As therapists, we don’t shy away from emotions. We appreciate and even encourage emotional expressions. I can tell you wholeheartedly that I enjoy watching movies with lots of displays of relationship and family dynamics, and expressions of emotion.
Displays of anger, particularly when expressed verbally, are powerful and typically give you a view into a person’s heart. After all, recall what the second part of Matthew 12:34 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Our words give us away, particularly when we’re angry.
Have you ever tried to pretend you weren’t upset with someone to their face? How painful is this “act”? Or maybe you tend to be passive-aggressive. So, you never quite own your anger and therefore it comes out sideways, in underhanded jabs, leaving people wondering if they just got stabbed.
Maybe your anger runs very deep, and it feels quite justified. You may have had a loved one (or someone supposed to be a loved one) that wounded or betrayed you. Is it right to feel anger toward them? What do you do with it?
Let’s look more closely at Psalm 109. This Psalm was written by King David and has 31 verses. We’re just going to focus on a few of them. First verses 1 and 2:
1Be not silent, O God of my praise!
2For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
David cries out to God, begging him to answer his call. He describes what he is going through – people are slandering him. Being slandered, lies being told about you, is one of the most painful things to go through. Particularly when you have tried to do the right thing by the Lord and in your life. So, we can all understand, David is angry about what he’s going through.
David then begins to describe line by line all that he would like to see done to his enemies. We’ll look at a few verses here:
9May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
10May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
11May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
12Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
Can you relate yet? If we’re honest, I think we all can. I believe we all have been so angry as to imagine harm coming to those who have hurt us. What’s amazing is that this intensity of anger is in the Bible – in a prayer to God. And the intensity does not end here – there are more verses following these that describe what King David is asking God to do to punish his enemies.
However, 9 verses later, something changes. David refocuses on who he is speaking to – Almighty God – declaring that his “steadfast love is good” (verse 21). And then David acknowledges his own situation, “I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me” (verse 22). See the verses below:
21But you, O GOD my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
22For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
I believe we can find insight here. Is the answer to anger found in acknowledging our own sin and need for God’s rescuing? I believe so.
But of course, similar to our other emotions, it’s that simple, and in some ways, it’s not that simple. What do I mean? Well, the answer can be that simple but actually working through the anger isn’t always that simple.
For some of us, the hurt is so deep, and the anger so strong, that we will need to express it over and over again to finally let it go. The expression could be crying out to God, talking to someone we trust, writing therapeutic letters (a letter we write to the person we’re upset with, but don’t actually give it to the them), attending a support group, processing it in therapy, confronting the person we’re upset with, setting up healthier boundaries (what we say yes and no to for our lives), artistic ventures like painting, acting or writing, and so much more.
Anger is not a “bad” emotion.
But one thing we have to remember is that anger is not a “bad” emotion. When we label emotions as “good” or “bad” it gets in the way of dealing with them. Because our emotions tell us something. As in the case of anger – it tells us something about what’s going on inside of us.
In Psalm 4:4, King David instructs us:
4Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
In other words, take time to reflect upon what is going on in your heart, and why the anger is there. Do not simply react (such as sending a text you can’t take back) to feeling that way.
In the book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 25 and 26, the Apostle Paul instructs us:
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.
First, he talks about speaking truthfully, which can, many times, prevent anger from getting rooted in your heart. In other words, deal with the matter at hand – say what you have to say (ideally, speaking the truth in love).
Paul then references Psalm 4:4 at the beginning of verse 26, “in your anger do not sin.” It doesn’t say, ‘if you’re angry, you’re sinning.’ Sometimes we confuse the two and convince ourselves that it’s wrong to be angry, and we live inauthentic lives, never addressing offenses or telling others or ourselves the truth. But you don’t have to live this way.
It’s impossible to cover every scenario in a blog. But know that your story is important. Please reach out if you need to talk or you need help processing how you’re feeling or figuring out what to do next. You’re not alone. I’m here to help.