"Let each one of you speak truth." Ephesians 4:25.
Two forceful personalities in a relationship are like two rivers flowing into one; there's going to be a strong current. Anger can be instant like a flash of lightning, or prolonged like the rumble of thunder. Sometimes we clash painfully, other times we distance and silently abandon the relationship. But anger handled the right way doesn't have to destroy. Here are God's rules for handling your anger and offenses.
RULE 1: KEEP IT HONEST.
"Stop telling lies. Let us tell....the truth......don't sin by letting anger control you" (Ephesians 4:25-26 NLT). When you're angry don't deny it. Anger can be constructive. We're right to get angry when people are mistreated and wrongs are not made right. Saying, "I've been feeling angry and because I value our relationship I'd like to talk about it," is honest, non-threatening and invites solution. Observe: (a) Ignoring, stifling, suppressing, or pretending you're not angry is basically dishonest. (b) Another form of lying when you're angry is exaggeration. "You never listen to what I say." "You always ignore my wishes." "Nobody does anything around here except me." Such generalizations are untrue and serve only to aggravate and polarize, guaranteeing the real problem gets obscured and goes unsolved. (c) Another way to lie when you're angry is blaming. "If you'd arrive on time I wouldn't have to nag you," or "If you'd quit nagging so much, maybe I'd start being on time." Blaming is a way of evading your own responsibility while pointing the finger at others. Such behavior angers others, perpetuates your own anger and never produces the result you want. God's way is, "Let each one of you speak truth," and it works when you do it in love.
RULE 2: KEEP IT NON-LETHAL.
Paul writes: "In your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26NIV).
What do Paul's words mean? Don't let your anger escalate to the point of doing damage. Don't use your words as a weapon or a control mechanism. It's okay to express your emotions in a healthy way, but keep them in check. Your goal must be to resolve the problem and strengthen the relationship, not "sound off" and wound the other person. Is this easy to do? No. You'll need a good strong dose of grace to do it. Words spoken in jest, sarcasm, self-righteousness or "righteous indignation" wound people, sometimes permanently. "Perverseness (of the tongue) breaks the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV). "A crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14 NIV).
"The tongue can bring death" (Proverbs 18:21 NLT). Angry words, once unleashed, can: "Go down into a man's inmost parts" (Proverbs 26:22 NIV). Your words can live in the heart and memory of a person and go all the way to the grave with them. We say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," but it's not true at all. A person can die of a crushed spirit, and the one who spoke the words can live to regret the damage they inflicted and never get a chance to undo it. On the other hand, anger properly handled never needs to be repented of. So learn to differentiate between the anger you feel and the words you speak. Anger, carefully thought through, can reveal important information about needed changes. Focus on that, and ask God to show you what needs changing in the other person........and you yourself.
RULE 3: KEEP IT CURRENT.
Storing anger in your hard-drive only hurts you. When you download old resentments you start to rehearse them and grow bitter. "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45 NIV).
When your angry deal with it quickly. Don't passively allow time to decide your options, or sit around hoping the other person will see the light and apologize. "If your brother sins against you, go (to) him" (Matthew 18:15 NIV). Try to resolve it and resolve the relationship. When you repress it you add one more skeleton to your closet. Sooner or later, doctors say, it'll be at your stomach lining, attack your immune system, and predispose you to heart problems, cancers and other physical, social and emotional disorders. Meantime, it'll preoccupy you, dissipate your energy, cripple your creativity, and hinder your fellowship with God, your friends and fellow believers; not to mention that it denies the offender the opportunity to clear their conscience, repent and get right with God and you. Stop dragging up the past, trying to blackmail the guilty by hauling skeletons out of the closet at "auspicious" moments, plotting revenge, and passing down resentments for the next generation to carry. Ask God for the humility and courage to deal with today's problems-------today. When your head hits the pillow tonight, know that your issues are current, up-to-date with God and everyone else, and sleep well!
RULE 4: KEEP IT SOLUTION-FOCUSED.
Someone has said that fellowship is like two fellows in a ship: one can't sink the other without sinking himself. By seeking to gain the upper hand you both lose. By seeking to save and strengthen the relationship you both win. So when you speak, be sure it's "helpful for building others up according to their needs" (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
Try to understand what the other person needs. Don't bring up previously confessed offenses; don't drag in other people; don't use wisecracks about people's weight, height, color, IQ, physical, mental and emotional limitations; don't bring bring up unrelated things that cloud the issue at hand and keep you from finding a solution. And don't raise the volume in order to intimidate and manipulate. God made you with a capacity for anger because, when handled the right way, it's the fuel that brings needed change and the medicine that heals. So:
(a) Seek a solution, not a "victory."
Name-calling and "diagnosing" others only makes things worse. Your focus should not be on what they did, but on what you can do together to resolve it. (b) Admit your own flaws and ask for forgiveness. Since it takes two to tango, sincerely acknowledging your own imperfections makes it easier for someone else to acknowledge theirs. (c) Every time you take a "swing" at someone, offer them a positive "stroke." "If there be any virtue......think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). For each of the difficulties you address, give a compliment. For example: "I am sure this wasn't easy for you to hear. Thanks for listening to me so graciously." Being solution-focused gives people something positive to live up to, and not down to!
RULE 5: KEEP IT IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM.
"Don't treat each other with malice" (I'll will, spite) (Ephesians 4:31NIV). When you're angry, spreading gossip is hard to resist. But malicious talk is like wildfire; it consumes those who spread it and those who listen to it. Don't display your dirty wash; keep it in the laundry room. Dirty laundry gets aired in two ways: (1) Open embarrassment. You say it where you know others are going to hear it. (2) Subtlety. You make jokes about their figure, family members and friends, etc. in order to belittle. This results in embarrassment for the person you're angry at, widens the gap between you and makes reconciliation impossible. Solomon writes: "He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Proverbs 11:13, and "Love covereth all sins" (Proverbs 10:12). Paul writes: "In malice be babes, but in understanding be mature" (1Corinthians 14:20 NKJV).
RULE 6: BE PART OF THE CLEAN-UP CREW.
We say, "They brought it on themselves. Let them get over it." They may have deserved it, but we can't walk away and leave open wounds to become infected. We "forgive, even as Christ.......has forgiven" us (Ephesians 4:32). How did Christ forgive us? After we'd acknowledged, confessed and repented of our sins? No. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10). God took the initiative, so forgive, before the other person asks for forgiveness. And should they remain your enemy for life, forgive them anyhow. That's mopping up after the war.
Only then are you yourself forgiven, the wounds you inflicted healed, and your record before God expunged! AMEN!
GROW IN GOD AND IN HIS WORD!