“So then, putting away falsehood let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the adversary.” – Ephesians 4:25-27
The Bible gives us a great strategy in Ephesians for dealing with our anger in a godly manner. It says there are appropriate times to be angry. In the original language, the word for “anger” in Ephesians 4:25-27 is in the imperative – meaning it is a command. At times, we are commanded to be angry. But it holds in tension that the anger must be expressed in a way that is not sinful or destructive to the person who is offended, or to the group or individual with whom we are angry.
How do we do this? Verse 25 says, “So then, putting away falsehood let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors…” This gives two guidelines; first, it reminds us that we must not say false things about the one with whom we are angry. Often when we are mad at someone, we say something about him or her that is not true. In our explosiveness, we may degrade, insult, or attack who they are. This often leads to further anger and hostility on their part, and most of the time, we wind up regretting what we said about them.
Secondly, it tells us that we must speak the truth. This means that we must talk truthfully to the one we are angry with about how we are feeling and how the action they have taken has wounded us. We are allowed, and even expected, to say to the one who is offending that their action has a consequence in our lives, and because we are “members of one another,” it has implications for them as well. Only then can we come to a resolution.
Ephesians 4:27 then prompts us to come to a resolution quickly when it says, “do not let the sun go down on your anger…” Hopefully, it can be resolved within the day, and we are urged to try to make it so. Otherwise, we give our anger a foothold that can be used to break down our relationships instead of building them up.
This does not mean that we cannot take a “time out” to gain control of our anger and frustration so that we can put away falsehood, speak the truth, and do so promptly. Sometimes we must have this space to allow ourselves to calm down and process what we must say. If this is the case for you, a great strategy is to tell the other that you must have some time to think and to give them a set time that you will talk with them about what has happened. Then you must follow through with what you said.
For example, you can say “I felt (state your feeling) when you said or did (state the action or words that were spoken that brought up the feeling) because (state the message that you received from the action or words), and what I need or want from you is (state what it is that you think will fix things in the relationship).”
This simple statement can help you formulate what you want to say to make things right. It causes us to be responsible for our feelings, not for the other’s behavior (which we cannot control anyway). Then we state why it hurt us and what we think will help mend the relationship. It is not easy to do, but with practice, this simple formula can help us follow scripture’s advice concerning anger.
For some of us, anger has been around for so long that we may need to enlist the help of others (a pastor or therapist) to help us learn this method. Yet, if we commit ourselves to work out our anger in a godly manner, we will find that we are blessed with relationships that enrich and nourish our lives with the goodness that God has for us.