When I was a kid there was a television show called Name That Tune. Two contestants would have a bid off on how many notes they’d need to name a tune.

Contestant A: I can name that tune in seven notes.

Contestant B would think for a moment and then respond: I can name that tune in six notes.

And on the bidding went until one contestant knew they couldn’t go any lower and would say to the other, “Name that tune!”

Let’s play a version called “Name that Bible verse” – in four words.

“Do ….. not …. let ….the ….”

I’d bet many of you said, “sun go down on your anger.”

This verse from Ephesians has done more to misinform us about anger than inform us. Part of the problem is that we reference it out of context (which I don’t have time to go into now, maybe in another post). And part of the problem is we are drawn to simple solutions, even if they are rather ill fitted for the situation.

This stand-alone verse has resulted a generation that feels guilty about anger and doesn’t really know how to handle it when it comes to complicated matters.  I believe there is a silent anger epidemic in our ranks.

Anger at spouses and kids.

Anger that others have more money.

Anger at the injustice we often feel helpless in the face of.

Anger at not getting what we want out of life.

Anger that husbands or kids aren’t appearing.

Anger that husbands have secret sins or don’t spend enough time with the family or us … and we have to put on happy faces.

Anger at God … but often we don’t know how to even go there.

Anger we have no idea what to do with so either we rage or internalize it, allowing anger to eat us from the inside out.

Here is the good news. Anger is a God given gift. It is one of the ways we have been made in his image. God gets angry at injustice.

Warning light of anger

The problem is many of us don’t have separate categories for “Good anger” and “Bad anger.” Instead we’ve lumped all anger as either good/justified or bad/to be avoided at all costs.

This is a simplified distinction, good anger helps us to identify and rally against injustice. It helps us to protect and provide for the least amongst us. It gets us off our behinds and can propel us to action.

And “bad anger” isn’t really the problem either, it’s how we handle and express anger that we often sin. By saying things we shouldn’t, by screaming and scaring people, by throwing or shoving or some other physical response to a situation. Or by icing people out. Or denying we are angry. We have a variety of ways of expressing anger.

Thankfully, God has not left us in this angry state without resources or ways to grow. Think of anger like a warning light on a car dashboard. The light points to a problem (or a potential one) and lets us know we need to address it before it becomes a BIG problem. Anger, in an unexpected way, is a gift that lets us know something isn’t right, something can no longer be ignored or left as it is.

Another way to view anger is as a big brother protecting a little sister. Why are we angry? Because it’s powerful. I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry, it’s empowering. There’s a rush. But the truth is anger is often protecting a “weaker” emotion like sadness, betrayal, hurt, being misunderstood, disappointment or envy.

Envy, on her own, is kind of weak and easy to poke holes at. However, when protected by her big brother ANGER, suddenly envy has power. If I see my friends back home who are around the same age as me buying houses and all I own is a bunch of books and some more and more out of fashion clothes, one response is envy. But instead of being able to just sit and be sad and deal with my envy, I might get angry when my agency decides to raise the monthly amount I need to raise and send a group email I regret.

The big brother/little sister analogy has changed my relationship with anger. I have slowly trained myself when I’m angry to take the time to see if I’m angry about a Godly injustice or if my anger is protecting an emotion I’d rather not deal with. If it’s the later, I make myself name what’s the emotion behind my anger and then God and I can deal with it.

Psalm 57 come with the instruction:  To be sung to the tune, “Do Not Destroy.”  Don’t you love that there was such a song! May the same be said about our anger — may we not be destroyed by it!

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A helpful place to start if you’d like to read more on anger is Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way by Gary Chapman

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Photo credit: Joero via flickr

A form of this first appeared on Velvet Ashes

Leave A Comment

  1. Stacy Wu May 8, 2014 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Amy! It provides me with some insight into a few things that I’ve recently been working through.

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:25 am - Reply

      Stacy, isn’t it cool when a message is timely. I love that feeling (mostly … sometimes when it’s conviction, I know it’s good for me, but I don’t always love it!)

  2. Laura Connell May 8, 2014 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Such a helpful post! God is really leading me to the right words to help me through a very difficult time. The part about anger protecting a weaker emotion is interesting.

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:26 am - Reply

      Thanks for your post too!

  3. Tanya Marlow May 8, 2014 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Yes!!!! You and I are so on the same page on this. Hurrah and huzzah! So few people say it! (In fact, it makes me kinda angry that so few say anger can be good…)

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:27 am - Reply

      and YES back to you. I’m hoping more Christians will start to talk about anger!

  4. Revka May 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Wow, I just posted yesterday about how I am learning that negative emotions are like an early warning system. Thanks so much for sharing.

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      Amy May 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Love it when themes keep popping up!

  5. Jessa May 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    I just recently felt anger for the first time in as long as I can remember. I generally only deal in the little sister emotions, because they were all my abusers wanted/allowed me to have. Being angry was scary for me. I can’t pinpoint what I was angry at, so I can’t judge if it was righteous anger, but it was scary, throwing-empty-soda-bottles-at-the-wall anger.

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:29 am - Reply

      Jessa, I’m sorry it was scary. That IS the downside of anger — that it can turn from warning light into a scary act. Maybe now that you’ve experienced a bit of anger, it can come the next time as a warning light. I’ll be praying for you, cyber friend.

  6. Mark Allman May 12, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Most of the time my anger is due to either seeing something unjust and most of the time it is because I am hurt. So both of these need to be dealt with. The first I need to ask what can if anything can I do about the injustice and the second is what should I do in response to being hurt. How should it be addressed? I do think anger can be ok if you take that anger and do something positive with it in regard to how you respond during and after.
    To be angry because you don’t get your way can be the bad anger. It needs to be addressed in terms of why do we have the attitude that we have got to get our way?

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:32 am - Reply

      Mark, I love the question, “how does it need to be addressed?” Because sometimes the answer is “by letting it go” and sometimes the answer is we need to do something. Thanks for reminding us to look at each situation individually and to really take the time to think through them! You are good at enhancing these conversations :). Thanks!

  7. Susan Gaines May 12, 2014 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Amy, this was precisely what I needed to read today. I love the analogy of big brother/little sister emotions; so helpful. Thank you!

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      Amy May 13, 2014 at 6:32 am - Reply

      Susan, so glad it was helpful :)

  8. Stephanie June 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    This is absolutely a conversation we need to be having. Too often certain emotions are swept aside as ‘bad’ when they are the very catalyst we need to bring us closer to God, bring awareness of a problem in a relationship or in ourselves, etc. The warning light on the dashboard – exactly! We want to only bring the ‘good’ parts of ourselves to God, but He wants all of us.

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