The Practical Wisdom of Brother James on Addressing Our Anger

There is a gripping scene in the famous dystopian novel, 1984, written by George Orwell. There is a daily practice called “Two Minutes of Hate,” where people gather around screens, watching a video that causes them to be angry, have their rage stirred, and yell at the screen. The book 1984 was released in 1949 and surely readers thought, “No way people would spiral that far and watch a screen every day for two whole minutes to have their anger pulled out from them.” We have surpassed the anger imagined in the novel 1984. Can you imagine how much healthier we would be as a society if we limited ourselves to two minutes of news, two minutes of Twitter (now X), two minutes of scrolling?

The days we are living in have been called the age of outrage. The New York Times released an article on consumer rage, as people keep commenting that everyone seems angrier. One of the groups the authors interviewed were flight attendants—many of whom said they have never seen people this angry. One said: “What really hurts are the people who won’t even look at you in the eye. I don’t even feel like a human anymore.” Perhaps all our screaming at screens has caused us to view people as less than human. Consumer rage has increased, and road rage has increased as well. Here is a chart of the rise in road rage in Los Angeles over the last 12 years.

A few months ago, Netflix released the TV series Beef. Set here in Southern California, the season begins with an episode of road rage, but the rage doesn’t end on the road—it carries over and escalates and impacts other people. Our anger does not end on an airplane or on the road, but it disrupts our peace and damages others around us. James, the half-brother of Jesus, offers us some practical insight on how to address the anger that ruins us.

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)

Ready yourself to listen.

It is true that our temper can direct our talking, but our talking often directs our temper. I have sadly experienced this in my life. My elevated voice, at times, has directed my temper. Being quick to listen helps us understand another’s viewpoint and increases our empathy and compassion.

Rid yourself of moral filth.

The moral filth that feeds our anger is prevalent. We should be wise about limiting our consumption of what feeds our anger.

Receive the implanted Word.

The Word was then implanted in you when you became a Christian (James 1:18), so humbly receive what you have already believed. Counselors who meet with people who struggle with anger issues will often suggest to the person who is struggling, “If you feel yourself being triggered, find a distraction. Go for a walk, get some exercise, take your mind off what is angering you.” It is good counsel. A walk, some exercise, and taking your focus to something else can be very helpful. We should do those things. But nothing will do for your soul what the Scripture will. A walk can help you calm down, but time in the Scripture is where Jesus comforts you. Time in the Scripture is where Jesus transforms us more into His image. As we become more like Jesus, our anger becomes more holy.