Anger can play a significant role in all of our lives. With men in particular, though, anger tends to be a major battlefront. And for men who have families, anger is too often directed toward the very people that men are called to protect. Wives and children end up caught in the crossfire. Whether this results in domestic violence, volatile arguments, or verbal outbursts, those of us who are men must seek to bring our anger under control.
Apparently, the connection between men and anger is nothing new. The apostle Paul mentions the connection more than once. In 1 Timothy 2:8 he says, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” What is striking about this passage is that this is right before Paul gives some specific instructions to the women in the church. In other words, what Paul says in verse 8 represents what he specifically wants to address in men.
And at the center of his concern is anger. Similarly, in Colossians 3:19 Paul addresses husbands by saying, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Then he addresses fathers in verse 21: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Paul wants men to avoid being harsh and to avoid embittering children. Again, anger is central to Paul’s concern when it comes to men.
If anger truly is a frequent stumbling point for men, then it should be treated as something of utmost importance. The reason is that men have a disproportionate impact on their homes. Biblically, men are called the “head” within their families (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3). This means that men, as the head, set the tone that impacts the rest of the family.
Whether or not a man accepts this reality is beside the point. After all, the apostle Paul never tells men to be the head. He simply says that they are the head. Those of us who are men need to figure out our anger issues because, as the head, our actions have a massive impact on our families.
If we want to address the issue of anger, it is important to begin by recognizing that the goal is not to stop feeling a certain way. The feeling of anger is not a sin. It is a very understandable response to frustrating circumstances. In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul writes, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Paul does not tell people not to be angry (in fact, Jesus himself showed anger on multiple occasions). Paul tells people not to sin when we are angry. In fact, he says that we should deal with our anger before the day is done. If we don’t, we give the devil an advantage as he seeks to tempt us to sin.
If then we are pursuing not the elimination of a feeling, but self-control when we have that feeling, what can we do? First of all, it is worth considering the source of our anger. If a man is having an outburst of anger at his children, there is a good chance that the deepest source of that anger is not his children. It is often disappointment about work, or anxiety about money or fatigue.
Those of us who are believers in Jesus can bring these burdens to God. Through prayer and reflection, we can experience ease from the anger that goes along with these burdens. Before trying to change our circumstances, we can seek God’s power to deal with the issues that lead to our outbursts.
Second of all, we can exercise our self-control, so that we keep ourselves from acting—or speaking—while we are angry. Proverbs 14:17 and Proverbs 19:19 warn against being quick-tempered. Again, the problem is not when we’re angry, but when we act on our anger. If you find the temperature rising and you are near losing your temper, don’t be ashamed to remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk. Pause for prayer. Call a friend. Keep yourself from words and actions that will hurt others.
Finally, men can seek the support of other brothers in Christ who can help as we walk through our struggles with anger. As Proverbs 27:17 says, men can sharpen one another just as iron sharpens iron. If you are battling anger, find some trustworthy men who will show you compassion, but who will also call you to growth and call you out when you are failing. Part of the genius of the church is that it keeps us from carrying our burdens on our own. Share them with God and with other trustworthy people who will help you grow.
All of us are called to deal with our anger. Let me give a special appeal, however, to those of us who are men. If we truly want to fulfill God’s calling for us to be servant leaders, we must deal with our anger. If we want to set a godly tone in our household, we must deal with our anger. And if we want to live up to the respect that we so deeply desire, we must deal with our anger. And, as gospel-believing Christians, we have the joy of knowing that God is not calling us to deal with our anger on our own. He invites us to take his hand as he leads us to greater freedom and victory in this area.