A Soft Answer
Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) - A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Have you ever wanted to just tell someone off in public, so that they are humiliated? Have you ever had enough of someone’s behavior, and you know the next time they set you off, you weren’t going to repress it any longer? Have you ever felt like someone needed to be put in their place, and you’re just the person to do it? Follow up question: did you do it?
Spoiler alert: your answer is, “Yes.”
We’ve all been there. Even the shyest person will eventually snap and let their anger get the best of them. A mild-mannered person will fly into a fit of uncontrollable rage, and everyone who is there to witness it asks, “Where did that come from?”
The most incredible part about it: it feels good. Yes, it feels good to speak your mind in a confrontational manner. It feels even better when we raise our voice, scream, spit, and shift into Incredible Hulk mode. You feel like you can take on the world. But why?
Your brain releases dopamine when you fly into a fit of rage. Dopamine is the chemical that is responsible for reward-driven learning. If you achieve success at work, dopamine is released, and you feel good. If a basketball player hits a game-winning shot, dopamine is released, and he feels good. When you do something as simple as hold a significant other’s hand for the very first time, dopamine is released, and you feel good.
Yet there is a dark side to this chemical: it is also released when we are angry, frightened, or even depressed.
Dopamine also functions under the law of diminishing returns: the more you experience it because of something, the more you are desensitized to it. It is also powerfully addictive (cocaine and crystal meth actually manipulate the brain’s release system).
In other words, anger will make you feel a rush of energy, and this rush is not only addictive, but will actually decrease the more you release it by allowing anger to dominate your life. Also, the only way to satisfy that addiction is to become angrier in order to compensate for the desensitization.
Let’s simplify it even more: angry people stay angry, and actually get angrier if they don’t address it. You can imagine how damaging unaddressed anger can be to every relationship.
That’s why the Bible, in all of its endless wisdom, speaks to us time and time again about the dangers of anger and fighting:
2 Timothy 2:23-24 (ESV) - Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
THE ANGRY PERSON SAYS: “But you have to stand up for yourself!”
Romans 12:19 (ESV) - Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
So, no, you don’t. God will stand up for you. If you feel like you MUST defend yourself, then you’re telling God that you don’t trust Him to do it for you.
THE ANGRY PERSON SAYS: “I’m a confrontational person. It’s in my nature to tell people off.”
Romans 12:18 (NKJV) - If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Pay attention to the wording: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you...” In other words, you do everything you can to be the one in control, avoiding the fight, if possible. You cannot maintain complete control another’s anger, but you can control your own.
If you’re confrontational by nature, do not confront with anger. You confront by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Everyone, especially those in leadership, must address situations from time to time, but it must be done in the right spirit, without anger.
THE ANGRY PERSON SAYS: “I can only take it for so long!”
Ephesians 4:1-2 (NKJV) - I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
That word, “longsuffering,” is a bitter pill for us all to swallow. Patience with others, even those who are wronging us (or even others), is a command issued to the church.
Once you receive the Holy Ghost, the world around you should “know you by your fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20). Pay attention to the Fruits of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22-24 (NKJV) - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Gentleness and self-control? These are not qualities of one who lives in anger.
If you’re living in constant anger, pray that God would help you to see it, address it, and overcome it. If you need counseling, seek it. If you need to seek forgiveness, then go to the person you have wronged and sincerely ask they forgive you.
Please, whatever you do, don’t excuse the anger in your life. James 1:26 is perhaps the most frightening verse for those who cannot control their angry words:
James 1:26 (ESV) - If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Romans 14:19 (ESV) - So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Proverbs 3:30 (ESV) - Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) - Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 12:18 (ESV) - There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Titus 3:2 (ESV) - To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.