Whether you experience it as a mild heat or a full-blown pressure cooker, anger is a natural human emotion. In fact, it is the most common emotion. It affects body and mind—increasing your body temperature and creating an unsettled discomfort.
Anger can come in many forms: Mom gets angry when traffic makes her late. Little Timmy gets angry when his big sister sits on his toy. Dad kicks the dog because a coworker is undermining his work.
How you respond to anger is a learned trait. If Junior sees Dad getting angry and throwing things this is typically how Junior will respond in future when he gets angry. Although anger is inescapable, you don’t have to answer its call.
There are two common approaches: The first is to “let off the steam.” The belief is that expressing anger will get it out of your system. The problem is, this response doesn’t bring calm to a person—it typically only intensifies the aggression.
On the other hand, many Christians feel that anger is a sin. So instead of expressing it, they repress it. While this may not seem as harmful as letting the anger out, is does cause equal if not greater damage—because repressed anger turns into bitterness and resentment, both of which permeate all aspects of your life. And worse, they linger.
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. This seemingly basic step is crucial. Too many people feel the need to justify how they feel instead of calling it what it is. Admitting your anger is the first step.
- Control your thoughts. As I mentioned, angry people are often controlling people, whether they are trying to control others, themselves or outside events. Use that ability to gain control of your thoughts. We are called to take every thought captive and make it obedient unto Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5. Although I admit this is difficult to do in the midst of anger, you need to think about what you’re thinking about and challenge those thoughts. Are things truly as unjust as they appear? Often times we react to situations that are only conjured up in our own minds. Only when you can control your thoughts, can you begin to regain control of yourself.
- Uncover the cause. You might assume I am talking about identifying what made you angry, but it’s not the case. Often times the situation that preceded an angry response is only a trigger for a bigger underlying issue. Only when you can identify which of your needs are not getting met can you uncover the cause of anger.
- Let some things go. Have you ever met someone who has 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 defensively. In this case, anger becomes an automatic emotion that gets tripped easier than a mousetrap. To help get out of this automatic cycle, it helps to keep in mind that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)—even those people who are angering you.
- Consider the relationship. Angry people often look to win every battle without considering the casualties. 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 relationships.
- Entertain peace. At some level, anger is a choice. Let yourself consider the possibility that you could choose peace instead. This gives your mind an alternative, and a Godly one at that. That does not mean that you let others step all over you. Rather, 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 you. 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.”
By: Kris Reece, Counselor, Author, Speaker