How do you distinguish between godly anger and sinful anger?

Anger is everywhere these days—people are angry about politics, about theological differences, about world events, about problems in their personal lives. Even the Bible contains many accounts of anger: God’s anger at sin, Moses’ anger at the Israelites’ disobedience; Jonah’s anger at God’s unfathomably mercy.

How do we make sense of the powerful emotion of anger in our lives? How do you tell the difference between anger that is godly, and anger that is sinful and destructive?

Here’s how RBC Ministries answers the question:

When monitoring our anger, it is important to understand that much of our anger is fueled by a hatred of injustice, whether real or perceived. Anger over injustice reflects the core longing for justice we all share. We are incensed when life seems unfair. We can know, however, if the anger we feel is sinful or godly by considering the provocation, goal, motivation, and timing of our anger.

Selfish anger is provoked when we believe we’ve been treated unjustly or unfairly. We want something, we don’t get it, we feel deprived, and now someone is going to pay for having treated us this way (James 4:1-4). […]

Conversely, godly anger is provoked in us when we witness persistent violations of God’s standards of justice (Psalm 119:53). There is an appropriate time to be outraged over those who hold God in contempt and mar the beauty of His creation.

Read the rest of RBC’s answer at How can I discern the difference between sinful anger and godly anger?

Do you struggle with anger? How do you keep your anger confined to appropriate contexts?

What do you think?

12 Responses to “How do you distinguish between godly anger and sinful anger?”

  • Martin says:

    When I find myself angry to some person (N.N.) I say the following prayer:

    Dear God,
    please send an angel to N.N. with this message:

    (Here I tell N.N. what I think about him/her. Usually in very graphic and politically incorrect terms)

    This is my message, God. But if you think I am being too hard on N.N., please correct the message and make it more friendly before delivery.

    Thank you, God. I already feel better.

    • Andy says:

      Martin, that’s brilliant! That really made me laugh. But I see your point — when we go to God with petty complaints about others, it has a way of putting them in perspective. And can stop us from doing something foolish and un-Christlike.

    • Yve says:

      Thank you for sharing your letter/prayer. I have been very angry at my father for decades. I cannot get to the point where I can forgive him. It is difficult to forgive someone who is not sorry and continues to be mean and hurtful you and the ones you love.

      I recently tried visualization therapy where I was supposed to visualize myself telling him how I felt, using as much anger, explosive language and physical agression that I could imagine. Even in my mind I could not do it… I just walked away from him.

      Your letter to God seems like a good start for me.

      • Cee says:

        Forgive like Christ will forgive you.

        My father was the same way, and as a grandmother now,he was in deed the same way!. He also was not a christain. I was!
        Three years into my Christain life, we found out he had lung
        cancer! He was with us for ten month’s. More inportant he wasn’t saved! The Voice, that came to me was be still and no, that I am God!
        So everday, 30 minutes one way, I would pray and cry. As well as watch my Mother do the same!
        I didn’t remember those times he was mad,cusing etc.
        We had a visitor that last 2 weeks of his life!. A old Sunday
        school teacher told us, she had been sent to talk with my dad!
        She told him a story about playing football, that Jeus was at the field goal and the devil was the defence. And that he
        had nocked him down ,but dad was gettin back up!

        To the short of this three hours before he passed we where all called into say our good byes.And we all went back to our corners to greve! We all had heard music even the pastor, 500 ft away at his house! The last thing he said before he gave it up was to my mother TouchDown!!!!!!!!

        The Music was from no one on this earth, We believe the ANgels of God where rejoicing! I still have a brother that is not saved and 3 children. Please help me pray for them.

  • Levi says:

    Sinful anger is always done from selffish motives. Godly anger is done to love someone and correct,protect and insensify the message of truth sometimes, but always done in love for the edification of the body of Christ or someone else.

  • i get angry and say wrong things
    and sometimes make wrong choices
    im saved but sometimes find it hard
    to be angry and sin not.
    i need gods help daily

  • Dear god i needed so desperalety to read that as i’m going through same thing right now as it is worldly anger cause i felt like i have been wronged. for if my eyes was on god the way that it was suppose to be it could not have happen but my anger is more toward self and other things and i’m not quite sure how to exspress it so i stay to myself alot and cry i guess in due time it will get better if i start staying close to god the hardest part is trying to learn how to deal with this kind of anger cause you just don’t know what to do about it please pray my strenght in the lord. i know that the lord say’s be anger but sin not as we are people we can get anger but we are not aloud to sin in it amen.

  • Diane says:

    These past few months, I have had several situations that appear unfair and unjust. As a result, I have been angry. Reacting at times, other times just struggling on how to handle. After reading the differences between man’s sinful anger and God’s anger, I suddenly realized how much anger God must experience every day, every minute. I all of a sudden not only didn’t feel alone, but realized the anger He must experience constantly.

    Because there are so many people that live today, and so many that have died, we have all angered God because of our ungratefullness of not recognizing that He created us, that He loves us and He has blessed us in our lives in so many ways. What do we do? We put up with other people’s profanities about our Creator, we don’t defend Him, we allow people to get away with so much ungratefullness in their own lives, and not help them realize all that God has truly done for us. Then we constantly complain about our petty things in life and ask God to fix them.

    God wants us to have the desires of our heart and we will get them if we remain faithful. However, we need to protect our God from people by bolding telling them to stop their foolish behaviour.

  • Ami says:

    I really am struggling with this very thing. An 18 year old step daughter is doing everything she can to act as if I do not exsist. She will not look at nor speak to me. I try to be nice, but, not overly nice, so as not to reward bad behavior. She is spoiled and it’s too late to correct that. So, I am trying to pray for her more often on a personal level to break her heart to acceptance of me and for me to be open to receive her when and if she ‘comes home”.

  • John says:

    Whew, I’ve been angry for the last 30yrs at many things. June22 2009 I gave it all to him. It’s been 5 months and my life has been much better without all the Anger. I can not explain it, other than God’s love has filled my heart to the point of pushing all the anger out.

  • Iss Tan says:

    When you have have been treated unfairly, and it is real, not imagined, like, maybe, you lost your parents and people have taken advantage of that…isn’t that also a violation of God’s standard of justice?
    Do you mean, it is wrong to feel anger when the injustice happened to you? What is the appropriate emotion ,then, when something unjust happens to you?

    • wayne says:

      Iss Tan, I understand your pain fully. My wife and I have been through the same thing as you and it is a very murky and lonely experience. Let me give you a testimony.
      My mother in law died as a result of a mistake during an operation. Of course the worlds reaction was to sue the doctor, get even and make them pay. We did not. I sat with the doctor at fault as he poured his heart out and cried. I put up with her families anger when they discovered there would be no money for them, and my wife and I forgave them all and gave it over to God.
      You see since then grace has worked miracles in their lives and ours. The doctor is now a child of God who repented of God syndrome. My mother in law has gone to heaven. And my wife and I know that God has his own justice in place, ready to be served when the time is right and of his choosing. I have also had a violent father for 38 years who constantly abuses with violence those he claims to love. Give it to God and let his perfect justice deal with it because it is the only way that you will not end up inheriting their traits and their destiny. I know its hard but I am living proof of God bringing peace to the feet of those who proclaim His good news and Live it.