Jesus said, "'You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder... The simple moral fact is that words kill."
- Matthew 5:21-22 The Message
I grew up in a generation that was taught by mental health "experts" that it was often helpful to "vent" our anger and frustration on others. It wasn't until I began seriously studying the Bible that I realized that, though venting was the world's way of handling negative emotions, it was not God's way. I finally figured out that this was probably the reason why it usually did more harm than good, no matter what the so-called experts said.
Though Jesus equates anger with murder in the above verses, the Bible does not condemn all forms of anger. There is such a thing as "righteous indignation," the kind of anger that Jesus demonstrated when he turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple. (John 2:14-16) Showing the right kind of anger can let people know that we are serious, and it can lead us and others to take constructive action. But this kind of beneficial anger is more rare than we usually think. Jesus warns us that our words carry a lot of weight, and we will be accountable to God for everything we say. In Matthew 12:36-37 NIV, Jesus says: "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." It's been said, "You can't un-ring a bell." Once harsh and hurtful words have left our mouths, the consequences for them have been set into motion, and even if we apologize for them later on, the damage has already been done. As the apostle Paul wrote, "Steer clear of foolish discussions which lead people into the sin of anger with each other. Things will be said that will burn and hurt for a long time to come." (2 Timothy 2:16-17 TLB)
The truth is that the principle of venting our anger and frustration is a product of the "Me Generation." It's a way of making ourselves feel better at the expense of another. It's selfishness at its worst, and it's highly destructive to lives and relationships. One thing we need to ask ourselves when we're tempted to vent is, "What are my motives here?" If we're venting just to make ourselves feel better, or to "get even" with someone who we feel has wronged us, then we're most likely out of God's will, and that's sin. The Bible says, "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." (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV) The NLT translation says, "Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you." As followers of Christ, we are expected to allow the Holy Spirit to control us at all times. (Romans 8:9) Once we allow anger to control us, we're acting more like the devil than Jesus. Scripture says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." (James 1:26 NIV) Here's the bottom line--if we have given our life to God, we no longer have the right to vent our negative emotions the way the world does.
Yes, there are times when God expects us to confront others about their wrong behavior. But the Lord expects us to seek His wisdom and guidance as to when and how that should be. And our attitudes and motives must be right. Galatians 6:1 NIV says: "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." This kind of confrontation and correction seeks restoration, rather than ruin. And it is done with a spirit of humility, rather than pride. What the mental health experts never told us was that when others hurt us, we could take our wounds to the Lord and receive the help and healing that only He can give. If I had known this years ago, I never would have spent so many years trying to fight my own battles, or trying to make others pay for the wrongs they did to me. If you are hurting right now and are tempted to vent your anger and frustration against someone, let me encourage you instead to bring these feelings to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to show you how to rightly handle these emotions, and how to resolve them in a constructive manner. Then receive His wonder-working power to help and heal!
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You've given me a Spirit of self-control so that I have the power to respond in a Christlike manner when others hurt me. (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP, Galatians 5:23) Help me to become more like Jesus daily by spending time in Your presence and in Your Word. Thank You that as I handle my anger and frustration in ways that please You, I will come out on top in every situation!
- J. M. Farro