The Bible and Anger

Handling anger is an important life skill. Christian counselors report that 50 percent of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger. Anger can shatter communication and tear apart relationships, and it ruins both the joy and health of many people.

Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. Everyone struggles, to varying degrees, but God’s Word contains principles regarding how to handle anger in a godly manner, and how to overcome sinful anger.

Anger is not always sin. There is a type of anger of which the Bible approves, often called “righteous indignation.”

  1. God is angry (Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5)
  2. Believers are commanded to be angry (Ephesians 4:26)

Two Greek words in the New Testament are translated as “anger.”

  1. One means “passion, energy”
  2. The other means “agitated, boiling”

Anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems. Examples of biblical anger include

  1. David’s being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12)
  2. Jesus’ anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God’s temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18).

Notice that neither of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.

That being said, it is important to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is also appropriate. Anger has been said to be a warning flag (it alerts us to those times when others are attempting to or have violated our boundaries). God cares for each individual. Sadly, we do not always stand up for one another, meaning that sometimes we must stand up for ourselves.

Anger can become sinful when it is motivated by pride (James 1:20), when it is unproductive and thus distorts God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 10:31), or when anger is allowed to linger (Ephesians 4:26-27).

  1. One obvious sign that anger has turned to sin is when, instead of attacking the problem at hand, we attack the wrongdoer. Ephesians 4:15-19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips. Unfortunately, this poisonous speech is a common characteristic of fallen man (Romans 3:13-14).
  2. Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over without restraint, resulting in a scenario in which hurt is multiplied (Proverbs 29:11), leaving devastation in its wake. Often, the consequences of out-of-control anger are irreparable.
  3. Anger also becomes sin when the angry one refuses to be pacified, holds a grudge, or keeps it all inside (Ephesians 4:26-27). This can cause depression and irritability over little things, which are often unrelated to the underlying problem.

We can handle anger biblically by recognizing and admitting our prideful anger and/or our wrong handling of anger as sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). This confession should be both to God and to those who have been hurt by our anger. We should not minimize the sin by excusing it or blame-shifting.

We can handle anger biblically by seeing God in the trial. This is especially important when people have done something to offend us. James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29, and Genesis 50:20 all point to the fact that God is sovereign over every circumstance and person that crosses our path. Nothing happens to us that He does not cause or allow. Though God does allow bad things to happen, He is always faithful to redeem them for the good of His people. God is a good God (Psalm 145:8, 9, 17). Reflecting on this truth until it moves from our heads to our hearts will alter how we react to those who hurt us.

We can handle anger biblically by making room for God’s wrath. This is especially important in cases of injustice, when “evil” men abuse “innocent” people. Genesis 50:19 and Romans 12:19 both tell us to not play God. God is righteous and just, and we can trust Him who knows all and sees all to act justly (Genesis 18:25).

We can handle anger biblically by returning good for evil (Genesis 50:21; Romans 12:21). This is key to converting our anger into love. As our actions flow from our hearts, so also our hearts can be altered by our actions (Matthew 5:43-48). That is, we can change our feelings toward another by changing how we choose to act toward that person.

We can handle anger biblically by communicating to solve the problem.

1. There are four basic rules of communication shared in Ephesians 4:15, 25-32:

  1. Be honest and speak (Ephesians 4:15, 25). People cannot read our minds. We must speak the truth in love.
  2. Stay current (Ephesians 4:26-27). We must not allow what is bothering us to build up until we lose control. It is important to deal with what is bothering us before it reaches critical mass.
  3. Attack the problem, not the person (Ephesians 4:29, 31). Along this line, we must remember the importance of keeping the volume of our voices low (Proverbs 15:1).
  4. Act, don’t react (Ephesians 4:31-32). Because of our fallen nature, our first impulse is often a sinful one (v. 31). The time spent in “counting to ten” should be used to reflect upon the godly way to respond (v. 32) and to remind ourselves how the energy anger provides should be used to solve problems and not create bigger ones.

2. At times we can handle anger preemptively by putting up stricter boundaries. We are told to be discerning (1 Corinthians 2:15-16; Matthew 10:16). We need not “cast our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Sometimes our anger leads us to recognize that certain people are unsafe for us. We can still forgive them, but we may choose not to re-enter the relationship.

