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3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel Angry

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel Angry

Early on in our marriage, I handled my emotions like a two-year-old trying to carry a full glass of water! There were lots of spills and messes. During the second night of our honeymoon, we set out to find a restaurant for dinner in Traverse City, Michigan.

“Where do you want to eat?” I asked.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” my wife Ruth, responded.

After naming several restaurants, it became apparent she really did care. She knew all the places she didn’t want to eat, but couldn’t seem to give any input on where she did want to eat. Lacking any sort of emotional or spiritual maturity, I increasingly become more and more irritated and angry. The tone of my voice and the look on my face said it all.

And then it happened.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash. Ruth had pulled out her camera and taken a picture of me. Perfect. That glorious moment was captured by Ruth and still today holds a spot in our “Just Married” scrapbook.

Unlike Jesus, we often get mad at the wrong things while failing to get angry at the right things.

Whether in marriage or parenting, our anger can lean in the direction of unrighteous anger – the sinful and self-seeking kind.

This is what the Apostle Paul was warning against in Ephesians 4:26 when he wrote,

“In your anger do not sin.”

Sometimes our unrighteous anger looks like:

  • Explosive words
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Harsh demands
  • Withdrawal
  • Punishing with silence
  • Throwing objects
  • Cutting off a relationship
  • Sulking or pouting

The list goes on. Each of these, and more, are all expressions of anger gone-bad. They are adult-sized temper tantrums, driven by sinful and selfish desires (James 4:1-2a).

Anger reveals more about what is on the inside of us instead of what is being done to us.

Throughout the New Testament, we are commanded to be careful of the wrong kind of anger.

  • Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. –Ephesians 4:31
  • But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. –Colossians 3:8
  • Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. -1 Timothy 2:8

Changing our anger starts with allowing God to change our heart.

So what are some helpful ways to turn from anger? How do we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the change that is needed in our hearts? How to we begin to turn from sinful behavior and walk in greater obedience? Start by asking some good questions. The next time you find yourself getting angry, consider the following:

  1. What am I not getting that I believe I really need, want, or deserve?

We get angry if traffic is heavier than we thought. After a long day, we get angry with our kids if they are not being quiet enough. Our spouse disagrees with us. Another interruption at the office interferes with our train of thought. Each of these can disrupt what our hearts really want – control, comfort, the need to be right, etc. The problem with most of our desires is that they are focused on us.

  1. What do I have that am I fearful of losing?

Sometimes anger reveals not what we want, but what we have, and are afraid of losing. Maybe it’s a sense of control, someone’s approval, or security. Often times when what we value most is threatened, we act out in anger to protect losing it. Is your anger revealing something you are fearful of losing?

  1. Do I really believe that God is at work in and through my life?

When life is not going the way I want it to, it’s easy for me to get angry. I can begin to make moral judgments about how life should and shouldn’t work. In essence, I am saying I know the plan for my life better than God does! I can be tempted to think God is indifferent, absent, or cruel. And so anger can often reveal a heart that is not trusting, waiting, and believing in God’s power to accomplish what he wants to in, and through, my life.

So the next time you feel angry, stop and ask yourselves some good questions. Pray that God would give you insight into what is really going on inside your heart. As God graciously gives you a glimpse into what is really ruling your hearts and leading to your anger, the answer is always to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. In humility, we depend on his grace, the wisdom of his Word, and the power of his Spirit to overcome unrighteous anger.


Patrick Schwenk

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  1. I had to think about this for a bit.

    There’s one more point I would add to your excellent triumvirate –

    Is this hill worth dying on?

    Anger escalates, and its doppelganger of shame often induces one to do everything possible to defend an indefensible…and often idiotic…position, using increasingly personal and bitter attacks when the ‘logical’ ones run dry.

    More marriages have been ruined by small specific arguments allowed to become generalities than were ever wrecked by things like infidelity.

    The place to stop these is at the beginning, before they can turn from a rock rolling down a hill into an avalanche sweeping all before it.

    Easy to say, hard to do.

