When was the last time you got really angry? Maybe you didn’t let it show on the outside, but on the inside, you were furious. Did you feel guilty?
It’s easy to believe that anger is always bad, but according to clinical psychologist Dr. Mark Baker, that’s not always the case. He shares three important truths to help us better understand the emotion of anger from God’s perspective.
Anger itself is not a sin
According to Dr. Baker the first thing we should understand is that anger itself is not a sin. Anger is a powerful emotion that if left unchecked can lead us into sin.
“Anger is an emotion created by God. In Ephesians 4:26 Paul says, ‘in your anger, do not sin, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.’ He doesn’t say anger is a sin, it’s not, but when you’re angry, don’t sin.”
Anger has a purpose
Because anger is a good emotion created by God, it must have a purpose. Dr. Baker says the purpose of anger is to provide us with the energy we need to solve a problem. However, if we simply dwell on our anger without using it constructively, it can lead to various destructive manifestations of violence, hatred, and contempt.
Anger is a secondary emotion
Dr. Baker says that anger is a secondary emotion. This means anger is usually an emotion that is driven by another underlying emotion.
He suggests we ask ourselves three questions to determine which emotion is at the root of our anger: What’s hurting me? What’s scaring me? What’s frustrating me?
“In most cases, the root of anger is hurt, fear, or frustration. It’s like the check-engine light on the dashboard of your car. When it lights up, it tells you there’s a problem under the hood. You don’t just tap on the red light and say, ‘oh, gee, I have a red light problem.’ No, you have to realize that the red light, the anger, is signaling you to look under the hood.”
“What’s your fear, what’s your hurt, what’s your frustration that’s driving your anger? God created this emotion so we would be solving those problems in our lives. Our anger signals us to look deeper in our hearts. When we don’t do that we can develop problems with anger.”
God gave us the emotion of anger to help us solve problems and let us know when something isn’t right in our own hearts. The question is will we listen?
Mark W. Baker, PhD has been a clinical psychologist for more than 25 years. Dr. Baker holds advanced degrees in both theology and clinical psychology, is executive director of the La Vie Counseling Centers in Pasadena, and has a private practice in Santa Monica, California.