I was driving down the road a while back, singing along with my 70s Sirius station, when suddenly my brake light came on. What do you think my reaction might have been? "Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. If I ignore it, it will go away." I'll tell you that that was not my reaction at all. I was in Colorado on vacation at the time, deep in the Rocky Mountains, and there was no way I would try to navigate those winding hills with brakes that were less than fully committed to doing their job. Otherwise, I could try to take a curve and wind up in the bottom of a gorge. So I took the warning seriously and had my brakes checked out.
In the same way your anger is a warning signal that something needs to be dealt with. In fact, any negative emotion is a warning signal that something needs to be dealt with. The apostle Paul said, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Ephesian 4:26-27)
When you're mad at someone, you've got to deal with it. And the closer that person is to you, the sooner you've got to resolve it. You can't just let it fester. Isn't that an ugly word — fester? It describes what happens to a wound that is never cleaned or food that is never properly disposed of, and is instead just left in the cupboard to putrefy. The same thing will happen with your relationships if you don't deal with your anger in a timely manner. Paul says that ignoring your anger gives a foothold to the devil — and you know that the devil isn't going to bring anything good into your life.
In dealing with your anger, you have two options. One, which is most common for me, is that you can come to the conclusion: Maybe I'm making something out of nothing here. Maybe I'm over-reacting. Maybe I can ignore what that other person said or did, because in the grand scheme of things, it's not really that important. Maybe I'm making this all about me and my ego, and I need to be a little less self-important.
Second, there are some who go through life taking umbrage at every little thing, and being offended at every little thing. "I don't like the way he looked at me. I don't like the way he spoke to me. That person said something on Facebook that I don't like, and I'm going to set them straight."
Most of the time — not every time, but most of the time — when I'm offended and huffy about something, I see that the person who needs to change is me. It may very well be the same for you. When this happens, you can pull back a little bit, give yourself some perspective, and say, "I refuse to make a big deal about something that isn't a big deal. I'm going to let this go." Now, you don't do this every time your emotions are out control, because sometimes the situation is serious and you have to deal with it head on. It's not about me ignoring it, it's about us resolving it together.
When there remains a serious conflict between people, what do you do? You sit down with that person and look the in the eye and speak to them the truth in love. You speak in wholesome uplifting manner— even if the topic is tense and even if they're completely in the wrong. You don't lash out. You don't attack. You don't aim for the jugular. You speak the truth in love. And you axe that anger quickly as possible: Before the sun goes down.