The oft-quoted verse in Ephesians—“Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (4:26)—is a great principle for dealing with anger in your relationships. Unfortunately, this verse doesn’t give us much advice for the anger of the moment. You know what I’m talking about: that overwhelming desire to lash out in the middle of an argument! How do we honor God with our emotions and responses right in the midst of the temptation? Try the following techniques.
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
The first step to controlling your anger is to view the person you’re sparring with through a new lens. In the middle of a fight, we view our opponent—even someone close to us, like a best friend or sibling—as the enemy. In order to rise above emotion, we need to reframe our view of the other person.
As the other person talks, stop any thoughts like “She doesn’t know WHAT she’s talking about” or “She is being SUCH a jerk right now!” Instead, remind yourself who that person is: a person God loves. No matter who they are, they were created in God’s image, and at the very least they deserve honor because of that.
Next, give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are you’re convinced their motives are completely wrong—but you don’t know their motives! Give them the benefit of the doubt in your mind by telling yourself, “Maybe she doesn’t mean to come across this harshly. Maybe she had a rough day or there’s something stressing her out that I don’t know about.” This will help you view the argument objectively instead of reacting on impulse.
Separate from your emotions.
Secondly, separate your argument from your emotions. I know—it’s tough! Your emotions are real, but they aren’t trustworthy. You can’t base a logical argument on them. In order to reach a resolution, you need to set aside your feelings and deal only with the facts of the fight. What happened? Why are you offended? How can this be resolved?
When your anxiety, adrenaline or anger starts to rise up again, do not speak. Even if it’s “your turn” to talk, wait until you can address facts without emotion. If you need to walk away to collect yourself, don’t just bolt out the door! Communicate gently and clearly that you need to take a break from the conversation for a few minutes, and then come back to finish it.
Remember the outcome.
Finally, remember the goal of the argument. Is it to win? To be right? Or is to achieve peace and unity between you and the other person?
We tend to get wrapped up in our own justice during an argument. When we lose sight of the goal, our emotions get the best of us. This can cause long-term damage to any relationship! Pursue peace by taking the high road—albeit the difficult one—and keeping your eyes fixed on what really matters. God’s desire for Christian relationships is love and unity. Yes, we will fight. But we can come out of those fights closer than ever before if we honor each other and honor God.