The Anatomy of Your Anger – And Putting It Away (Powlison)

Some Christians have a very short fuse. Sometimes anger is one of those sins that plague Christians and makes life pretty tough for them and the people around them. There are more than a few verses in the Bible that speak against anger. Biblical wisdom notes that an angry person causes much transgression (Prov. 29:22). James says we should be slow to anger and Paul tells us to put all anger away (James 1:19; Col. 3:8). In fact, outbursts of anger are in Paul’s list of the sinful works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). The list goes on.

If you are a follower of Christ who struggles with anger, here’s a book you should read: Good and Angry by David Powlison. I’ve mentioned it here before so I won’t go into detail. But it is a good resource for Christians who want to put anger away and be slow to it. Below is a summary of chapter 13 – a chapter I thought was quite helpful. In this chapter Powlison talks about “taking your anger apart” – or looking at it, evaluating it, and putting it away. These questions are meant to help the Christian understand his or her own anger and deal with it in a biblical way. Here are the questions and Powlison’s comments (I’ve edited them for length):

What is my situation? When did you get angry? What was going on? Who were you mad at? What situation, event, or person made you anger. Anger has an occasion.

How do I react? When there’s an occasion for anger, what happens in your thought life? Our minds are very busy when we are angry. How about the physiological aspect? When we are angry, our bodies race into action. What about your emotions? Actions? Anger says and does things. We do and say many things to express and vent the destructive energies of anger.

What are my motives? Now ask, why do you get angry? This is the million-dollar question. Depending on how you answer it, you’ll either stay mad, or you’ll talk yourself down into an artificial calm, or you’ll learn to find God and respond constructively. Our motives decided which direction we will head. Anger arises from desires and beliefs that master you and define you.

What are the consequences? Anger has consequences. It creates feedback loops, vicious circles. The Bible uses a vivid metaphor: you reap what you sow. Sow an outburst of anger in traffic, and what will you reap? The consequences are unpredictable. But we live in a universe where everything we do has consequences, whether subtle or obvious.

What is true? God’s word speaks directly into occasions for anger. Consider Psalm 23…a man who knew many troubles and frustrations poured out his heart. …The truths from God will prove significant for you in unraveling your temper and rebuilding your joy.

How do I turn to God for help? Turn to him. Ask for help. Seek mercy. Humble yourself. Trust him. …Angry people always talk to the wrong person. They talk to themselves…they talk to the people they’re mad at…they talk to people who aren’t even involved. But chaotic, sinful, headstrong anger starts to dissolve when you begin to talk to the right person – your good Shepherd, who sees, hears, and is mercifully involved in your life.

How could I respond constructively in this situation? Repentance and faith lead to concrete changes in behavior, emotion, and thoughts. At the simplest level, you might take a deep breath and relax, trusting that God is indeed in control. But God has other fruits in mind too….

What are the consequences of faith and obedience? Here we come full circle and find that godliness, while not guaranteed to change the original situation, often has an effect for good on the world. The possibilities for the many-sided blessings of God are endless.

Again, I’ve very much summarized Powlison’s explanation of these eight questions. But you can get a picture of how practical this book is when it comes to fighting anger in our Christian life. If you struggle with anger or a short fuse, put this on your list to read: Good and Angry by David Powlison.

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