Anger and conflict are inevitable in every relationship, and we all need to learn to deal with them properly. Happy marriages are not examples of couples who never have conflict – they are models of couples who deal with conflict and work through it in a healthy way.
If you know how to deal with anger, your marriage will be intimate and healthy. If you don’t, you must realize that unresolved anger can cause your relationship to go from passionate love to intense contempt. Though your marriage may stay intact, the intimacy of your relationship suffers, along with every aspect of your family including your children.
No matter where you are in your relationship, it’s never too late to do the right thing. Here are four biblical principles that will help you work through anger and conflict.
1. Admit your anger.
Some people readily admit and demonstrate their anger, while others hold it inside. Bottling up anger and denying it exists can be just as damaging as unrighteous outward expressions of anger. Neither of these approaches is healthy, and both have very damaging effects. While the results of unrighteous demonstrations of anger are obvious, the danger of bottled-up anger is that it not only eventually explodes, but it often implodes as well.
I once heard a psychologist define depression as “anger turned inward.” Anger held within wears on a person. Carrying anger inside drains a person emotionally, and it will eventually begin to seep into other relationships.
Christians sometimes feel it is their duty to suppress feelings of anger as a way of being spiritual. This is a grave misconception. To deny your anger will cause it to fester and grow deep within you. In Ephesians 4:26-27, God tells us not to let the sun go down on our wrath or “give place to the devil.” If you suppress your anger, deny it exists, or if you express it in a sinful way, you are giving a place to the devil to come and build a stronghold. The Bible does not tell us that anger is sin ? it tells us that when we are angry, we must be careful not to sin.
2. Release it to God.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul’s second instruction concerning the threat of unresolved anger can be summed up as submit it to God. God knows the whole picture, and He is well able to deal with the person or the situation. Romans 12:19 & 21(NKJV) says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves?for it is written, ?Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When you are angry, be honest about it and then turn that anger over to God. Ask Him to help you deal with your feelings. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and He enables us emotionally to do what is right ? in spite of circumstances. If we don’t rely on the Holy Spirit, we will react in our flesh. If we yield to God and keep our hearts open to Him, He will give us strength to do what is right, and He will be our vindicator.
3. Deal with today’s anger today.
God gave a timeline for dealing with anger – sundown. He is literally saying, deal with it today so you do not become a holding tank for toxic emotions. Going to bed with unresolved anger kills the passion in a relationship. Problems don’t go away because we choose to not deal with them. Instead, they build in intensity until they are either dealt with or they destroy the relationship.
Unresolved problems tend to ferment. Garbage smells bad enough the day it is thrown away, but accumulating garbage and letting it age is not the answer. Dealing with anger is no different. You can manage today’s problems today. Do not let issues pile up and ferment. Yesterday’s anger loves to linger overnight and become tomorrow’s accuser. Be willing to deal with anger in a timely manner every time.
Forgiveness means that although you may want to make someone pay for his or her wrongdoing, you choose to let it go, and you will not bring it up in the future. You must be willing to forgive. Jesus died on the cross to cover the sins of the person who has offended you. Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) tells us to “forgive?even as God in Christ forgave you.” If you do not forgive, you are saying that Christ’s death on the cross was not enough to cover the sin of your offender. Could you honestly stand before Jesus and say that to Him?
An amazing thing occurs when you choose to forgive and turn it over to God. You release God to deal with the offender, and you also free yourself to walk in positive emotions rather than negative emotions. Anger breeds cynicism and hostility. Forgiveness breeds love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.
When someone has wronged you, loving confrontation is a key step to resolving the issue: It is important that confrontation be handled in a righteous manner.
Steps for positive confrontation:
- Begin with affirmation. Start the conversation in a humble, loving manner, and carefully control the tone of your voice.
- State how you feel. When you use the “I feel” approach, you are acknowledging an openness to discussion and you prevent the person from taking a defensive stance.
- Listen. After you have expressed yourself to your spouse (or to whomever you have conflict), it’s important that he or she have an opportunity to speak without being attacked. Listen carefully without interrupting and affirm your spouse’s feelings, even if you do not agree. No matter what, remember that you are one and you are both on the same side.
- Trust God for the results. Don’t try to punish, enforce, dominate, or control. Give it to God and let it go.
If persistent anger is a problem for you, seek help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of wisdom. Seek counsel from a pastor or a strong, mature Christian. Oftentimes, all we need to overcome a sin is to have someone stand with us in agreement and provide loving accountability. Through a process of repentance and accountability, victory is obtained. Begin today by admitting your anger and allowing the Lord to give you the wisdom and power to deal with it properly. As you do, you will invest in a marriage that will produce a lifetime of joy and intimacy. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NKJV).
Scriptures for overcoming anger:
Copyright © 2005 Jimmy Evans, Used by Permission.
Author & one of America’s leading authorities on family and marriage relationships, Jimmy Evans is Founder & CEO of MarriageToday. He and his wife, Karen, host MarriageTodayTM, a national television program. Jimmy is the author of many resources including the books Marriage on the Rock, Freedom From Your Past, 7 Secrets of Successful Families, and Resolving Stress in Your Marriage. He also travels nationwide presenting life-changing truths for couples through his marriage seminars and conferences. Jimmy and Karen have two children and two grandchildren.