Anger, Relationships, and Help

A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by [Welch, Edward T.] Anger is something that all of us are familiar with to some extent.  Of course, there is righteous anger.  But it’s rare.  Most of the time our anger is sinful, something we should include in our prayers of repentance to God.  If you struggle with anger, here’s a short but helpful devotional for you: A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Ed Welch.  This is a good book to get for your own devotions  – but it’s best to go through it with a Christian friend.

Here’s one meditation that I really liked (emphasis Welch’s):

The way we define anger makes all the difference.  For example, if we think anger is our legitimate response to stupid people, then we are destined to become even angrier, because there are many people who make our life inconvenient, which is why we think they are stupid.

Consider the last few times you became angry. With those in mind, what are the elements of most anger?

Anger indicts others. “It says, you are wrong.”Anger is about making judgments. Look closely and you can see a judge presiding over a court room, pronouncing the verdict. Sometimes that judgment is accurate. Usually there is at least some truth in it.  But there is a deeper problem.

Anger goes a step further. “It says, you wronged me.” This is where things get complicated. Wise judges recuse themselves when things get personal.  They step off the bench when the case involves wrongs committed against them because they know their judgments will be biased.  But, in our anger we do not recuse ourselves. This judge, instead, adopts the multiple roles of judge, plaintiff, and prosecuting attorney.

Anger acquits itself. Instead of tracking its   biases and seeking help, anger says, “I am right,” and is quite confident of it.  Now things are not going well in the courtroom. The judge has closed the case; the pleas of the accused are ignored.

Meanwhile, whatever relationship once existed is now in flames. Perhaps, if the accused accepts the judgment as infallible and shows sufficient remorse, the judge will give a lighter sentence, but we can be sure that another perceived infraction will bring more judicial wrath.

Relationships do not do well in a courtroom. Perhaps you were right about what irritated you, but you were certainly not humble.  Perhaps you were right, but you did not love. This is why Jesus teaches us either to leave the courtroom or to enter it as the accused rather than accuser and judge.  Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

A definition of anger includes this: anger specializes in indicting others but is unskilled at both self-indictment and love.

Ed Welch, A Small Book about a Big Problem, p. 9-11.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

2 thoughts on “Anger, Relationships, and Help”

  1. Big fan of your blog – but not sure I fully agree with this particular post. What about the imprecatory Psalms? Surely righteous anger can be employed in prayer (with discernment of course).


    1. Thanks, Adam. Yes, you’re right – righteous anger is a matter of prayer for sure (certain Psalms are infallible examples!). In the first few sentences of the post, I was focusing the reader on sinful anger. We don’t need to repent of righteous anger, but there is sinful anger of which we should repent. Does that make sense? Thanks for the comments – they’re always welcome.


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