Sinful anger is not just volatile anger. It has many forms, especially less dramatic iterations that are so common that they have become accepted. This creates a problem because if you can’t identify your anger, you will not be able to change, which will prove to be soul diminishing and relationally damaging.
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I think if I were angry, I would be mad. Sinful anger is regularly minimized, even among Christians. Especially among Christians. When it comes to sin categories, anger is often reclassified to lesser sounding offenses. Typically, when I talk to people about being angry the response is usually along the lines of,
Oh no, I’m not an angry person. I’m just frustrated.
They believe the anger diagnosis is wrong when in reality, the person I’m talking to has softened the language to the point where their conscience no longer perceives their anger as sinful. Frustration is anger. This graphic helps illustrate the many forms of sinful anger. This is not an exhaustive list of anger terms. Perhaps you can think of others.
Sinful anger will manifest itself on a spectrum. We all have our preferential way of getting angry. This is why our labels must be clear. Without understanding the gradations of anger, you will not perceive yours, which means you will not be able to change. Paul told us to put off our former manner of life but if you don’t know how to identify your bad behaviors then you’ll not be able to put them off (Ephesians 4:22).
All the words in the graphic fit into one “basket” of anger. Just like there are shades of black, there are shades of anger. Now I’m not the “word police” and if you want to call gray, gray, that is fine with me as long as you’re willing to acknowledge that it is wrong.
Just because you’re not the kind of person to throw a chair across a room or yell obscenities in congested traffic, it does not mean a smaller nail was used to put Christ on the cross. He died for all sins, and any sin–big or small–makes you guilty as if you committed them all (James 2:10).
You may express anger through impatience, apathy, dismissiveness, or frustration. Most of us have “refined” our manifestations of anger. Civilized Christians are not typically characterized by the more coarse and obvious ones. Of course, the temptation with people like us is to dismiss our anger because it’s not as volatile and the consequences are less dramatic.
Being blind to blindness is the worst possible condition of the soul. See Hebrews 3:7-8, 4:7, 5:12-14. Also read this short prayer, asking the Spirit of God to help you see what you cannot see.
The comparison trap is a trap that can make you feel justified with your anger. Once you remove the grievousness of your sin by watering it down, then you will be less motivated to repent.
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. – 2 Corinthians 10:12
If you do feel the urge to compare yourself to anyone, then compare yourself with Christ. He is the measuring stick that you want to gauge your maturity. Comparing yourself with others may make you feel good about yourself. Comparing yourself to Christ is your most effective reality check. One of the ways you can do this is by filtering your anger through the interpretive grid of Scripture. If you do this you’ll find murder coming out the other side.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. – James 4:1-2
James called it murder. You see this on both ends of The Anger Spectrum. One is physical murder, which says, “I do not want you to exist any longer” and the other is the silent treatment, which says, “I can’t kill you but I can treat you as though you don’t exist any longer.”
Obviously, physical murder is a consequentially worse manifestation of anger on the anger spectrum, though any form of anger is an offense against a holy God who will not be manipulated by trifling rationalizations.
Name It And Claim It
Murder is how we at times communicate the sin of anger in our home. While I don’t want to be given to non-redemptive hyperbole (Luke 14:26), I do want my children to see the wretchedness of their sin. If any sin will put Christ on the cross, then I want to take all sin serious, even the less consequential ones.
When I am impatient, I have found it helpful to think of myself as a murderer. When I see myself as a murderer, there is no place to hide or justifications to proffer. There is only one option: repent to those who experienced my version of anger.
Do you really want wiggle room when it comes to your sin? Do you want to skirt around your anger no matter how light it may appear? Isn’t it better to steer away from ambiguous and subjective sin gradations?
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24
If you really want to change, then give anger the full credit it deserves. Name it and claim it. Once you’ve identified what you need to put off, then you can move to the transformative stages of renewing your mind and putting on a new kind of person that is created differently from you (Ephesians 5:1).
Rather than lounging around the pool of purposeless excuses, jump into the water of God’s cleansing Word (Ephesians 5:26) and be brutally honest with yourself. That is humility, which is the one condition that opens the door to God’s empowering favor on your life (James 4:6).
What This Book Is About
I’m writing a book on anger. It’s called, MAD: Seeing your anger with the clarity of God’s Word. This is the introduction. It addresses our problem with anger from many different directions. This book will help you if you let it. More than likely you have not physically murdered anyone. But you have murdered in other ways. Can you acknowledge your anger, regardless of the type? Can you see how your anger is a sin that motivated the Father to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:10) on a cross so you could be saved?
Once you get past the things you do to water-down, hide behind, or make excuses for your anger, you’ll be able to find the restoration the Father freely provides to all humble people. Rather than guarding your reputation, your best call to action is to ask the Spirit of God to illuminate your mind as you move through this book.
If you will pray that prayer then expect God to do some amazing things in your life and relationships. If we can serve you in this process, please let us know. We have a lot of ways of doing that and it would be a joy to direct you.