10 Reasons Anger is Often a Problem for Pastors

I admit it – I have a temper. I’m generally able in God’s grace to control it, and to my knowledge, few people have ever seen it displayed. I know, though, that I’m not the only pastor who deals with this issue. Here are my thoughts about why so many pastors carry this trait:

  1. Many of us were saved out of homes where anger was a reality. Whether we like it or not, we who lived in an angry atmosphere often picked up that same characteristic. Our redemption frees us from its bondage but doesn’t always eradicate the tendency.
  2. We’re often perfectionists. We don’t want to fail God, our congregation, or ourselves. We’re better at offering grace to others than to ourselves – and our response to failure is often defeat and anger.
  3. Some of us have no outlet for frustration. That’s neither good nor right, but it’s reality. We sometimes have no true friends with whom we can be transparently honest before anger gets out of control.  
  4. Some days, it feels like weighty pastoral pressures never end. Some ministry needs are life-and-death. Others affect homes, marriages, and generations. When pastoral stress seems non-stop, it’s easy to let little things give rise to anger.
  5. Many of us don’t take care of ourselves spiritually. Our time with God is reduced to sermon preparation alone, and prayer is on an “emergency” basis. Consequently, we hardly exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.
  6. Many of us don’t take care of ourselves physically. We don’t eat well, exercise well, or rest well, or vacation well. Tired, out-of-shape, undisciplined leaders are increasingly vulnerable to displays of anger.
  7. Some church structures give us permission to be angry. That is, pastors who have little accountability, or who are given reign over their own church kingdom, have few stop signs to expressing anger.
  8. Sometimes our role demands righteous anger. It is not ungodly to be angry at the effects of injustice. Church members are sometimes so sinfully rude that anger is a valid response. The difficulty is walking that line without allowing our anger to become sin.
  9. Too often, we have private sin that haunts us. Internal sin often displays itself with a short fuse. Actually, increasing anger is one of the signs I watch for when I’m worried about a brother’s private life.
  10. We ignore the reality of spiritual warfare. Maybe we talk about it when a friend falls into some obvious sin like adultery or drunkenness or pornography – but not anger. Meanwhile, the devil works in deceived, angry hearts to slaughter pastors, homes, and ministries.

What would you add to this list? How might we pray for you if anger is an issue? 

11 Comments

  • Michael Karpf says:

    I am pretty patient with people but it is little irritations that frustrate me to no end. A friend told me it may be Satanic and I think she is right. In James we read “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” But it is still a problem. Thank you for praying.

  • Mark says:

    Anger if it is not all-consuming needs a safe outlet. It might be sports, boxing, soccer, etc. It is pent-up anger that is not good. Besides, Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple during Holy Week having first fashioned a whip.

    #7 is one that affects many clergy. Also, some members with outsized influence can tell him or her something that is a perceived problem and the only acceptable response is action. That sometimes leads to anger against (certain segments of) the congregation.

    Real example: Christian university chapel speaker who is minister speaks one day to large gathering of students and lashes out at them in anger and even condemns them to hell for the sins of other people. Students wonder who put him up to it since he has a regular pulpit and if he preached like that every Sunday, he would be out of a job quickly. Of course, the students never found out who told the minister what to say. Students wonder why he was not talked to after speaking like that. Many felt like if the speech were not condemned, then it was tacitly condoned. Christianity suffered a big hit that day.

  • Kris says:

    Chuck, this is fantastic and really hits home. I feel like I could’ve wrote this and believe all of these hit home for me. I pray to be more like Christ, showing more patience and longsuffering and thank him for grace when I fall short.

  • wcbcpastor says:

    For me anger has turned into a deep anxiety/depression. HAving a strong support group has helped. Reasons # 4 and 10 truly need to be somewhere in MDiv pastoral theology content – not just in passing but significant explorations of those topics.

  • Matt Westgate says:

    I, as an associate pastor, just left a business meeting where my senior pastor was attacked by a leader and I responded in anger for their treatment.
    I thought I was wrong at first, but reading this has affirmed some righteous anger and showed that this man (who just stepped out of leadership) sinfully attacked “God’s Anointed”. Thank your for a timely article.

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