3. Act to solve our part of the problem (Romans 12:18). We cannot control how others act or respond, but we can make the changes that need to be made on our part. Overcoming a temper is not accomplished overnight. But through prayer, Bible study, and reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit, ungodly anger can be overcome. We may have allowed anger to become entrenched in our lives by habitual practice, but we can also practice responding correctly until that, too, becomes a habit and God is glorified in our response.

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Taking Action Against Anger

So, what can be done right now to help me with me anger? Ask, “Can I change this situation?” (If the door squeaks, oil it!)

  • — If you can, change it.
  • — If you can’t, release it.

PRAY … “Lord, You are sovereign over my life. Sine You know everything, You know I feel a strong sense of (hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration) about (name the person or the situation). I release this situation into Your hands. I trust You with my future and with me.
In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

“Anger is one letter short of danger.” This saying is more than a catchy phrase; these words reflect the painful truth. Too many times the tongue has not been tamed and conversations have escalated out of control.

Acknowledge Your Anger:

  • Be willing to admit you do have anger.
  • Be aware of when you feel anger.
  • Become aware of suppressing or repressing your anger because of fear.
  • Be willing to take responsibility for any inappropriate anger.
  • He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Analyze Your Style:

  • How often do you feel angry? (Often? Sometimes? Never?)
  • How do you know when you are angry?
  • How do others know when you are angry?
  • How do you release your anger?
  • Do you explode? Do you become teary-eyed? Do you joke or tease? Do you become sarcastic? Do you criticize? Do you become defensive?
  • Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

Assess the Source:

  • Hurt: Is the source of your anger hurt feelings from the words or actions of others?
  • Injustice: Is the source of your anger an emotional response to the unjust actions of someone toward another person?
  • Fear: Is the source of your anger a feeling of loss or fear?
  • Frustration: Is the source of your anger frustration because something didn’t go as you planned?
  • I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)

Appraise Your Thinking:

  • Are you expecting others to meet your standards?
    • “She should take better care of her children.”
    • “He ought to notice what I do for him.”
    • “He must be here before 7:00 p.m.”
    • “She’d better not call during dinner!”
  • Are you guilty of distorted thinking?
    • Exaggerating the situation
    • Assuming the worst
    • Labeling one action based on other actions
    • Generalizing by saying, “you never” or “you always”
  • A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)

Admit Your Needs:

  • Anger is often used as a tactic to get inner needs met.
    • Do you use anger as a manipulative ploy to demand certain “musts” in an attempt to feel loved?
    • Do you use explosive anger to get your way in an attempt to feel significant?
    • Do you use controlling anger, insisting on certain conditions in order to feel secure?
    • Do you know that only Christ can ultimately meet all these needs?
  • My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Abandon Your Demands:

Instead of demanding that others meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security, learn to look to the Lord to meet your needs.

  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more love from others, I know that You love me unconditionally.” “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more significant to those around me, I know that I am significant in Your eyes.” “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • “Lord, though I wish I felt more secure in my relationships, I know I am secure in my relationship with You.” “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
  • “Lord, though I wish others would be more responsive to my needs, I know that You have promised to meet all my needs.” “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Alter Your Attitudes:

Take the following steps as outlined in Philippians 2:2–8.

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:2–8)

  • Have the goal to be like-minded with Christ. Philippians 2:2
  • Do not think of yourself first. Philippians 2:3
  • Give the other person preferential treatment. Philippians 2:3
  • Consider the other person’s interests. Philippians 2:4
  • Have the attitude of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:5
  • Do not emphasize your position or rights. Philippians 2:6
  • Look for ways to serve with a servant’s heart. Philippians 2:7
  • Speak and act with a humble spirit. Philippians 2:8
  • Be willing to die to your own desires. Philippians 2:8

Address Your Anger:

Determine whether your anger is really justified. “A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.” (Proverbs 21:29)

Decide on the appropriate response. “[There is] a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

a. How important is the issue?
b. Would a good purpose be served if I mention it?
c. Should I acknowledge my anger only to the Lord?

Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

Develop constructive dialogue when you confront. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

Don’t speak from a heart of unforgiveness.
Do … Think before you speak.

Don’t use phrases such as: “How could you?” or “Why can’t you?”
Do … Use personal statements such as “I feel.…”

Don’t bring up past grievances.
Do … Stay focused on the present issue.

Don’t assume that the other person is wrong.
Do … Listen for feedback from another point of view.

Don’t expect instant understanding.
Do … Be patient and keep responding with gentleness.

