Anger is a common and natural human emotion. Anger at injustice can lead to righting that injustice. If William Wilberforce didn’t get angry at the slave trade, he might not have achieved its abolition. We are told in the Bible that we can be angry without sinning, so not all anger is wrong.
Even so, how we express that anger is important. We can clam up and so bury it within ourselves, falsely thinking this really works. But that anger can curdle and fester and cause emotional and physical damage to us. Or we can blow up, and the shrapnel let off by our explosive anger can damage others. Then again, we can displace our anger which leads to unfairness. I am angry at my work colleague so take it out unfairly on my children.
None of these are good ways of handling anger. Our text reminds us that we might need to take time to reflect on what is really going on. What is the root of my anger? This doesn’t mean I don’t express my anger, but having discerned the nature of my anger, I can choose to release it in a way that doesn’t make things worse.
Another familiar Bible text tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. Which is a metaphorical way of saying we need to deal with it and not just bury it beneath a pious display of goodwill. We decide to deal with it without too much delay, and yet resist the temptation to just get things off our chest and so wound others.
The self-control we need to tackle anger is not about ignoring or dismissing or burying the anger. It is about taking the time to understand it, and find appropriate means of expressing it without damaging ourselves or others.