I struggle with anger and with lashing out. Thankfully, I tend to be quick to forgive and forget, and don’t hold grudges, but when my husband offends me or I think he’s attacking me (verbally), I go into fight mode. It’s not “fight or flight” for me–I always fight! I think the verse in Ephesians 4:26b, “…let not the sun go down on your wrath,” is a great excuse to just let out all the anger and wrath right before bedtime. However, I often forget the first part of that verse, “Be ye angry, and sin not:…” The key here is not sinning.
Let me just be clear: don’t plot your revenge, and don’t let out your wrath before bedtime or anything.
Let’s look at this complete verse, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath.” The first part states “Be ye angry,” which means that IT IS OKAY TO BE ANGRY. There is such a thing as righteous anger, for example, when Jesus takes out a whip and flips tables at the temple, calling the everyone in the temple market “thieves” in Matthew 21:12-13:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
But there is also anger that leads to sin, which is obvious. But when my husband says something to me and I interpret it to mean that he’s angry at me or blaming me for something (usually the fact that the baby is crying her head off), I feel angry and lash out with negative comments that tear down his spirit. Is this sin? Of course it is! So what’s my alternative? Cooling off.
Does this mean that a good Christian doesn’t get angry? No, of course good Christians can get angry. We can get angry for all the right reasons, and we can even get angry for all the wrong reasons, but it’s all about what you do about your anger.
Cooling off is one of the hardest thing for someone with anger issues to do. The first thing in cooling off is to identify that you’re angry. (Duh!) But I have to say this is so difficult!! So, I try to remember that if I start feeling flush and my heart starts beating faster to take some deep breaths and ask myself, “Am I angry, and if so, why?” When I’ve identified my anger and thought through why I’m angry, and immediately start praying. I ask God to show me why such and such made me upset and ask that He give me wisdom in this situation. This is usually when God shows me how to give my husband the benefit of the doubt and to think the best of my husband. So my thinking goes like this, “Maybe when he left the room in what sounded like a huff, he was simultaneously coughing and he just had to go to the bathroom…” Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, don’t worry, it gets better.
Let me point out that during all of this thinking and praying, I haven’t said a word yet! This is very important because the words that may come out before I’ve calmed down, processed and prayed may be words I come to regret. I’ve also learned that my husband and I are different. When he gets angry, he immediately wants to retreat and be alone whereas when I get angry, I immediately want to hash things out. I figure, the sooner we talk about it, the sooner we’ll be okay again. So in this aspect, you may want to consider how your husband processes anger. For us, it is better if I hold my tongue and wait–trust me, this is SO INCREDIBLY hard for me to do, and I must ask God for help in this area.
After I come to the conclusion that I may have misinterpreted my husband, and then I come to find out that I didn’t and that he was, in fact, leaving the room in a huff, I then have to ask God how to show my husband that I still love him even though I’m angry with him. This is the part of the verse that tells us to “sin not.” I start with explaining to my husband how I feel. This is probably the first thing I say to him if I handle the situation correctly,
“Honey, are you free to talk? I feel very sad about what just happened.”
“When you left the room in a huff, I felt like you were blaming me for …, are you blaming me for…?”
“I’m sorry that I did…, what can I do to make it up to you?”
And that’s the true Christian response to anger! Easy? NOPE.
It is possible that your husband refuses to talk the issue through before you go to bed that night, in which case, you must pray and ask God to release you of your anger and wrath before you sleep. It is not wise to force talking about it with your husband if he’s unwilling. Sometimes, I can tell that he’s the one who is angry and I ask him if he wants to talk about it, since it says in Ephesians 4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath,” and he’ll come out of his emotional cave and talk about it. Other times, he will refuse, in which case you just have to be the bigger person and let your anger melt away and leave the conversation for another day. Trust in God. All will be well in the morning.
I hope you pray for me as I continue disciplining my spirit into more righteous and holy behavior. Let me know how I can pray for your striving for holiness.