«Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil» (Ephesians 4:26, 27).
WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT that anger is an emotion that we must avoid at all costs. Some claim that it’s an attack on our health, because those who are angry subject their internal organs to an aggression for which they pay a very high price. So, what should we do with this basic human emotion? Should we repress it at all costs? Is it possible to do so? What’s more, is it a sin to get angry?
In the first place, let us remember that anger is an emotion, just like joy or sadness. It’s a physiological reaction and has cognitive components that identify emotion. In other words, it’s the answer to an experience that gives meaning to what we are feeling. Some experts in the psychology of emotions claim that anger, like all other emotions, has a functional and a dysfunctional part; in other words, it isn’t always or necessarily bad to be upset.
The dysfunctional part of anger is reflected when the energy that precedes it causes it to become rage and uncontained wrath. In this case, anger not only harms the one who feels it, but also those who receive such energy overflowing with violence that results in offensive words, gestures or even physical aggression. That’s the type of anger that’s clearly bad or a sin.
You may be wondering what the functional part of anger might be. Ephesians 4:26 hints at the answer: «Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.» It’s clear from this biblical text that anger is valid when used to set limits, if someone is invading or trampling our dignity. The Bible identifies it as a basic human emotion, and gives us hints as to how to avoid it from becoming something dysfunctional: we shouldn’t allow the anger that we feel—no matter how well justified it may be—to lead us to sin; with God’s help, let us put a limit not only to the intensity but also to the duration of our anger.
Abuse, violence, beatings, and rudeness should not be allowed. «Good» anger results in strength, firmness, or displeasure when someone or something attacks our rights. In this case, it’s not contaminated by blind anger, uncontained rage, or uncontrollable wrath.
If you don’t want to lose when it comes to getting angry, don’t react to your wounded ego. Watch your words, don’t judge, wait for the right place and time to express your displeasure, and ask God for strength in prayer. Don’t provoke fights; just seek healing for yourself and your offender. May the Lord help you to wisely manage this basic human emotion that we all feel.