By: Kris Reece, Counselor, Author, Speaker
Whether you are hot under the collar or a full blown pressure cooker, everyone feels anger. It is the most common emotion we all share. We can feel it from the rising of our body temperature to the unsettled discomfort in our own skin.
Anger can come in many forms mild irritation to righteous indignation. Mom gets angry when she is cut sitting in more traffic than her schedule will allow. Little Timmy gets angry when his big sister sits on his toy. Dad kicks the dog because a coworker is undermining his work. These are just some every day examples of how we all experience anger. It’s inescapable, but one does not have to give in to its demands.
How we respond to anger is a learned trait. We typically learn by what we’ve experienced especially in the home. If Jr. sees Dad getting angry and throwing things this is typically how Jr. will respond in future when he gets angry.
There are two schools of thought.
Many believe that when you’re angry you should just “Let off steam”; The belief is that it will get it out of their system, but this response doesn’t bring calm to a person, rather it only serves to further intensify the aggression.
On the other hand, many Christians feel that anger is a sin, so instead of expressing it in outrageous ways, they chose to repress it. This form of expression while it doesn’t seem as harmful as the outwardly aggressive one is equally as harmful if not more because it does get expressed, typically as bitterness and resentment.
Anger is not a sin. Anger can actually spur you on to making healthy life changes, but how it’s handled will determine the difference between growth and defeat.
- Admit it. Admitting that you are angry is key. Too many people feel the need to justify their anger instead of calling it what it is…Anger. You will frequently find this is people who yell as a defense mechanism, they know they are wrong, but instead of admitting it they use anger to control others. Admitting your anger is the first step.
- Control your thoughts. Angry people can sometimes be controlling people, whether they are trying to control others or themselves. Use that control to gain control of your thoughts. Only then can you begin to regain control of yourself. This is a difficult step for those in the throes of anger.
- Uncover the cause of anger – one would assume that this would mean that you identify what made you angry, but it’s not the case. Often times the situation that seemed to precipitate the angry response is only a trigger for a bigger underlying issue. Once a person identifies what needs they have that are not getting met, they uncover the cause of anger.
- Challenge thoughts – We are called to take every thought captive and make it obedient unto Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5. That means we need to think about what we’re thinking about. In the midst of anger we need to think about what we’re thinking about and challenge those thoughts. Often times we react to situations that are only conjured up in our own minds.
- Let some things go – have you ever met someone who had a problem with everyone and everything? This is typically an angry person. When you get in the habit of holding onto every offense you get into the habit of responding the same way. In this case, anger is an automatic “go to” emotion that gets tripped easier than a mousetrap. It helps to keep in mind that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory Romans 3:23
- Consider the relationship – angry people often look to win every battle that they don’t consider the casualties. I remember my ex-husband was this way. He would proudly state that he would win any argument at any cost. Well he proved that true. He may have technically won arguments but he lost the relationship.
- Consider Peace – considering peace as an option to anger gives your mind an alternative and a Godly one at that. Peace does not mean that we just let others step all over us, but peace in the midst of anger looks like a “hold back”. This is not to be mistaken for the “hold in” which builds resentment. Rather, the “hold back” says, “I’m going to take some time to think about this and come back to it when I’m level headed. That’s maturity!
Anger may be the most common of human emotions but it doesn’t have to rule us. Remember the words in James 1:19-20 “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”