Question: Andy Cherry asks: I have a person I am counseling who is dealing with anger, but sees anger as an emotion that can either be destructive or constructive. How would you respond to this idea, and what approach would you take in counseling this person?
Reply: Great question! In fact the most common issues that come up in counseling are anger and deception. All of us deal with anger in some form. The idea of categorizing anger as an emotion and that we are not in control of our own minds came from Sigmund Freud and is a prevailing thought in our culture. Because of this, many believe that anger is not bad. They just have to manage it. The problem with this is that the bible never speaks of man’s anger in a positive way. The bible speaks of anger 368 times. Of those it only speaks of man’s anger 48 times. Whenever the bible speaks of a man becoming angry, it is always in a negative context. The bible also doesn’t distinguish between constructive and destructive anger. It just says that we need to get rid of it. In Ephesians 4:31 it says that we need to put off anger in all forms. There are many verses that condemn man’s anger in the Word of God. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says that anger resides in the bosom of a fool. James 1:20 says that man’s anger doesn’t make anything right. It is also listed as a work of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20. In counseling, most people who deal with the life-dominating sin of anger spend most of their time trying to justify their anger. This is a natural reaction that dates back thousands of years. In the book of Jonah, God asked Jonah twice if he was justified in being angry. (Jonah 4) Jonah had malice in his heart toward the Ninevites (evil people) and the fact that God spared their lives. This really comes to the core of the problem of anger. Can man ever be angry without having malice in his heart at the same time? Only God can do that. Anger only grows more destructive as it grows in the heart of man. It causes people to go temporarily insane as it did Jonah when he said that he had good reason to be angry, even to the point of death.
In counseling a person with anger, you need to get away from having a theoretical conversation about weather a person can have good anger and get to the point of whether their anger is good. Some questions to ask are, “Do you want more or less anger in your life? Would your relationship with your wife or child be better or worse if you didn’t have anger?” Or, “Would you rather be mad or glad?” You see, we all know the answers to these questions including the person you are trying to help. It is natural for people to try to justify their sin, so we need to get past the debate and help them be delivered from their sin moving them from walking in the flesh to walking in the Spirit. Jesus did not come to help us manage our sin. He came to set us free from it.