“I have become aware of and disturbed by the intensity of my anger recently. I seem to have a really short fuse and I am starting to lash out verbally toward those around me. I don’t want to hurt my wife and kids with my anger in the same way I was growing up, but I can’t seem to stop being angry.”
Anger is a powerful emotion that is often mishandled and causes much harm in relationships. And while it is not evil or sinful itself, it does require maturity to handle well.
Anger is not an emotion to simply dismiss because it is unpleasant. Much like a child trying to get his parents attention, anger only gets louder and more intense when it is ignored. And like the red light flashing on the dash of a vehicle, ignoring anger only invites more problems down the road.
Our emotions are like advisors trying to deliver an important message to us. Anger lets us know when we have experienced an injustice.
For example, when someone cuts me off on the interstate I get angry because that should not happen. I also experience anger when a visitor steals my seat on Sunday morning, because, at least in my egocentric world, that also should not happen.
Whenever I witness an injustice or when my way of doing things is disrupted I get angry. Anger might also hide the softer feelings of hurt, rejection, disappointment, and embarrassment. Again, it is a feeling that lets me know something is wrong in my world.
As an emotion, anger does not distinguish between a genuine wrongdoing, such as the mistreatment of a love one or the breaking of laws, and perceived wrongdoings, such as the visitor “stealing” my seat.
Anger’s job is to simply let me know I’ve been wronged. It is still my job to determine how valid this wrongdoing is and what response, if any, is needed.
Problems are more likely to occur when anger is in the driver seat of our lives. When it is in control and is calling the shots we are more likely to sin and cause harm in our relationships. While anger has an important message for us, it does not make a good driver. After “listening” to the message anger has for you, be sure you stay in the driver seat and not your anger.
Learn to acknowledge the anger and listen to its message. Once you have determined if this encounter is a genuine or perceived wrongdoing, consider how to best respond.
When used as God intended anger motivates us to take loving action toward correcting the injustice in the world around us. In the face of perceived or egocentric wrongdoings, like the visitor stealing my seat, the best response is often to simply let the matter go.
Whatever your response, let it be grounded in love.
Consider the following guidelines to wisely handling your anger:
- Acknowledge the anger to yourself
- Restrain your automatic reactions – pause, breathe, count to 100, or the like
- Listen to the anger – determine what the injustice is and if it is a genuine or perceived wrongdoing
- Consider your options – a loving confrontation or a conscious choice to let the matter go
- Make a response grounded in love
Be sure to take responsibility for and seek amends whenever your anger is mishandled. It will take practice to learn how to handle this powerful emotion wisely. Be patient with yourself (and others) as you learn.