Keep Anger From Stumbling You
“TAKE a deep breath!” “Count to ten!” “Bite your tongue!” Are these phrases familiar to you? Perhaps you recite them to yourself to calm an inner agitation. Some people, in an effort to prevent an angry outburst, go for a walk. These are simple ways to manage anger and preserve relationships with others.
In recent years, though, conflicting advice from professionals on whether anger should be controlled or suppressed leaves many confused. For example, some psychologists have advanced the theory that “if it makes you feel better,” give vent to your anger. Others warn that regular outbursts of anger are “a stronger predictor of dying young than [are] other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.” God’s Word plainly states: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8) Why does the Bible give such specific counsel?
Uncontrolled emotions lead to uncontrolled deeds. This became evident very early in man’s history. We read: “Cain grew hot with great anger, and his countenance began to fall.” Where did this lead him? His anger gripped him and took control, so much so that it hardened his heart to Jehovah’s admonition to turn to doing good. Cain’s unbridled anger led him into grave sin—the murder of his brother.—Genesis 4:3-8.
Saul, the first king of Israel, was similarly overtaken when he heard David receive great praise. “The women that were celebrating kept responding and saying: ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ And Saul began to be very angry, and this saying was bad from his viewpoint.” Anger so dominated Saul’s thinking that it drove him to make several assassination attempts on David. Even though David made overtures for friendship, Saul was unwilling to pursue peace and reconciliation. Ultimately, he totally lost Jehovah’s favor.—1 Samuel 18:6-11; 19:9, 10; 24:1-21; Proverbs 6:34, 35.
Inevitably, when one gives way to uncontrolled anger, he or she will say and do things that will hurt everyone involved. (Proverbs 29:22) Cain and Saul became angry because each, in his own way, was jealous and envious. However, angry reactions can occur for various reasons. An unjustified criticism, an insult, a misunderstanding, or unfair treatment could be the spark that ignites an outburst.
The examples of Cain and Saul suggest a serious deficiency held in common. Cain’s offering apparently lacked the motivation of faith. (Hebrews 11:4) Saul’s failure to obey Jehovah’s express commands and his subsequent attempts at self-justification led to his losing God’s favor and spirit. Clearly, both men breached their relationship with Jehovah.
Contrast such dispositions with that of David, who had reason to be angry over the treatment he experienced from Saul. David restrained his spirit. Why? He said: “It is unthinkable, on my part, from Jehovah’s standpoint, that I should do this thing to my lord, the anointed of Jehovah.” David had clearly in mind his relationship with Jehovah, and it affected his dealings with Saul. He humbly left matters in Jehovah’s hands.—1 Samuel 24:6, 15.
Indeed, the implications of uncontrolled anger are serious. The apostle Paul cautioned: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) While righteous indignation has its place, there is an ever-present danger that anger could become our stumbling block. No wonder, then, that we face the challenge of controlling our anger. How can we do so?
A primary way is to develop a strong relationship with Jehovah. He encourages you to open your heart and mind to him. Tell him your cares and concerns, and ask for a calm heart to subdue anger. (Proverbs 14:30) Be assured that “the eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication.”—1 Peter 3:12.
Prayer can mold and guide you. In what way? It can have a profound effect on your dealings with others. Remember how Jehovah has dealt with you. As the Scriptures say, Jehovah “has not done to us even according to our sins.” (Psalm 103:10) A forgiving spirit is vital so that you “may not be overreached by Satan.” (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11) Furthermore, prayer serves to open your heart to the guidance of the holy spirit, which can overturn strongly entrenched patterns in life. Jehovah gladly gives a ‘peace that excels all thought,’ which can release you from the gripping power of anger.—Philippians 4:7.
Prayer, however, must be coupled with a regular examination of the Scriptures in order for us to “go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:17; James 3:17) If you personally have a hard time controlling your anger, strive to get Jehovah’s thinking on the matter. Review scriptures specifically related to the controlling of anger.
The apostle Paul offers this important reminder: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Focus your thoughts and deeds on doing good to others. Such wholesome, positive activity will encourage empathy and trust and will mitigate misunderstandings that can easily result in anger.
The psalmist said: “Fix my own steps solidly in your saying, and may no kind of hurtful thing domineer over me. Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” (Psalm 119:133, 165) That can be true of you too.
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STEPS TO CONTROL ANGER
□ Pray to Jehovah.—Psalm 145:18.
□ Keep busy in worthwhile activities.—Galatians 6:9, 10.