Anger is ‘in.” Being outraged, upset—and vocal about it—has been with us since the beginning of the human race. But doesn’t it seem like today more people than ever are outwardly angry about something? Anger has almost become chic.

Anger can be used for good. It creates energy that if channeled properly, can bring about real, positive change in the world. When handled destructively, well . . . I think you know what that brings.

One thing many of us don’t know about anger is it doesn’t magically dissipate on its own. It has the capacity to keep percolating, often brewing beneath the surface. Here’s the problem:

If we don’t tell our percolating anger where to go, it will take us to places we don’t want go. If we don’t tell our anger where to go, it will manifest as a knot in our gut every time we see a person we’re angry with. Unresolved anger can take us to a place of deep sadness and even depression, or to a place of fractured relationships.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger, do not sin.” Hmm, interesting. This verse doesn’t tell us to “not feel anger.” It warns us about bad behavior issuing from anger. So, it’s possible to feel and express anger without it resulting in damaging words or behaviors. Anger is neutral. It’s just easier to say or do something sinful when we’re ticked off!

Here are 5 anger fundamentals I think will help us:

  • Anger is a human emotion – it happens when someone violates you or takes something from you or crosses a healthy relational boundary you’ve set. In these situations, anger is simply part of being human.
  • Anger is a secondary emotion – Greg Smalley writes: “Anger is usually a response to something else . . . an unmet need, a dashed hope, a sense of injustice, or we feel like someone has control over us.”
  • Anger is sometimes the right emotion – Some appropriate occasions for anger? When a friend you love and trust betrays you. If your spouse verbally assaults you or physically abuses you. Anger is an appropriate response when you see injustice inflicted on others.
  • Anger is a revealing emotion – Anger acts like a metal detector. It often exposes brokenness buried deep in our heart. It calls attention to root issues we need to address
  • Anger can be a devastating emotion – Unmanaged and unprocessed anger is a key contributor to major depression.

If we don’t tell anger where to go, it will take us to places we don’t want to go. So . . . the question is, where do we tell anger where to go so it doesn’t ruin our life? We could talk about a number of places to tell anger where to go. I’d like to focus on two places in today’s post . . . assertiveness and forgiveness.


Assertiveness is telling a person who’s taken something from you or violated you how their behavior negatively impacted you. It embodies both truthful and gracious speech.

Assertiveness is the middle ground between passivity and aggression. Passivity tells your anger to go inward. An example of passivity is the silent treatment. Stuffing your anger hurts you and the person you’re not talking to.

Aggression tells your anger to explode outward. It can include inappropriate language or a demeaning tone; yelling and screaming, or getting physical with people. Aggression hurts others . . . but again it also hurts you.

Assertiveness is a better choice than passivity or aggression. It tells the person you’re angry with how you really feel, but does so with love and respect. It speaks in a way that honors the person you’re talking to, in a way that honors Father God, and in a way that keeps you healthy—all at the same time! The second place we tell our anger where to go is:


Forgiveness is simply deciding to cancel a debt. When someone takes something from us or violates us, our human nature wants to get even. When we tell our anger to go to revenge, we allow those who’ve hurt us to rent space in our head. Forgiveness is a better place for our anger.

In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul challenges us: “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.” (NIV) Here’s some realities that make forgiveness a bit easier:

  • Forgiveness doesn’t minimize the pain inflicted on us . . . it simply moves us toward healing. Holding a grudge may initially feel good—even justified—but it keeps us chained to the person who hurt us. Instead of bitterness, Paul directs us to forgive the same way God has forgiven us. Yikes.
  • Most offenses we need to get over quickly. A driver cuts you off on the freeway, or a store clerk treats you rudely. Let minor violations such as these roll off your back and simply move on. Refuse to be easily offended. However . . .
  • Some wounds cut deep. One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive a person who’s deeply wounded you. In deep-wound situations:
    • Be honest about the harm done – in deep wound scenarios, it’s my view that real forgiveness is not possible without first acknowledging the anger you feel about the offense.
    • Be committed to the process – Forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous. Please pause and ponder that for a minute. Jesus commands us to forgive—but in situations where someone we trusted stabbed us in the back, we often have to work through a process in order to forgive. If you’ve been betrayed by a close friend, you’ll need time just to figure out which way is up.
    • Be patient with yourself – You may have forgiven a while back, but occasionally something will trigger the memory of the wound and you feel anger again. If and when this occurs, don’t despair. It doesn’t mean the forgiveness you extended a while back wasn’t valid—it just means there’s more forgiving to do. You may wonder, “How do I know when I’m done forgiving?” Well, if you no longer wish a slow, painful death on your offender, you’re making progress.

Lewis Smedes says we know we’re done forgiving when:

  • We see the humanness of the person who hurt us
  • We surrender the “right” to get even
  • We can legitimately wish that person well

Andy Stanley puts a bow on forgiveness: “To refuse to forgive is to choose to self-destruct. In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. In the shadow of the cross, it’s merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another.”

Why is telling our anger where to go so important? Why does it matter? Why should you care? If you don’t tell anger where to go, it will take you to places you don’t want go. Anger will end up running . . . and ruining your life!

I’ve found that when I’m struggling to tell anger where to go, the ear of a safe and competent person really helps. If you’re struggling today with this most human of emotions, find someone who knows how to listen, help, and hold confidences.

Rooting and praying for you,