Avoiding Anger and Bitterness: Youth Views on Negative Emotions

Have you ever gotten angry? I mean, really angry. I’m talking “smoke-coming-out-your-nose” angry! And what about holding a grudge? Have you ever entertained bitterness in your heart?

Even though we might be ashamed to admit it, I’m sure that each one of us has gotten angry and/or been bitter towards someone at one point in our lives. For many of us, these feelings (and their ensuing actions) are painful because they are a deep, painful reminder of our sinful state.

Our youth are just as susceptible to anger and bitterness as we adults are! In a 2014 study conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry, Adventist young people were asked if they tried to avoid anger and bitterness. Seventy-three percent of young people said that they “always” or “often” try to avoid these negative feelings, but for the remaining respondents (27%), resisting is much harder.While we know that anger itself is not a sin (after all, Jesus got angry when He saw the money changers selling in the temple), it is the actions that come from an angry, bitter heart that throw us into sin! And, in turn, these sinful actions separate us from Jesus.

The Bible has a lot to say about being angry and bitter:

  • James 1:19-20 – My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
  • Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9 – Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.
  • Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

While it’s easy to want to say, “Well, just don’t be angry,” or “Simply stop harboring bitterness,” emotions are tricky things. Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for them to take over.

If you or someone you know struggles with anger, the Mayo Clinic offers some great tips for managing anger.

  • Think before you speak. Before you lash out in anger, take a few minutes to collect your thoughts. It’s easier to pause before speaking than to have to undo the damage of harsh words later.
  • Take a timeout. Timeouts aren’t only for little kids! If you feel yourself losing control, remove yourself from the situation for a little bit.  Sometimes some distance can give you a new perspective and can help you clear your head.
  • Get some exercise. Physical activity can be a great way to reduce stress and to clear your head. If you feel yourself getting angry, make time for a walk outside or a run on the treadmill!
  • Don’t hold a grudge. While feeling resentment in the moment may feel like a good idea, this can lead to trouble in the long term. Don’t forget what a powerful tool forgiveness is!
  • Know when to seek help. If you frequently feel yourself losing control and are unable to “stop once you start,” it may be time to seek professional help.

Finally, you must keep in mind that it is impossible for us to keep ourselves in check on our own; it is only through constant communication with our Lord and Savior that we are able to find these negative emotions no longer have a hold on us. It is only though Jesus that the darkness in our heart can be overtaken by Light!

When it comes to teaching our young people, the best way to instruct them about managing anger and bitterness is through our own example. It’s likely that object lesson, scripture reading, or sermon could have quite the impact that living our own life in accordance with scripture does.

So, before you approach your youth on the topic of anger and bitterness, it’s time to evaluate: what is the condition of your own heart?


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434

Image from Canva©.

Author: ICM

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