We all have different ways of dealing with anger. I’m a get-it-out-in-the-open-and-deal-with-it kind of person. My husband is a hold-it-all-in-until-you-explode person. My younger daughter is an erupt-like-a-volcano girl, and my older daughter is a pretend-nothing-happened conflict avoider. No matter how we deal with anger, we all get angry.
Some of us, though, have been sold a myth when it comes to anger. We’ve bought into the lie that “good Christians” don’t get angry. They’re always calm, rational people who never see red. We find unhealthy ways to deal with anger because someone has told us that God doesn’t want us to get angry about things. And then we teach that to our kids.
The truth is that anger is a God-given emotion. God gets angry. Jesus got angry (check out the overturned tables in the temple). If God and Jesus get angry, then anger can’t be a sin. It’s how we deal with anger that gets us into trouble.
Anger can actually lead to good things. When we’re legitimately angry about something and not just flying off the handle because we’re frustrated, grumpy or tired, anger can be the driving force behind change. We have laws against drunk driving because someone got mad about it. We have homeless shelters and food pantries because someone got mad that there was nothing to help the homeless and the hungry. We have laws against child abuse and for car seats because someone got mad about children dying. Anger, when appropriately directed, can be a good thing.
It’s when we let anger get the best of us that we run into problems. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger, do not sin.” When we’re angry, we have to work extra hard to make sure that we’re not letting anger take over our actions. When we let anger take away our ability to treat others well and to think through a problem before reacting, we are more likely to sin. We say things we don’t mean and do things we shouldn’t. When anger talks, sin happens.
As we teach our kids to control their anger, we need to make sure that we’re not teaching them that getting angry is wrong. What we do need to teach them is that anger is a lot like fire. When a fire is controlled in a fireplace or a fire pit, it’s a useful tool. It keeps you warm, provides a nice atmosphere and can even be used to cook food. When a fire is out of control, though, it causes mass amounts of destruction. An out-of-control wildfire can destroy homes, lives and wildlife. It can take hundreds of firefighters to control it. Anger is the same way. Once it’s out of control, it can take us a long time to get it back under control, and it can leave devastation in its wake.
Help your kids understand that they don’t have to live life without getting angry, but they do need to ask God to help them to control their anger so that when they are angry, they don’t cause irreparable harm to others.