How can I control my temper?

If you ever find a simple, easy answer for this, please let me know! I wish there was an immediate, magic way to change our attitudes. But there isn't. We can take steps so our temper doesn't control us, but we can't change our initial reaction of anger or frustration. We cannot control what we feel in that instant, but we must practice controlling how we REACT to our feelings.

Before the Moment

Examining yourself and praying in advance about a known temper control issue does a lot to prepare you for the future. Asking God for His help to avoid unnecessary anger and react wisely is powerful (Matthew 6:13). It's even better when friends and pastors can pray with you and for you (James 5:16). That way, you're not trying to make decisions or remember truths only when you're about to snap. Instead, you're bringing a prepared heart and a better attitude to every situation.

With that in mind, you can remind yourself about the best way to react when your temper flares. Uncontrolled anger, bitterness, or spite will only make the situation worse. Remind yourself that you are in control of yourself and that you don't "have to" react in a hurtful way (1 Corinthians 10:13). You can choose to speak and act calmly and with patience—even if you're raging on the inside (Colossians 3:8). (Be sure to work out and process your frustrations later, when you are no longer able to hurt anyone or damage a relationship.)

In the Moment

The easiest immediate step is awareness of your own emotions. You can't help it if something sets you off. But you CAN choose how to react. Admitting that your temper is triggered—to yourself and in a quick prayer (James 1:5)—can help you take a step back. Pausing should help put you into the mindset of taking control rather than just responding without thinking it through.

You could tell yourself, "I'm frustrated because _____" to give yourself a moment to examine why you're feeling that way. It's unlikely to make you less irritated, but it CAN help you recognize what's happening in your body so you can choose to make thoughtful choices from that point on.

When the Moment is Taking Over

If the situation is getting frustrating to the point that you're having a hard time staying in control, you probably need to separate yourself from it. If possible, tell them that you need a minute or need to discuss things later. We don't always have to resolve things immediately.

Of course, leaving the situation is not always possible, and that is when self-control could become very, very difficult. Take some deep breaths and call on the Holy Spirit for strength.

Training Your Brain

Sometimes there can be value in "fake it till you make it." Acting like a person without a temper—by accepting that you're triggered and choosing to control your response—helps stop you from breaking relationships and getting in unnecessary trouble. Over time, choosing control should become easier and easier. With practice, you can gradually start to affect your brain's immediate reaction. No one is ever going to be immune to temper or emotional reactions 100% of the time. But it IS possible to limit the damage, right now, and train your brain to respond in a better, more controlled way.

Another way to think of this is like training to fight for self-defense. When someone gets close to you, your instinct might be to start swinging. But that's usually a bad idea. A better instinct is to get into a "ready stance," where you're balanced and all set to fight, but not actually doing it yet. That's where you can think about the best thing to do. It's the same with the mindset around temper. Practice reacting to stresses by putting your mind in a controlled, patient but vigilant "combat mode," instead of flailing around. The more often you purposefully take control, the easier it becomes, the more in control you feel, and the less often you feel like the situation is controlling you.

One more helpful strategy is to avoid things that cause your temper to flare—at least when you can. If you know a certain person or game or content creator or place is going to make you angry, then avoid those when you can. Sometimes you can't. But once you get in the habit of knowing (and admitting) that you have a short temper and need to control it, the more control you'll get.

So, the basic idea is pray, be prepared, decide in advance to "act" rightly—even if you don't "feel" right—and let the long-term process make a change.



We cannot control what we feel in a single instant, but we must take steps to practice controlling how we REACT to our feelings. Examine yourself and ask God for help to avoid uncontrolled anger (Matthew 6:13; James 1:5). Be aware of your own emotions and take control of how you respond. Taking a step back should help put you into the mindset of having control rather than just responding without thinking. With practice, you can gradually train your brain to have a more controlled, patient response. No one can be immune to temper or emotional reactions 100% of the time. But it IS possible to limit the damage and train your brain to respond in a better, more controlled way.

Writer: Jeff Laird

Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.

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