There has been growing awareness that being angry is not a sin but it can lead to sin. Emotion of any kind, including anger, is a messenger. It delivers a message to us that something needs to be dealt with. For instance, happy emotion cues us to repeat whatever causes it. Sad emotion signals to us to take time to process; to grieve an incident. Angry emotion indicates that an internal value is violated and needs correction. Our emotions (of any any kind)are not sinful in themselves. They deliver messages which we need to decipher and choose our response.When I am angered, I could berate the offender or I could choose to sort out calmly with the offender. Our response can be a sin or it can be helpful. The emotion is just a messenger. Our response to the emotion determines if we have sinned; it decides the outcome of an incident.
How about being easily angered? Is being easily angered a sin? Or not Christ-like character?
I was leading a bible study session with a youth and we were exploring the verse: My old self has been crucified (died) with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20a). We wrote down a column of character under 'old life' and a corresponding column of character under 'new life in Christ'. 'Old life' column includes being self-centred which contrasted with others-centred in 'new life' column. When the characteristic of 'easily angered' was listed under the 'old life' column, I struggled for a vocabulary in the 'new life' column. I had wanted to write 'not easily angered'. However, on second thoughts, I wonder about its applicability in reality? What triggers me to anger is violation of a value I hold. Does Jesus want me to give up what is important to me just because I believe in Him? Suppose I value a spirit of excellence in work, someone who does slipshod work will upset me. Does Jesus want me to now give up a good value just so that I will not be easily angered?
I deliberated if it is beneficial to the youth by encouraging her to train herself not to be easily angered. Would it be synonymous with misguiding her to suppress her emotion without dealing with it? Would it be asking her to give up her personality or values that are important to her? I raced in my mind for a suitable characteristic to list under the ‘new life’ column.
Then suddenly, ‘forgive easily’ popped in my mind. (I think God’s Spirit timely bestowed me wisdom.) Rather than ‘not easily angered’, ‘forgive easily’ perhaps better describes the character of God. Multiple stories in the bible narrate of how God is offended by us (human) and how He extends mercy to His offenders. In fact, *Jesus coming to earth was an expression of God’s heart to extend forgiveness to us. In an instant, Jesus’ teaching on Sermon on the Mount flooded my mind. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mathew 5:9) On numerous occasions, the bible exalts us to forgive others easily; to seek peace with each other. Hence, I propose ‘forgive easily’ as a counter response to ‘easily angered’.
When you are angry, I suggest the following:
As we train ourselves to forgive, our capacity to forgive increases. To be honest, some people are just irritating and plain silly. They come at you over and over again with their sillyness and they can drive us crazy. Maybe that’s how God sees us too. These people drive me mad with their sillyness every day! Haha! Frankly, forgiving is very difficult and hardwork. It is in the category of things that only God can do, like moving a mountain. I suppose that is why it is under the column ‘new life in Christ’. Something only achievable with God’s help. Especially when the person does not deserve it or the person is not apologetic. In fact, I do not really know how to rely on God to do it except praying like this “God, help me to forgive him. Help me not to hold it against him. I don’t quite know how to do this, just help me. And please help me to let go and enable me to sleep tonight.”
Usually, after such a prayer, my anger subsides slowly. Other thoughts that are helpful for me is to consider that sometimes life is difficult for everyone. Perhaps the person had a bad day, or the person was unwell, or the person has a lot of internal hurts and unresolved issues from childhood that resulted in the current state. Maybe if I were to be in the same situation, I would be the same. Empathy for the other person helps to speed up the release of forgiveness.
Hopefully, as we shorten the time gap between being angered and releasing forgiveness, we magnify our sense of joy and freedom. New life in Christ is not achieved by a magic potion or a magical prayer. New life in Christ is growing our character bit by bit enabled by God until we become Christ-like and reflect God’s glory. Whether being easily angered is not Christ-like, I leave to you to decide. I submit to you that forgiving easily is definitely Christ-like.
*For more information, PM me at firstname.lastname@example.org