Some anger is moral, justified and righteous – but if we are honest, ours usually isn’t. This short video helps us analyse and process our anger biblically.
When you start to get an understanding of the patterns of your anger, you can then use those as a basis for understanding the reasons for your anger. And these eight questions will help you think through your anger: whether or not it’s righteous or unrighteous. If it’s unrighteous, how to move from unrighteous anger to righteous anger.
How Do I Process Anger? Timestamps
0:30 – What Is Anger?
1:25 – God Gets Angry In The Bible
2:00 – God is Always Loving & Moral
2:48 – Is My Anger Righteous?
3:48 – Some Questions To Ask Yourself
5:10 – How Do We Process Anger Well?
5:48 – Moving From Unrighteous to Righteous
Link to accompanying worksheet here.
Top Quotes on Processing Anger
“Righteous anger focusses on God and on the wellbeing of others. Sinful anger by contrast can sometimes be self-centred.”
“Look at the patterns of your anger – you will start to understand the reasons for it.”
“The surprising truth is that you can be good and angry at the same time.”
Other Videos On This Topic
This video is part of a series on emotional wisdom by Kyle Johnston:
We’re working our way through these different emotions. We have already considered anxiety; we have considered the sadness of grief; and in this video I want to look at anger with you. What is anger and how do we process it? As we come to study this a little bit together, it may surprise you that in scripture anger can often be legitimate, even Godly. But anger can also be sinful and it can reveal something wrong with our hearts.
What Is Anger?
So let’s first begin by asking ourselves, “What is anger?” The definition that I want to suggest is a bit of a mouthful but let me unpack it.
Anger is an active, whole-personed response to a perceived wrong.
Anger is an active, whole-personed response to a perceived wrong. So anger is active. It gets you moving. If you look at the biblical imagery around anger it’s often about nostrils flaring and people going. As we have experienced in our own lives anger is something that’s very active. It gets you moving, it gets you going, it springs you into action if you like. It’s a whole-personed response, involving our body, our mind, our emotions. And anger responds to a perceived wrong.
God Gets Angry In The Bible
Let’s think about a few biblical points that help us, again, get a better understanding of what we’re talking about when we talk about anger.
One of the first things that’s worth noting, and this might be a surprise to us as well, is that God gets angry. In fact, if you had to take a highlighter and highlight every part in your Bible where God gets angry, you would actually have quite a colourful Bible in the end.
God’s righteous anger is provoked by wickedness.
God gets angry often because in God’s holiness God responds to evil and wickedness with anger. God’s righteous anger is provoked by wickedness. God evaluates the situations and responds to them.
God is Always Loving & Moral
David Powlison says, “You can’t understand God’s love if you don’t understand his anger. Because God loves, he’s angry at what harms”. God’s love and God’s anger are entirely consistent with each other. It’s actually because God loves us that he is angry at the things that harm us. So firstly, God gets angry.
Secondly, anger is a moral emotion. Of all the emotions perhaps, anger is the most moral. Anger is provoked by what it perceives to be wrong. So, anger is evaluating. Anger evaluates a situation and essentially says, “I am against that. That thing is wrong”
Now, when we think of God’s anger, we know of course that God’s perception is always accurate and his response is always proportionate. That’s not quite the same with us.
Is My Anger Righteous?
So, let’s think about the third aspect of anger which is learning how to distinguish Godly anger from sinful anger. In his book Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones suggests three criteria for distinguishing righteous from unrighteous anger.
Righteous anger reacts against actual sin.
The first criteria for righteous anger is that righteous anger reacts against actual sin. So, righteous anger has an accurate perception of genuine evil. That’s the first way we can discern whether or not our anger is righteous.
Secondly, Jones suggest righteous anger focusses on God and on the wellbeing of others. Sinful anger by contrast can sometimes be self-centred.
Some Questions To Ask Yourself
So, a good question to ask ourselves based on these first two criteria is, “Do I get angry about the right things? What are the things that typically cause my anger? And I’m I right to get angry about those things?”
The third test that Jones suggests is that righteous anger is expressed in a proportional way. So, when I get righteously angry, the expression of that anger is self-controlled and proportional. So the two good questions to ask ourselves are, “Do I get angry for the right reasons? And do I express my anger in the right way?”
Look at the patterns of your anger – you will start to understand the reasons for it.
The fourth point that’s worth reflecting on is to acknowledge the truth that anger comes out of our hearts. Anger reveals what we believe, what we desire, and what we value. The simplest question to ask about our anger in this sense is, “What do I really want? What is it that I am really seeking after here?”
What’s very helpful for us is that the link between anger and motive is generally quite easily identified. If we look at the patterns of our anger, we will start to understand the reasons for our anger.
How Do We Process Anger Well?
And that leads us to the second part of this video and the second part of the worksheet that I’d encourage you to take a look at.
Having understood what anger is, we then need to try and understand how we can process it well.
The surprising truth is that you can be good and angry at the same time.
In the accompanying worksheet there are eight questions that will help you work through your experiences of anger. I’m not going to go through them with you here, but what I’d like to suggest you do is identify a situation – or perhaps a pattern of events – that typically provoke your anger.
When you start to get an understanding of the patterns of your anger, you can then use those as a basis for understanding the reasons for your anger. And those eight questions will help you think through your anger: whether or not it’s righteous or unrighteous. If it’s unrighteous, how to move from unrighteous anger to righteous anger.
Moving From Unrighteous to Righteous
The eight questions are based on the work of David Powlison and are really useful. I really want to encourage you to reflect on that worksheet. The huge value in this is not necessarily in watching the video but actually in working through the accompanying document. If you could do that with a trusted friend, a family member, a spouse, talk about your answers together, I hope that it will help you move towards discerning whether or not your anger is righteous or unrighteous – and how to move from that place of unrighteous anger to a place of righteousness in your anger.
The surprising truth is that you can be good and angry at the same time. And may God help you as you seek to do just that.