"No other emotion plays such a disruptive role in our lives as anger. While angry, our reasoning, which is necessary for thoughtful decision-making, is impaired." Carl Semmelroth; Donald Smith, Anger Habit
Quotes about being angry can be very informative. As this quote teaches, anger can be so disruptive!
Anger & Decision Making: A True Story
A few years ago, my son loved washing cars. He was still pretty short then, so I bought him this great telescoping washing tool. It connected to the hose and had a spot for car wash soap. Then the soap and water came out while he washed the car with the sponge at the end. Great idea, right? He never even tried it. 😡 I was so angry! I spent all this money to buy something to help him and he didn't even try it!
I was so angry I threw the whole thing away - tags and all.
WHAT?! Right, I know. Anger is SO disruptive. It makes us see things that aren't there and feel emotions that aren't real.
Feelings vs. Reality
Here's what I saw and felt: my son doesn't want to use this special tool that I went out of my way to buy for him; he must not understand how much things cost or the value of money; he must not appreciate what I do for him; he doesn't care about me and my efforts to help him.
Here's the reality: my son is someone who likes to do things for himself; he's a problem solver; he likes a challenge; he doesn't like to spend money that doesn't need to be spent (in other words, I was solving a problem he didn't have); he appreciated what I did but felt it was (kindly) unnecessary; had I asked him in advance, he would have declined needing it.
While the car wash tool wasn't that expensive, throwing it away in anger was still a costly lesson. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this is not the first time I've done something like this! I am famous for throwing things away when I feel someone is not appreciative of my efforts.
Making decisions out of anger is always a bad idea. When we are angry, our emotions are getting the best of us.
What Does the Bible Say About Making Decisions When We Are Angry?
That doesn't mean our anger isn't warranted - just that we shouldn't make decisions then.
The Bible tell us not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26).
Anger itself is not the sin. Even Jesus got angry. It's what we do with or in our anger that causes problems. While throwing something new away isn't a sin, I am also sure that when I do that, I'm not being a good steward of what God has given me. I'm certainly not honoring God with my actions. Similarly, when I am snippy with my son for "refusing" the gift I bought to help him, I am grieving God. By treating my son with contempt, I'm neither demonstrating God's love nor demonstrating successful communication and relationship skills. All because I felt angry.
Anger Makes Us Make Rash Decisions
We make rash decisions when we are angry. And those rash decisions have consequences. The consequence in my example may be limited funds because that money is gone or a bruised relationship with my son if I communicated harshly with him.
Research from Rice University about how mood affects decision making shows that anger undermines good decisions. We are also more likely to make take more risks when we are angry - and that often leads to negative consequences, as well.
Making bad decisions is part of life. We are all going to do that once in a while. But we can prevent some of those bad decisions by not making decisions when we are angry.
How do we overcome our anger, then?
Psalm 37:8 (NLT) Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. Anger is generally a response to something. For instance, in the example with my son, I was hurt first - then came the anger. The anger was a response to being hurt. If we can identify that first feeling we can preempt the anger and turn from it.
Proverbs 19:11 (GNT) If you are sensible, you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it. This is one way to turn from our anger (see previous Scripture). We don't have to feel every little thing. Sometimes we can just let things pass. We don't have to respond to everything. Ignoring the little things is great for positive mental health! For instance, every snarky comment from a teen does not have to be upsetting. Some of those comments are really harmless - ignore those and don't let them steal your peace.
Proverbs 15:1 (CSB) A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. In times when a situation is getting heated, and we can prevent someone else from getting angry, we should take that opportunity. We do that by responding gently, with kindness. This doesn't mean we are a doormat. It means we don't loser our own temper - we keep calm - then share that calm with others.
Proverbs 29:11 (ESV) A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. I realize this one is controversial, but it's still Scripture, so it's important. When we vent our anger - either at the person we're angry with, whatever people are in the room, or a loved one to "vent" about the issue - we are reinforcing that anger. We're keeping ourselves angry. The longer we are angry, the more likely we are to make those rash decisions we want to avoid.
Psalm 86:15 (NASB) But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, Slow to anger and abundant in mercy and truth. This one has two applications for me. First, if you read the Psalms, you see countless instances of David going to God with his anger. God is slow to anger - he's not going to get all riled up when we are. Unlike our mom or best friend who will get angry on our behalf. That response only feeds our anger. God's slow-to-anger response helps calm us down. The second application is that we can learn to be like God. We can learn to be slow to anger. We do that by studying Him and His responses. Then we pray to be more like Him. We look for opportunities to emulate him.
I hope these suggestions help. The next time you are in a situation and you feel your blood pressure start to rise - STOP 🛑 - identify what you are feeling. Then deal with that. If you do get angry, take it to God. Identify what is really going on. Then deal with it.
If you have a tendency toward anger, let Jesus heal you. He wants you to be whole, I promise.
These resources may be helpful:
1. When I was in therapy a few years ago, my counselor recommended this book and it was a life saver.
2. This book is co-authored by Eugene Peterson (of The Message Bible) and focuses on the Psalms I wrote about above. Seriously, we can learn a lot from the Psalms!
3. While not technically a book about anger, I highly recommend this book. I've read it and completed the Bible Study. It's all about soothing our soul and finding peace. If we have a soothed soul that's focused on God, we are much less likely to jump right to anger.