    I tell people to think about everything they say. Not just in conflict, but literally everything. Intentional speaking has to become a habit, and it is not a habit easily developed or maintained in the heat of anger.

    it has to grow in peace, first.

  2. I have taken a page from the Alcoholics prayer: “Lord, grant me this day the grace to deal with today’s events in the Spirit, not in the flesh.”

  3. Most helpful article. My husband and are I dealing with being care givers to my Autistic son and my dementia mom. Thank God both are can speak as and walk well. But it can be a strain and this article reminds me of why its so good to remain calm, cool and collected. Great article.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words. Praying God continues to give you His strength and grace!

  4. Also, many people who are silent and/or withdrawn have come to learn that no matter what they say to certain people, however gently, lovingly or otherwise, that person will always simply dismiss or minimize their input and ignore their hurt. In that case, what else can one do? A person who has come from an abusive background and chosen a lifetime relationship often chooses a person who perpetuates the same abuse the person is used to. If you are angry about a family member’s silence or withdrawal, why not examine yourself truthfully and deeply to see if maybe you dismiss them or rationalize away their concerns instead of actually listening and considering carefully and prayerfully what they say.

    1. Thank you Lin for your feedback and comments. Appreciate you taking the time to read and give some additional thoughts. Blessings!

    1. Thank you, Nathan. Appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment. Blessings to you and your wife!

  5. Very good article Patrick. I have recently dealt with some anger issues over a situation with someone who I thought was a friend and there have been a lot of misunderstandings between us but this other person chooses not to work them out with me. The best thing right now that I can do is give it to God. I need to take it to Him and lay it at the cross and let Him hold these issues in His hands. Our God is an awesome God and He is much bigger than our problems!!! God is the ultimate healer for the people who are hurting. Thank you for this article, it was really helpful =) By the way, I couldn’t help but notice you guys were in Traverse City, Michigan. I am from that area. It’s a small world =)

    1. Thank you, Kia! And yes, you are absolutely right – sometimes all you can do is entrust a situation to God’s power and timing. Keep praying and trusting that God will do that in His way and in His timing with the friendship you mentioned. Thanks again for your kind words. We love Traverse City – still one of our favorite places on the western side of the state!

  6. I’m struggling with this right now. I feel trapped. Our 30-year old son is very irresponsible and we often have to help him out. I resent this and would prefer to let him fail and learn on his own. However, my wife points out that it’s the grandkids that suffer when the utilities are turned off, etc., so we get involved, spending from our meager retirement funds. He doesn’t talk and lets things slide, hoping they’ll fix themselves. We had high hopes for his new wife (one year ago), but although she’ll complain she can’t handle his kids, any suggestion is met with a list of reasons why it won’t work. I’ve tried to extend an olive branch and requested a sit down talk, but she refuses to participate. I try to give it up and concentrate on the grand kids, but resentment builds and neither of them learn personal responsibility. I feel trapped.

    1. Thank you for your comments GR. I am sorry to hear about the situation you and your wife are in right now. I know it can be a fine line between helping and enabling sometimes. Are you and your family involved in a local church? If so, I would encourage you to seek the counsel of someone on staff who can provide some input on what may be most helpful for your specific family. Praying God continues to give you guys wisdom as you discern what is best to do in various decisions. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment!

  7. I think it would be helpful also if you wrote about what righteous anger looks like: what provokes it and what the right reaction should be. I picture it as anger about things like seeing others mistreated, or God’s truth misrepresented or ridiculed. And the right reaction might vary with the circumstances… anyway, great article. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Connie! Ran out of room on this one to cover both unrighteous and righteous anger. 🙂 But yes, you are right – God’s anger is always an expression of what He loves. He expresses anger over what is true and right. So for example, God’s anger over oppression reveals His love for justice. Or God’s anger over dishonestly reveals His love for the truth. Unlike our anger, His is always a response to what is right. Thanks again!

    1. Jay, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, there is much in AA that is based off of biblical truth – especially the New Testament book of James. Blessings to you!

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