The last time I became angry was when I witnessed someone act inappropriately. At least, that was my take on the situation. They spoke critically to a friend of mine. I thought their action was unwarranted and really not their business anyway. I struggled with wanting to tell them off, to give them a piece of my mind.

According to author and counselor David Powlinson, the definition of anger is simple:

I’m against that + I care about it = Anger

Being against the action and caring deeply about it are both required in order for anger to erupt.

If you don’t care strongly about the issue, you may be mildly bothered, but will not feel anger. Also, if it’s not something you have a conviction about; but consider just a matter of taste or opinion, you won’t be upset.

The standard of dress or behavior for one culture may be offensive to others, for instance. A woman wearing shorts on a hot summer day would go unnoticed in any American city. However, the same attire in most Moslem countries would be completely unacceptable. Conversely, the restrictions on women in those countries would be considered shocking and unfair to most American females.

There are things that really get to me that may not bother you at all. When I was angry at the person who spoke inappropriately to my friend, I wanted to lash out. However, others observing the same situation may not have been bothered. Fortunately, I did not react immediately but kept my mouth shut. 🙂

Righteous anger was created by God to correct wrongs and to make things right.

When anger is righteous, its end goal is restoration. Good anger fixes things, puts them back to the way they should be. We should feel righteous anger over injustice, abuse, and violations against the law of God.

When anger is righteous, its end goal is restoration. Good anger fixes things, puts them back to… Click To Tweet

Three Criteria of Righteous Anger:

  • It reacts to a violation against the law of God.
  • It focuses on God and His kingdom, His rights and concerns. It asks, “How are they offending God?” It cares for those who are victimized or oppressed.
  • It is accompanied by other godly qualities and expresses itself in godly ways. It seeks to help, to restore things back to the way they should be.

Righteous anger confronts in a godly way and calls for repentance and restoration.

However, most of the time, we distort righteous anger and turn it into sinful anger. How do we do that? We make it all about us. Our anger is usually about something that personally offends or upsets us.

Characteristics Of Sinful Anger:

  • Reacts to a wrong or perceived wrong against me.
  • Is a reaction to something that offends me. It focuses on my rights and concerns; how I was inconvenienced, slighted, harmed. I ask the question, “How are they offending me?”
  • Is accompanied by sinful and selfish qualities. I accuse, yell, withdraw, or use sarcasm to hurt. I am moved to sinful actions such as revenge or violence. The ultimate goal here is getting my own way.

Sometimes we start out with righteous anger over an injustice or abuse, and then react to it in selfish or sinful ways. In the example I gave, I was upset because the person spoke unkindly to my friend. You could argue that I was angry over an injustice, a characteristic of righteous anger. But my reaction spoke volumes about the condition of my heart. It was about me and how I was offended: I believed they acted inappropriately, I thought they had overstepped and had no business interfering. My first thought was not godly; I wanted to yell at them!

Another example of this is how we react to our children. When they act wrongly, they are going against the law of God (Ephesians 6:1). But our response of yelling or belittling them is also wrong: a result of our own sinful anger. Our motivation is often selfish, for we have been inconvenienced or embarrassed by their refusal to obey.

It’s sobering to realize that although our children may regularly disobey us, we are usually at least equally guilty of reacting to them in sinful anger! I know I often was.

We only need to read the gospels to see how Jesus reacted to injustice and poor treatment. He exhibited righteous anger when others were oppressed or God’s law was violated (Mark 3:4-5, Mark 10:14, John 2:13-16).

But he did not react in anger when he was repeatedly, personally insulted and persecuted. He was treated disrespectfully and even criminally. But Jesus’ focus was on his mission and the Kingdom of God, not on his own personal concerns. I am always amazed that he didn’t become offended, even when he had plenty of provocation!

How can we model Jesus in this area? If we react to circumstances with a Kingdom mindset: having the thought of “confronting in a godly way and calling for repentance and restoration,” we will go a long way in preventing our own selfish reactions and sinful anger.

May we better understand our anger and grow to become more like Jesus!

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