What to Do Before You Text Someone in Anger

The sooner we speak in anger, the longer we may regret what we say. Here are four steps to take before talking to anyone who has angered you.

“Think before you speak!”

These wise words are so often swept away in our furious rage. We blot out this precious wisdom as we foolishly hit “send” to text or email someone in anger.

Anger blinds us. It makes us say untrue and hurtful things. The sooner we speak in anger, the longer we may regret what we say.

We will do well to listen to John Calvin’s wisdom in understanding the folly of our hearts: “The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.”

Given this condition of our hearts, here are a few things to consider before you rage text.

Slow Down, Test Your Anger
To begin with, consider the wisdom from God’s word that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James. 1:20).

Therefore, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James. 1:19).

There is a place for righteous anger in a sinful world. But, we should never underestimate the sinful proclivity of our own hearts while expressing righteous anger.

The sooner we speak in anger, the longer we may regret what we say.

The exhortation to slow down our speech, and anger, gives us time to test the true and deep motives our own hearts.

In fact, slowing down our anger has its origin in the very nature of God.

Scripture consistently portrays God as being “slow to anger and abounding in love” (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18,27; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:5, Ps. 86:15; Ps. 103:8; Ps. 145:8; Joel. 2:13, etc).

The patience of God is not just an admirable character trait, but it is God’s instrument to lead the sinning world to repentance (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:8-10).

Slowing down our anger, and our responses, is an opportunity to mirror our heavenly Father who daily forgives our debts, both big and small.

Take Your Anger to God’s Presence
Slowing down our anger responses is not the same as sucking it up, and putting up “righteous appearances.”

The Psalmists knew what to do with their anger. They knew that the safest place to express their anger was in God’s presence.

The book of Psalms records at least eight prayers that use the language of calling down curses. These imprecatory psalms (Ps. 7; Ps.35; Ps.58; Ps.59; Ps.69; Ps.83; Ps.109; Ps.137) give us a healthy Biblical model for handling our raging anger.

These psalms do not justify lashing out at others in rage. But they show us that the safe place to take your anger to is God’s presence.

Gospel friendships hold up the mirror to our hearts in ways that lead us to godliness.

On the surface, it could feel like going to God’s presence with our anger would be dishonouring him.

But the presence of imprecatory prayers in the Psalms do give us permission to do so.

If we do sin as we vent our anger in God’s presence, he is every ready to forgive us in Christ.

Did not Jesus intercede for those who vented their full anger at him as they crucified him? (Luke. 23:34) If he bore this quietly, he is not going to be upset when those he has redeemed come to him in their anger.

In praying our anger in God’s presence, rather than sinfully expressing it to people, we commit vengeance to the hand of a just and impartial God (Rom. 12:19).

There is another blessing in praying our anger like the psalmists did. We invite God to search our hearts and help us see the hidden, inner, and perhaps idolatrous motivations for our anger (Ps. 139:23-24).

When we allow God to search and reveal our inner motivations to us, we do not experience condemnation (Rom 8:1, Ps. 139:23-24). Rather, this is God’s kindness that can lead us in the path of repentance, if any of our motivations is sinful (Rom. 2:4).

God’s presence is the only safe place to vent our anger and to examine why our heart is experiencing such anger.

Lean On a Faithful Friend
It is not easy to come truly and objectively see all that is lurking inside our hearts. When we do see some of what is inside, we may well respond in many wrong ways—denial, self-deception, self-condemnation or self-defence.

This is also why Jesus has placed us in a gospel community. Good and true friends will both comfort us and also lovingly admonish us.

Christ has given us a whole body of believers who are charged with the duty of helping each other see our hearts more clearly (1 Thess. 5:14; Rom. 15:14).

Gospel friendships hold up the mirror to our hearts in ways that lead us to godliness.

Even as I write this article, my heart is resting in the confidence from one such gospel conversation with a faithful friend in the recent past.

My most recent conversation was marked by encouragement. But there have been conversations where faithful friends have wounded my heart (Ps. 141:5), leading me to true repentance.

What a mercy it is to have our brothers and sisters restrain us, and preach the Gospel to us before we speak or act out your angry impulses.

Good gospel friends neither pamper or approve us in our our anger, nor do they condemn us. They help us see our hearts in the light of the gospel.

Let Love Lead the Way
Processing our anger in God’s presence and with gospel friends is essential preparation before we have difficult conversations with people who have made us angry.

But never have such conversations over text messages or emails.

Following the Scriptural model of confrontation in Isaiah 1:18, consider inviting the other person into a conversation, acknowledging the problem that angered you.

Even though our sins are like scarlet, does God not make them as white as snow (Isa. 1:18)? Christ stood between us and God, satisfying his just and furious wrath for our sins.

Only in remembering that our own standing before God comes through unmerited grace, are we enabled to extend grace to the person who as angered us.

Such grace creates an environment conducive to a fruitful conversation, where love takes charge, irrespective of the other person’s response.

In resolving every issue, our immediate goal is to speak the truth in love with the Spirit’s help.

The long-term goal is for us to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus; and the ultimate goal is to bring glory and honour to our Father in heaven.

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