May 1, 2019 @ 8:00 AM
As counselors, Elsie and I encounter our fair share of angry people in our practice. In order to learn best practice strategies for how to deal with angry people, we have taken seminars on anger management. One of the seminars we took is called, “What’s Good about Anger?” It frames anger in a positive light as a powerful motivation for good. We learned a lot of practical skills to use with our angry clients to help them manage their anger positively instead of destructively. Here are seven biblical strategies we use to help our clients who struggle with anger. We teach them to:
Speak softly and gently..
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.Ecclesiastes 9:17. Lower the volume. Anger is a volatile emotion and flares up in us with little warning. One important strategy is when you feel yourself tensing up, becoming flush, and your speech is growing louder, step back. Speak quieter, more deliberately.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.Prov. 15:1, 18
These verses tell us that gentle words are easier to hear and can defuse an angry interchange. To speak them takes maturity and wisdom. The flesh screams at us to blast this person with loud, confrontational words but we don’t have to be a slave to our emotions. We can be their master. We CAN choose to speak softer, gentler words.
2. Use empathetic statements.
The wise in heart are called discerning,and gracious words promote instruction.Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.Prov. 16:21, 24
Empathetic statements identify with the pain or difficulty of the other person. Statements such as, “You must have had a rough day. Do you feel like talking about it? I’m willing to listen,” communicate you care. It’s hard to stay angry with someone who cares about you.
Sin is not ended by multiplying words,but the prudent hold their tongues.The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. Prov. 10:19, 17:27, 28
Truth be told, one of the best strategies for diffusing anger is to stop talking. It’s like driving down the wrong road. When you realize it, you need to stop and take a different road. To continue driving on the wrong road won’t get you to where you want to go. The Bible declares that, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent . . .” (Proverbs 17:28).
4. Take a time out.
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.Prov. 20:22
They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. Acts 15:39
A time out is a sophisticated strategy for diffusing anger. It’s sophisticated in that both parties agree to take a break from talking and agree to come back to the issue after a set amount of time when they’ve cooled down. Time outs are often associated with parenting children but in the heat of the moment adults need them too.
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God . . . After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. Acts 4:24, 31
Don’t underestimate the power of prayer to change your heart and the heart of the other person. Pausing to pray is inviting God into the conflict and asking Him to help you both to understand each other. It’s hard to be angry with someone when we are praying together.
6. Say “Help me understand.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45
This powerful little phrase can diffuse anger. It is empathetic (see above) and communicates your desire to hear and understand the reasoning or situation that’s producing the conflict.
7. Say “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
Hatred stirs up conflict but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
Psychologists call this taking the “one down position” because it’s humble. It is the hardest strategy to use because our sinful pride does not want to humble itself and admit wrongdoing. But if you can humble yourself to say these words know that it is hard to stay angry with someone who says they’re sorry and asks for your forgiveness.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19),