Respectable Sins: Anger

I don’t get angry, I get even. Okay, not really.

In chapters, fifteen and sixteen of Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges addresses the topic of anger. He states at the end of chapter sixteen that his goal has been to “help us face the fact that much, if not most, of our anger is sinful, even though it may arise from the sinful actions of others” (139). He is not attempting an exhaustive treatment of this complex issue, but does want us to see how and where tolerate the sin of anger in our lives. Along these same lines, Bridges offers a very strong reminder (not unlike in the most recent chapters) that our anger is not the fault of others, even though we may have been seriously injured or sinned against, but is a result of our own fallen flesh. Finally, by way of introduction, Bridges doesn’t allow us to use the notion of “righteous anger” to hide behind. If we are honest, we are rarely righteously angry, especially when it involves our relationships with those we are most closely related to (family, friends, fellow church members, co-workers, etc…). Bridges says his focus is on “ordinary anger”.

“We get angry because we don’t get our way” (123). Woe there Jerry, let’s not get so personal. Seriously, I doubt we often seek to understand the true causes of our anger, even if we realize we have been wrong with it. Our anger may also be aroused by mistreatment by others or as a response to someone else’s anger and we may feel quite justified! And we aren’t just talking about angry outbursts or loud words, but also sarcastic comments or internalized anger that takes the form of resentment. Regardless, “the cause always lies within our hearts, usually as a result of our pride or selfishness” (125).

So what should we do, according to Bridges?

  • First, recognize and acknowledge our anger and the sinfulness of it
  • Ask ourselves why we became angry (this may lead us to repentance of more than just our anger, but also our pride or selfishness or idolatry. I know for myself, my anger towards my children is often aroused because they have disturbed my idolatry of peace and comfort. This might also include seeking the forgiveness of those who have been the object of our anger
  • Finally, “we need to hand over to God the occasion of our anger” (126).

Bridges concludes with a section on “anger toward God.” He does not ever see an occasion where it is okay for us to be angry with God. I understand his argument and it is well made, but I have mixed feelings about this topic. It may be a matter of semantics, but part of me wants to affirm our ability to be utterly real before God – even if this includes anger towards God. I do not want to advocate sinful attitude or action towards God, but does it do anybody any good to say don’t sin against God if they are already angry with God? Again, mixed feelings here. Any thoughts?

One other issue, keeping in mind that Bridges cannot cover everything about anger – I would have liked Bridges to acknowledge another manifestation of anger: depression, which is often anger directed inward. You might guess why I might be interested in that topic.

  • What typically arouses your anger?
  • How does your anger typically manifest itself in your life?
  • How are you or have you applied God’s Word and His promises to the sin of anger?

Introduction & Schedule for blogging on Respectable Sins

Reflections on Chapters 1 & 2

Reflections on Chapters 3 & 4

Reflections on Chapters 5 & 6

Reflections on Chapters 7 & 8

Reflections on Chapters 9 & 10

Reflections on Chapters 11 & 12

Reflections on Chapters 13 & 14


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gina on June 10, 2008 at 7:58 am

    I’ve always been told that anger in itself is not a sin, but we are exhorted not to sin IN our anger. I thought anger was the emotion that stemmed from the actual sinful attitude (idolatry, selfishness, etc). But is Bridges saying the very emotion of anger itself is a sin? If so, I’m going to have to spend a LOT more time in confession. đŸ˜›


  2. Posted by adamtisdale on June 17, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Sorry for the delay in response…Lydia and I were talking about this a little today. This may be a case where Bridges needs to define his terms a little better. And yet, there are verses like Ephesians 4:31 that identify anger as more than just an emotion but also a sin (“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”). I think the reality is that the topic of anger is a much bigger topic than can be appropriately addressed at all levels within the context of this book and Bridges acknowledges as much. Anyway, it couldn’t hurt to spend more time in confession, could it?


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