What are characteristics of an angry person?
A person who has a spirit of anger usually demonstrates one or more of the following characteristics.
1. Justification of a “little bit” of anger
One of the chief factors contributing to a spirit of anger is the idea that a little anger is acceptable. It is true that the initial emotion of anger is not sin, yet we are not to harbor it. Allowing a little anger to continue is like letting a little fire burn in a dry forest.
Anger alerts us to the fact that something is wrong and that we must cautiously respond to a situation that could lead us into wrath or bitterness. Anger may reveal that there are past hurts or feelings of guilt that need to be addressed before we can thoroughly resolve the feelings of anger.
2. Belief that anger can be controlled
Just as people think that a little anger is okay, they also think anger can be controlled. The problem with this idea is that when anger is not recognized and properly resolved, it quickly turns into wrath, bitterness, malice, or other sinful emotions.
When people speak of controlling anger, they often actually mean they think they can contain the damage of unresolved anger. However, one angry response produces different levels of pain among those who are hurt by it. Also, a spirit of anger is contagious—those who are around angry people can easily develop a spirit of anger and consequently damage others. Thus, the destruction caused by one angry act is difficult to measure, and it is impossible to control.
3. Insensitivities to the hurts caused by anger
Many people do not realize how deeply their anger affects others. They gloss over outbursts of anger and fail to ask for forgiveness and restore relationships marred by conflict. Sometimes this insensitivity stems from the fact that we can’t hear our own voices or see our facial expressions. If we could witness our angry actions and gauge the mental and emotional responses of others, we might realize how damaging angry behavior truly is.
4. Pride and domination
The contention that comes from a spirit of anger is a clear indication of pride, because “only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10). Outbursts of wrath, bitterness, or malice give a person a sense of power and authority with which they attempt to control others. The ultimate expression of pride is seeing ourselves as being on the same level as God, which we do when we become wrathful, because only God has the right to express wrath.
5. Indulgence in passions
The indulgence of passions in one area leads to the indulgence of passions in other areas. Thus, there is a close tie between unresolved anger and lust. It is common for one who is defeated in the area of unresolved anger also to be defeated by moral impurity.
6. Quickness to take up offenses
The bitterness caused by taking up an offense for another person is typically the most difficult type of bitterness to overcome, because we are not directly involved in the situation. Often those in the peripheral sphere of family and friends do not fully understand the situation or witness the forgiveness and reconciliation that may take place. In many instances, long after the offended and the offender have cleared up their differences, the one who has taken up the offense is still angry about what happened.
7. A family history of angry people
Parents who demonstrate anger can pass on behavioral patterns to their children in the same way they pass on physical characteristics. When a wrathful person is asked whether his father or grandfather had a problem with anger, the response is almost always a passionate “Yes!”
Heated debates can be an indication of someone’s desire to dominate other people. An angry person will often argue, not to arrive at truth, but merely to defeat the reasoning of his opponent. We find many warnings in Scripture against arguing, because it is a fruitless exercise and leads to further strife. “Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do engender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (II Timothy 2:23–25).
9. Unable to give or receive forgiveness
An angry person usually expresses bitterness about life in general; ultimately he is expressing bitterness toward God. His hurts from the past are usually associated with many people or groups of people, and therefore it is hard for him to forgive a single individual or respond well if one asks him for forgiveness. He typically balances his guilt by blaming others for his problems. He withholds forgiveness so that he is not left with only his guilt and the responsibility of his actions.
10. Harsh on the outside, sensitive on the inside
Often the pain that fosters a spirit of anger comes from the rejection of a parent or another influential person. Anger then becomes a shield that an individual hopes will protect him from the pain of further rejection, yet the person still has an intense longing for acceptance and approval. When he begins to sense disapproval from someone, he tends to quickly reject that person out of fear of being rejected.
This material is adapted from pages 11–12 of the Anger Resolution Seminar Workbook. Learn about the Anger Resolution Seminar.