’t have a Bible study on letting go of anger, I do have a whole chapter (5 lessons) on how to let go of anger in Freedom from Emotional Eating. The first chapter of this book is geared to letting go of emotional eating, but the rest of the book will be helpful for anyone as it deals with the negative emotions we all experience.
- How to Stop Being Annoyed podcast episode
- The podcast that goes with this blog post – the podcast is a bit different than the blog post so it may be helpful to listen to that as well. You can find the links below to listen to it – or just listen with the play button at the top of this post.
How to Listen to the Podcast
- To listen or subscribe on Apple Podcasts: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Android: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Stitcher: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Spotify: click here
- Amazon Alexa: To listen on Amazon Alexa, say, “Alexa, play the Christian Habits Podcast.”