by James Rudy Gray
Chronic anger is a growing problem in our fast-paced, high-stress lifestyles. Men are particularly prone to this difficulty. One of the most serious components in the behavior of Type A personalities is chronic anger.
Dr. Frank Bruno, a secular psychotherapist and professor of psychology at San Bernardino Valley College, has written, “Remember that acting in any angry manner is a choice you make. Refuse to think, ‘I cannot help myself.’ Instead think, ‘I am in the driver’s seat. Negative emotional displays are not in my own best interests.”
Anger itself is a strong feeling of displeasure that signals danger. It is characterized by high psychological arousal. Chronic anger is characterized by three key attributes: It is sinful (or pathological), excessive, and irrational.
Since anger is a secondary emotion growing out of such primary emotional conditions as fear, hurt, or frustration, it is important to see the underlying reasons behind chronic anger.
Is chronic anger sin? Most commentators agree that anger itself is not sin. The sin is evidenced in how we deal with it. Chronic anger, however, is a condition that poisons a person’s emotional system. It is sin.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This verse includes a quotation from Psalm 4:4. The Greek root word for “be angry” is orgé and it can refer to an abiding state of mind that is aroused under certain conditions. The word “anger” in this verse is a different word, parorgismós, meaning basically an angry mood. We should have righteous indignation that is not simply an expression of wounded pride, etc. However, we must not live in a settled condition of being angry, as A. T. Robertson pointed out. The idea is to be righteously angry, but not to live in that atmosphere.
Chronic anger is a settled mood of anger. It is dangerous, destructive, and sinful. John MacArthur calls parorgismós “a deep seated, determined, and settled conviction.”
If chronic anger is evident in our lives or in the lives of people we attempt to serve, how can we be God’s tool in the helping process?
The condition of chronic anger must be seen. Then it must be seen for what it is: sin. Confession of it as sin should be made (1 John 1:9). Then the difficult work of adjusting to a different lifestyle must begin. Understanding our condition along with applying God’s truth to our lives must take place.
It is important that chronically angry people do the necessary self-evaluation and receive input from those who know them best. It is almost always wise to seek the help of well-trained counselors in the process of personal change.
Here are some of the more obvious questions to ask when determining if a person is chronically angry: Are you over-valuing the importance of your own emotional state? Are you using anger as a way to cope with anxiety? Are you employing behavior that you learned early in life? Is anger a way for you to get your own way?
One of the most effective tools to find immediate help is to use the delay
principle in your responses. Stop before you act. Think before you speak. Take a time-out. Count to one hundred. Basically, put some time between the feeling and the action you are moved to take. A great strategy for reconditioning a person’s lifestyle, to be used with the delay principle, is to memorize Scriptures dealing with joy, attitude, patience, etc.
Choosing to live an angry life is a decision that brings negative consequences. Choosing to face the truth of our condition, identifying possible causes and patterns, and taking action to change is a positive, healthy, and good commitment.
Chronic anger will not end suddenly. It is a conditioned state of living. However, facing the truth and making a conscious and God-focused commitment to change will empower a person to move forward in the process of healthy change.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a
professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member
of the American Association of Christian Counselors.