Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

The 8 Golden Rules of Anger Management

The 8 Golden Rules of Anger Management

Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger, do not sin.” 

I despise grocery shopping. Nevertheless, I vowed to choose joy for the dreaded task as I turned my focus to the beautiful day before me. I really had it all under control--until I pulled into the crowded grocery store parking lot and began to circle.

I saw an empty spot by the entrance and made a beeline for “my” parking space. Just as I turned to pull in, an older lady boldly stepped into that prized space and held up her hand, signaling me to stop. This self-imposed traffic director then motioned to her husband as he circled the parking lot in his large, black car. 

I suddenly realized that she was saving “my” spot for him with her very life as collateral. Parking spaces are a serious matter to me. In fact, I sometimes considered them to be a sign of God’s favor. Evidently, I was not the only one who felt that way. 

As my anger simmered, God’s still small voice reminded me that I had a choice to make. I really hated surrendering my anger to Him, but the thought of having to apologize for running over that ridiculous woman with my car was more than my mind could conceive and my stomach could handle. I decided that if she was willing to risk her life for a grocery store parking space, she deserved to have it. 

Unfortunately, the woman driving the car behind me did not agree. She whipped her pint-sized car into the sought-after- space just in front of the man in his impressively large black car. As she pulled in, the horrified traffic-controlling woman hastily jumped up on the sidewalk. I decided to watch the scene unfold ... or should I say watch the scene “explode.” 

Crude gestures and loud, repulsive words filled the air. Some I understood. Some I had never heard and did not care to consider or define. Threats were exchanged along with promises of overstated retribution. 

Finally, the parking lot security officer arrived and strongly urged the blustering drivers to do their shopping somewhere else. I loved that man! And I got “my” parking space after all. 

While it is true that everyone is angry from time to time, it is just as true that everyone can learn to effectively control and manage their anger. We need to prepare now for the angry situations and circumstances headed our way. 

Anger is powerful--an emotional warning that something is wrong. We have been hurt or rejected. Something has changed and we don’t like it!

Anger itself is not a sin. We just have to learn to express anger in the right way. Mishandled anger is destructive, but anger that is handled correctly can become a tool for good.

God’s Word is filled with tips for learning to handle anger in a healthy and godly way. Here are 8 of them.

1. Be Still

Psalm 46:10Be still and know that I am God.”

If we are busy, it is much easier to ignore or refuse to face and deal with the real source of anger. Anger that is not dealt with in the right way accumulates over time, allowing bitterness to take root and rage to simmer just below the surface of everything we do, say, think or feel. In order to manage anger, we need to incorporate frequent and regular “stops” into our schedules; time set aside to simply be still and hear the voice of God. 

2. Be Quiet 

James 1:19-20 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Our first response to conflict is often not a response at all … but a reaction. We jump in with a brutal rebuttal or a thoughtless correction – which is like pouring gasoline on a fire. An explosion is bound to happen.

Our first action should be to stop and think instead of rushing to respond in a way that could escalate tensions or provoke an offensive response from others. Listen to the other person before responding. Try counting to ten before saying anything. This may not address the anger directly, but it can minimize the damage you will do while angry.

When our daughter was about six years old, she and I were engaged in a battle of wills. I wanted her to go to sleep but she had other plans for the evening--none of which included sleep. When she figured out that I was not going to give in, she stomped to her room--furious!

In a few minutes I went to make peace. When I opened the door to her room, I found her sitting on her bed, arms crossed, teeth clinched and eyes flashing. “Danna, let’s talk about this,” I said. Her response was profound, “Mama, I can’t talk right now. My mad is too big!”

Sometimes we just need to be quiet for a while and let our anger subside before we attempt to resolve the issue. 

3. Be Wise

Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a person who lacks self-control.”

Wisdom is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Anger management comes from wisdom rooted in self-control. I love the story of Jesus driving the money changers out of His Father’s temple. 

In John 2:15, Scripture says Jesus “made a whip out of cords.” Don’t miss this picture. At the height of His anger, Jesus gathered several cords and braided a whip.

