Column: Be angry and "sin not"


“Be angry, and sin not … do not give the devil a foothold.”


– Ephesians 4:26, 28


My mother used to tell me about her grandfather and the way he handled his anger without blowing his stack. She said that he would grab his ax, go out and chop up a stump until he was exhausted and the anger dissipated.

That’s certainly a good, old-time way to get it out of your system: No harsh words. No cursing or hitting. No hurting anyone.

But what if you don’t have a stump to chop? What then?

There is a way to be angry and not sin. Anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is an emotion common to all of us. It is what we do with our anger and how we express it that causes pain, creates hard feelings and destroys relationships.

Anger is a response to a perceived threat or invalidation to our self-worth. It was given to us by God to preserve our personal worth, perceived needs and heartfelt convictions. At the heart of anger is a cry for respect.

But explosive anger can destroy us and hurt those around us unless it is vented in a positive, godly way. In other words, to “be angry and sin not.”

If you are tired, worn out and in emotional pain from being trapped in anger, you don’t have to let it continue to ruin your life.

It’s not going to be easy. There is no “quick fix” to bring us to the goal where we can “be angry and sin not.”

Take the advice of an old Kenny Rogers song: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Hold ’em. When someone offends you with caustic words or actions, being a Christian doesn’t mean that you act like a doormat and let that person wipe his feet on you. You’re holding what you believe is the winning hand. Play your cards with assertiveness and kindness, remembering that anger is a gift from God meant to protect your self-worth in confrontations and conflict.

Then, you need to know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. The other person might want to continue the fight after you’ve said your peace. When your anger has run its course in a reasonable manner and there is nothing more you can say, fold ’em. If you don’t, you could lose control and add gasoline to the fire. You have to know when to leave it and move on.

You can’t make people respect or like you. Unjust criticism is part of life, but it doesn’t have to derail you.

There is a way to “be angry and sin not.” There is a way to healing, self-control, peace, self-respect and dignity. There is a way to break the habit of aggressive, open anger and learn new habits of expressing anger in an assertive, positive way.

You can choose to stop the curse and learn another way from Jesus, the master teacher.

“Learn from me,” Jesus said, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29-30).