Counseling Angry People

(Dr. Priolo is Director of Biblical Counseling at Eastwood Presbyterian Church in
Montgomery, Alabama. He also has authored several books, including The Heart of
Anger, The Complete Husband, Teach Them Diligently, and Pleasing People.)

Have you ever considered how many words and phrases there are in the
English language that in one way or another relate to the problem of anger?
Before you read any further, why not pause for 30 seconds to see how many you
can call to mind?

The Terminology of Anger

Although I’ve never counted them, I’ve have it on good authority that the
Bible has well over 500 references to various forms and manifestations of anger.
So, let’s begin our review of popular anger nomenclature by looking at some of the
biblical terminology: bitterness, anger, wrath, malice and hatred (which the Bible
says is analogous to murder). Then there is vengeance, indignation, provocation
and exasperation. Let’s not forget contention, fighting, quarreling, having it in for
(holding a grudge against) someone.

The heart issues that generate sinful anger include idolatry, covetousness,
(inordinate) desires, pride, envy, jealousy, fretting, sinful judging and
intemperance. Different types of people are characterized by anger such as the fool,
the pugnacious man, the angry man, the furious man, the quick tempered man, and
the contentious man. What about the attending sins associated with anger—you
know, those sins that attach themselves in one way or another (before, during,
and/or after) to anger? Terms like suspicion, making rash and uncharitable
judgments about others, threatening, impatience, unreasonableness, and all manner
of abusive speech often lock arms with anger and march into our lives along with it
to such an extent that it’s difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other

But wait. What about those other English words that we use to describe this
emotion (and the thoughts and motives that produce it)? We often speak of being
mad, of losing our temper or losing or cool, of being touchy (or as we say in the
South of being ill), of having a fit, of harboring hatred or nursing a grudge, of
being frustrated, irritated, annoyed, mad , miffed, incensed, or even livid. If
someone (not us, of course) is really upset we might say that he is furious,
disgusted, outraged, enraged, seething, irate, full of acrimony, animosity, rancor,
and malevolence.

We even have terminology that pictures the way we behave when angry. For
example we speak of venting, of scowling, of snarling, of boiling and steaming
and smoking and smoldering. How about glaring, snapping, barking, hitting the
roof, brow beating, burning up or blowing up, of being spitting or hopping mad?

We have ways to describe anger from a physiological perspective (from the
impact it has on our bodies). These include such phrases as, seeing red, being
flushed in the face, or being chafed. Other somatic expressions include hot under
the collar, foaming at the mouth, gnashing of the teeth, bristling of the hair, and
flailing of the hands. Too, I don’t believe I mentioned “I’m sick and tired of” and
“he makes my blood boil.”

Is it really any wonder that we, as shepherds and counselors, have to deal with
the sin of anger more than any other? After selfishness and pride, it is probably the
most prevalent sin in all of life.

Where does one begin helping angry people? Perhaps the best place is to
make sure they understand anger from God’s point of view.

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