Remember, anger is judgmental by nature. We voice displeasure in our anger through words and deeds. It says, “I am against that _______,” fill in the blank.
However, when you know you’re upset for the right reasons, how do you express anger in the right ways compared to your old destructive ways? When you witness injustice. When something matters. When it’s wrong. How can we redeem the situation? Is there a constructive alternative to anger? Is there an alternative to anger that changes a wrong situation to a better one? Yes, there is!
A Constructive Alternative to Anger?
Anger latches onto a wrong and points it out; it is the trial, judge, and executioner. But what about when the issue matters? When it’s wrong and offensive and we want to do something about it.
Is there a constructive alternative to anger? One that is redemptive and productive? One that changes the world for the better – instead of tearing it down? Yes, there is a better way! We can be the agents of change in any bad situation!
How is this possible? How do we right wrongs? How do we stop injustice?
Part of our calling, as Christians, is to be Christ’s ambassadors. That is to represent His message, methods, and character to those around us.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
This constructive alternative calls us to be God’s hands and feet to those in our spheres of influence. It actively disapproves of sinful wrongdoings, but unlike most fleshly anger, it breathes helpfulness into correcting wrongs.
A constructive alternative has 4 elements:
- Using patience
- Pursuing and granting forgiveness
- Offering charity
- Implementing constructive confrontation
Note: These elements are impossible to put into action, unless you have a personal awareness of how you are actively experiencing our heavenly Father Himself doing these very things within your own life.
What patience is not: It is not about being passively detached and staying neutral in the sight of malice; that is apathy.
Then, what is patience regarding a constructive alternative to anger? It is being bothered with what is happening and suiting up to focus on the wrong. Patience sees the wrong, but it is “slow to anger.”
Patience is a key attribute of God:
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
It is a prime ingredient of love:
1 Corinthians 13:4:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.
When you are slow to anger, you will grapple with the wrong constructively. Patience hurts; it’s often hard. Why? Because you toil within yourself. But remember, as a Christian, the Holy Spirit empowers us because of our union with Christ.
It may be beneficial here to remember the word forbearance, which is a component to patience, which means to hang in there with people or events, even though it is uncomfortable.
Pursuing and Granting Forgiveness
To redeem situations, forgiveness needs to be present in the midst of wrongdoing. It feels the hurt, yet still addresses it. Then you counterintuitively act willfully ‘unfairly’ in return. It practices a slowness to anger, allowing you to bring to bear discernment to speak or act redemptively into a problematic situation.
Anger is all about exacting fairness, whether it is right or warped by our perceptions of what fairness should be.
However, true forgiveness does not turn a blind eye and pretend everything’s okay. It doesn’t excuse the wrong. It is not peace at all costs. Forgiveness is a brave choice to be uncommonly unfair. As Christians, we know this firsthand (Matthew 18:21-35). It is the forgiveness we have received and experienced from our heavenly Father!
So granting and pursuing forgiveness looks wrong to the natural eye. It does not ignore reality. But it does not hold grudges against you. It lets you go (when it could punish you). Forgiveness is a conscious choice.
Anger operates out of a legal sense of fairness. It holds tightly, points it out, puts it on trial and administers retribution. Charity does the unexpected; it shows someone mercy. It’s not natural to see wrongdoing and then to do right. Charity acknowledges, “That’s wrong,” but then shows grace through an act of kindness (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Often, it combats the toughest conflict of all – within ourselves – the call to “love your enemies.”
Implementing Constructive Confrontation
Patience makes you stick with it through the process. Forgiveness helps you let go of getting payback or of holding on to resentment. Charity aids you in showing grace to those who do not deserve it. These elements prepare you to be resilient in order to implement the fourth step: constructive confrontation.
The goal of constructive confrontation is the redemption of a situation through productive engagement. It means being willing to start and go through the process of conflict, but with constructive purposes. You name the issue, the particular wrong. Do that correctly, and you will create good trouble.
There is another term for all this; it’s ‘redemption’! What is the difference between the end goal of constructive conflict and anger? It is to redeem a bad situation. It needs to be honest, and it is messy. It is the truly merciful alternative to glossing over problems with mere niceness and civility. It is not out to destroy like raw anger; it’s out to make something good out of something bad.
A Vertical Shift
The 1st and 2nd Great Commandment:
[Jesus speaking] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
This is where justice and mercifulness intersect: Instead of anger towards wrong, we will say, “I don’t like what is happening here and I care; and I will work towards constructive outcomes in love.” This brings life, not anger and destruction.
It is also one of the hardest things to do that requires our union with Christ as Christians. It says, “Hey, that is wrong! I am concerned, and I will act in productive love.” This is how we can put a bad situation into reverse.
These steps challenge us to grow up. But showing mercy in this way just feels right. Even if we seldom act this way, it just makes sense. This is how justice and mercy intersect to redeem a situation. This reminds us that we are made in the image of God. It is manifesting the 1st Great Commandment – to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul – that manifests itself in something constructive, right? In turn, this is fulfilling the 2nd Great Commandment- which is to love our neighbors. It is what happens when we make loving-well a verb. It comes out in word and in deed.
Look at how the Bible portrays Jesus in His earthly ministry. The thing He was best at, we found the most challenging; so, we can pray this as Christians for enablement to change our hearts, motives, and volition.
… who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
To Wrap Up
So, there is a constructive alternative to anger. We can be angry for the right reasons and respond in the right ways. Transforming anger into something else, a redemptive alternative.
How does God change the world? He could will things into change. He could perform a miracle by defying the physical laws of nature. But often, He uses people, especially Christians that can speak and act into situations incarnationally, casting light into darkness in very real and practical ways. Being the very hands and feet of God.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
This is the last article in this series of anger (5 of 5). If you need more personalized help with this struggle, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for counseling from a biblical perspective at https://www.providencebiblicalcounseling.org/.
Here is a link to part 4 of this series.