Anger is natural. Expected. Often appropriate. If you haven't been angry lately, you haven't been paying attention.
Paul Tripp notes: “One of the necessary components of our broken world is anger. Because if this world is broken, if it’s not the way it’s supposed to be, then it’s right at points to be motivated by anger. Anger is not just a bad thing; anger is also a very good thing, and we better know the difference. God’s grace is not supposed to make us unangry. God’s grace is supposed to make us good and angry, at the same time.”
When Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that "everyone that is angry with someone else is in danger of judgment," he is not talking about having the emotion of anger. He is talking about harboring it. The Greek word, orgizomenos, means to harbor and contemplate deliberate hostile vengeance. Holding on to your anger is not a healthy way to live.
Paul gives great advice on anger in Ephesians 4:26-27:
"In your anger, do not sin. But at the same time, don't let the sun go down on your anger."
Paul says two things here. First, don't be a hot head. Your emotions provide you information, but they don't control what you do. "Fools give full vent to their rage." (Proverbs 29:11) Don't say or do things in the moment that will cost you big time down the road. When you do that, you are being weak. You are lacking self-control. You're probably allowing someone else to control you. Epictetus wrote, "Any person capable of angering you becomes your master."
Marcus Aurelius added, "It isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”
Second, Paul says "don't let the sun go down on your anger." Don't bury your anger deep inside. Jesus says doing that is on the same level as murdering someone. Even if you aren't outwardly retaliating against the offender (which is highly unlikely), you are murdering yourself. "Your soul is dyed with the color of your thoughts." (MA) Holding onto anger over a long period of time shrivels up your soul. You become a small, weak person.
So according to Paul, two unhealthy responses to anger are to constantly give into your knee-jerk reactions or to go to the other extreme and just bury it deep down inside. There is a better path forward.
Fighting Anger- Patience, Forgiveness, and Justice
In context of the Seven Deadly Sins, the Counter Virtue to Anger is Patience. The word patience has it’s root in the word pathos where we also get our word passion from. It means “to suffer.”
The opposite of wrath is not apathy. Toughness isn't numbness. You aren't supposed to be a corpse. The opposite of wrath is patience. Patience is the ability to endure hardship, not avoid it or not feel it.
The Crucifixion of Jesus is often called "The Passion of the Christ." Or the Suffering. Jesus was able to endure the suffering of the cross because he knew what he was suffering for. When we know who we want to be, and what we want our life to count for, we can endure.
The key to patience, or the ability to endure hardship, is to have something worth suffering for. The goal of our life should not be to avoid hardship, because that is impossible. Instead, we should find things that are worth enduring pain for. For followers of Jesus, that cause is ultimately Christ and His kingdom. But it might also be things like your family, your friends, your country, or your own character.
This is probably obvious, but another cure for wrath is forgiveness. The ability to let go of the offense and the wound and move on. Bitterness ultimately only hurts the person that holds on to it. Marcus wisely wrote:
"How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them."
To seek vengeance is to only further damage your soul. I love the Stoic thought that when you inflict harm on others you inflict harm on yourself. "To harm is to do yourself harm, to do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice- it degrades your." (MA) Learn to move on and assure the other person, with sincerity, "No, no, my friend. That isn't what we're here for. It isn't me who's harmed by that. It's you." (MA)
It seemed like Jesus got angry. Often. When Jesus got angry, he used that anger as fuel to pursue justice, healing, and reconciliation. In his anger, he methodically went into the Temple Courts and cleared out the corruption and made room for the marginalized to worship. Another time, his anger towards the self-righteous religious leaders fueled his compassion for the broken and he healed a cripple.
Anger is fuel. Fuel that can be used to pursue justice and healing or fuel that can be used to burn the whole mother down.
When you get disappointed, frustrated, and just flat out furious- be aware of it. Slow down anf figure out what it's really about and if you're even reading it right. And if you are, and your anger is justified, then use that anger wisely. Be a peacemaker.