How We Become Angry People

by | Jun 19, 2024

Take a moment to picture in your mind two different people you know. First, think of someone who exudes kindness, strength, and grace. Think of what it feels like to be in that person’s presence. Now, think of someone you know who tends to complain, hold grudges, and be easily offended. Who would you rather be with? More importantly, who would you like to become? 

Many things in this world make us angry; there are things that should make us angry. Anger is the right response to injustice and evil. It is an important and necessary human emotion that alerts us to a problem and prompts us to take action. However, anger can also destroy lives– yours and those around you. 

As a Christ follower, it can be tricky to understand what should make us angry and how anger becomes destructive. Some people never allow themselves to feel anger. For others, anger has become a defining characteristic. 

Paul wrote a curious thing to the early Christians:

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)


These short verses tell us a few things about anger:

  1. To be angry is not a sin. Anger is a normal human emotion and is also an aspect of being made in the image of God. If your spouse cheated on you, if a stranger abused you, or if a friend lied to you, you should be angry. God wants you to be furious about evils like abuse in the church and sexual exploitation; He is angry about these things. There are very good reasons, personally and globally, to experience anger.
  2. If we are not careful, anger can become sinful. By its very nature, righteous anger has a short shelf life. There are some things that we literally need to surrender to God before the sun goes down, while greater offenses may take longer to work through. But the principle is the same. The human heart cannot carry anger for long without it souring into bitterness.
  3. Holding onto anger gives the devil a territory in our hearts. It’s very difficult to stay angry about one thing without that bitterness leaking into other compartments of our lives. Soon, the enemy is not only one person but entire categories of people like religious leaders, men who struggle with porn, or assertive women. 

We stay stuck in anger when we continually rehearse the wrongs that make us angry and search for new reasons to justify that anger. There are some books, podcasts, and news outlets, both secular and Christian, that will feed on your anger, continually serving up yet another reason why you shouldn’t trust and should never forgive. 

Anger is a necessary stop on the journey to healing, but it should never become our destination. Staying angry can make you feel like you are safer and more powerful. You may even begin to think that your anger is the necessary fuel in a righteous crusade against evil. Remember what James wrote. “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). If you truly want to confront evil, give yourself wholly and fully to being filled with God’s Spirit and obediently surrendering to His will, whatever He asks you to do. Living in anger will sap your strength and will cloud your discernment, making you less effective in creating change. 

God’s antidote to anger is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. Jesus told us to always forgive. This means that we don’t harbor bitterness in our hearts towards someone who has harmed us. Instead of taking revenge, we leave judgment to God. However, forgiveness doesn’t always mean the relationship is restored. Reconciliation requires genuine repentance and the desire to rebuild trust.

Forgiveness means: 

  • Being honest with God about what makes you angry. The psalmists, including David, gave us prayers and songs that show us how to pour out our anger before the Lord. 
  • Addressing the wrong where possible and appropriate. There are some situations in which we can confront the person who makes us angry. Sometimes we need to take action like filing charges or reporting evil to those who can bring justice. In other situations, that confrontation is not possible or is unwise. 
  • Leaving retribution to God. “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…Instead, if your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (Romans 12:19 – 20). Paul’s advice is based on the truth that God sees everything and will bring justice in His time. Jesus took it a step further telling us to love and pray for our enemies. 

Do you remember those two people I asked you to picture at the beginning of this blog? Which do you want to be? Without question, the person you experience as kind, strong, and gracious has lived through reasons to be angry. But he or she didn’t stay stuck there.

Reflection questions: 

  • What friends or content do you engage with that tend to fuel anger instead of encouraging grace? 
  • What righteous anger is turning sour in your heart? Take a moment today to confess your anger to God