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)

Demonstrate the grace of God, by saying to yourself:

“I placed my anger on the cross with Christ.”
“I am no longer controlled by anger.”
“I am alive with Christ living inside me.”
“I will let Christ forgive through me.”
“I will let Christ love through me.”
“I will let Christ reveal truth through me.”

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Resolving Past Anger

Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationship with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit. “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalm 73:21–22)

So, how can past anger be resolved?

Realize Your Burning Anger:

  • Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger.
  • Ask God to reveal any buried anger in your heart.
  • Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger.
  • Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor.
  • I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” (Psalm 38:18)

Revisit Your Root Feelings:

  • Did you feel hurt (rejected, betrayed, unloved, ignored)?
  • Did you experience injustice (cheated, wronged, maligned, attacked)?
  • Did you feel fearful (threatened, insecure, out-of-control, powerless)?
  • Did you feel frustrated (inadequate, inferior, hindered, controlled)?
  • Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

Receive God’s Love:

  • Meditate on and memorize Scripture revealing God’s love for you:
    • Jeremiah 31:3
    • Psalm 32:10
    • Lamentations 3:22–23
    • Psalm 89:1
    • Psalm 13:5–6
    • Psalm 103:17
  • Read five psalms daily for one month.
  • Rest in the acceptance of God, not in the acceptance of others.
  • Rely on the Lord to meet your inner needs for love, for significance, and for security.
  • How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Release Your Rights:

  • Confess that harboring anger in your heart is sin.
  • Give your desire for revenge to God.
  • Refuse to hold on to your past hurts by releasing them to God.
  • Pray for God to work in the life of the one who has wronged you and to change your heart toward that person.
  • Release the one who hurt you into the hands of God—forgive as God forgave you!
  • Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Rejoice in God’s Purpose:

  • Thank God for the ways He will use this trial in your life.
  • Know that God can use your resolved past anger for your good and for the good of those around you.
  • Praise God for His commitment to use all the circumstances in your life to develop Christ’s character within you, making you strong, firm, and steadfast.
  • The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Restore the Relationship: … When Appropriate.

  • Even if reconciliation is not appropriate (after adultery or with an unrepentant abuser) or not possible (after a death), you must always confess your own sin.
  • Realize that when someone sins against you and you hold on to anger and refuse to be reconciled to the person, you are sinning against both God and that individual.
  • Confess the anger in your heart to God and ask the person to forgive you for refusing to be reconciled.
  • Write out the confession first to get the wording correct: “I realize I’ve been wrong in holding on to my anger against you and refusing to allow God to restore our relationship. I’m deeply sorry. Will you forgive me?”
  • Be sure the encounter is free of anger and accusatory statements.
  • You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.… Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21–24)

Reflect Christ’s Love:

  • Actively seek to reflect the love of God toward the person who hurt you.
  • Pray in your heart …
    • “Lord, help me to submit to Your control.”
    • “Lord, I want Your mind to direct my mind.”
    • “Lord, reflect Your attitudes in my actions.”
    • “Lord, guide my words to express Your love.”
  • A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Solution to Anger

Whether you are filled with hurt, a sense of injustice, fear, or frustration, what should you do when you get angry? The Bible says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)

Key Verse to Memorize:Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19–20)

Key Passage to Read and Reread: “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.… Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, 29–32)


  • Anger is appropriate at certain times. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger must be resolved, or it becomes sinful. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger can be curtailed. Ephesians 4:26
  • Anger, if prolonged, gives ground to Satan. Ephesians 4:27
  • Anger can lead to corrupt, unwholesome, degrading talk. Ephesians 4:29
  • Anger can grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30
  • Anger can be totally cancelled. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger becomes sin when it results in bitterness. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be eradicated before it turns into rage. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be forfeited before it leads to fighting. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be stopped before it becomes slander. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger must be mastered before it becomes malicious. Ephesians 4:31
  • Anger can be conquered through compassion. Ephesians 4:32
  • Anger can be defeated through forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

The Root Cause of Anger

When we feel that our real or perceived “rights” have been violated, we can easily respond with anger.

But what are our legitimate rights? One person might answer, “Happiness” while another might say, “Freedom to live life my way.” But this was not the mind-set of Jesus. He yielded His rights to His heavenly Father. Based on the Bible, we have the right to live in the light of God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Other than that, we are to yield our rights to the Lord and let Him have His way in our hearts. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

WRONG BELIEF: “Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about the disappointments in my life and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me.”

RIGHT BELIEF: “Since the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointments to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do.”

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)

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This information comes from Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Anger: Facing the Fire Within, Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.