Now I imagine it took several minutes at least to form a whip substantial enough to drive grown men anywhere. I think Jesus was so angry that He knew He needed to cool off, so He deliberately chose to be still, quiet and wise. When we are close to losing control of anger, we need to be wise. 

4. Be Discerning   

Psalm 4:4 “Shake with anger and do not sin. When you are on your bed, look into your hearts and be quiet.”

The longer I work with people the more I realize that there is always a reason for their behavior.  Hurt people – hurt people. When you are angry at someone, ask yourself why.

Think back to what led up to the conflict. Was it something someone said to you? Has a past problem triggered your present anger? Give yourself time to consider why you are upset and what you should do to handle it in a way that pleases God.

God created us with the capacity for emotions. That means He has a right plan and a right place for emotions in our lives. Anger management is a spiritual discipline that God honors, blesses and empowers.

5. Be Focused  

Psalm 37:8 “Stop being angry. Turn away from fighting. Do not trouble yourself. It leads only to wrong-doing.”

I witnessed the utter strength and beauty of our daughter as she went through hours of labor during the birth of her two sons. The pain was excruciating, but Danna worked through each contraction by doing two things: controlling her breathing and choosing a focus point.

We need to do the same when we are angry. Stop! Take a deep breath and focus on the peace of God.

6. Be Understanding 

James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." 

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—to listen twice as much as we speak. When you find yourself getting angry with someone, take time to really listen to what that person has to say. Make sure you understand their viewpoint.

In fact, it might be a good idea for you to repeat what they are saying back to them to make sure you do get the real point. Only then, when you have processed that information and reigned in your emotions, should you offer a reply. Listening for the purpose of understanding plays a significant role in anger management.

7. Be Kind

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

It had been one of “those” mornings and I was behind schedule in preparing to teach the women’s Tuesday morning Bible study at our church. I am fairly certain I did not exude peace and joy as I rushed around like a crazy woman.

Finally, it looked like everything was ready – everything except my heart. I knew I needed to spend some time alone with God before standing to teach His Word, so I found a quiet room where I could escape for a few minutes of solitude.

As I began to pray, the door flew open and crashed against the wall behind it as the husband of one of our group leaders burst into the room. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not happy and that whatever was wrong was definitely my fault.

In a very loud and very angry voice, the man began to explain the problem, ending his tirade with the question, "And just what are you going to do about it?" I knew what I wanted to say to the man. I also knew God didn't want me to say it.

In a rare moment of wisdom, I faced my accuser with a smile and whispered, "I'll tell you exactly what I am going to do. I am going to do whatever it takes to make you happy." I was completely unprepared for the man's reaction.

His mouth fell open, his eyes widened in surprise--no, make that shock--and he stumbled backwards as if I had hit him. We stared at each other for what seemed like an hour before he finally whispered back, "Thank you."

Without another word, the man turned and literally ran out of the room. The most amazing part of this story is that from that day on, he has been one of my strongest encouragers. The next time someone makes you angry, put a smile on your face.

It is hard to stay upset when you are smiling. Smiling is one of the best anger management tips because you can do it anytime, almost anywhere, and to pretty much anyone. The next time you are angry, choose to give a friendly smile of understanding, appreciation, or patience as you listen to the other side of the story.

8. Be Ready 

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

The best way to manage anger is to prevent it in the first place. How? Balance your schedule and priorities so that you will not live in a constant state of frustration and exhaustion.

Avoid spending time with angry people. Proverbs 22:24 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man; do not associate with one easily angered.” We really do become like the people with whom we spend the most time.

Pray constantly, asking the Holy Spirit to help you cultivate the habits that encourage peace--not anger. Memorize Scripture. The Word of God is a powerful weapon in dealing with and managing our emotions.

Anger is today’s emotional epidemic. What does it take to make you angry? Do you have a short fuse or a long one? How many relationships in your life have been damaged by your anger?

Remember--more important than the way you were and more important than the way you are is the way you can be. Right now, surrender your anger to God and thank Him for a new beginning.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.