Anger might be the most misunderstood emotion of all time.
We’ve been created by God with the capacity to experience strong emotions—anger being one of them. Anger happens when someone violates you or crosses a healthy boundary you’ve established. Anger is part of being human. The apostle Paul wrote: “In your anger, do not sin.” He believed it was possible to feel anger without it leading to saying something we shouldn’t say, or doing something we shouldn’t do. Paul made it clear: we can get angry without sinning.
Anger is a tricky emotion. Some well-meaning people have taught us to avoid it at all costs. They believe the emotion itself is morally wrong. I think the apostle Paul understood anger as being neutral. The emotion itself does no damage—what matters is how we manage it. If we process anger correctly, we can even use it to our advantage. If we handle our anger incorrectly, it can destroy us and those in the wake of our rage.
So, I’d like to focus on how we can leverage anger in a positive manner. Here are 3 ways anger can actually help you:
Anger creates energy
When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, along with your adrenaline levels. Anger’s force, if directed at a problem, can be a good thing. In 1981, John Walsh’s son Adam was kidnapped and brutally murdered. His family harnessed the energy created by their understandable outrage, and from it came the TV show, America’s Most Wanted. They used anger’s energy to put bad guys behind bars. And later, they leveraged the emotion to push through Congress the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. George W. Bush signed the Act into law on July 27, 2006.
Anger creates energy. Converge Coaching started in part because I got angry over the attrition rate of pastors, the emotional toll the role was taking on them and their families—and I got really angry that not enough was being done to address the issue. Instead of whining about it, I began helping leaders. And out of that strong emotion, eventually Converge was birthed. Anger can be your ally when you funnel its energy toward a good purpose.
Anger brings exposure
Anger is like a metal detector. It possesses the uncanny ability to expose issues buried in your heart and mind. It can expose unresolved problems from your past which keep fueling your rage in the present. Consider your anger as a possible indicator you are overcommitting your time and emotional resources.
Anger can reveal an over-stuffed calendar. It can signal that you’re giving out more energy than you’re taking in. It can be a sign you’re on the road to emotional depletion. Anger may indicate you’ve been neglecting replenishing relationships. If you treat anger as a kind of early-warning system, it can become your friend.
Anger creates opportunity for relational growth
Mishandled anger leaves a trail of relational destruction in its wake. We mishandle our anger when we respond to it with either aggression or passivity. Both responses stunt our growth.
Foul language, screaming, or swinging your fists are examples of aggression. Holding a grudge or nursing bitterness are examples of passivity. Aggression hurts other people. Passivity hurts you. Assertiveness, on the other hand, is a better approach to expressing anger, and it presents a real opportunity for us to grow.
What does assertiveness look like? It’s fairly simple: assertiveness is telling someone kindly but firmly how their bad behavior is negatively impacting you. It’s speaking the truth wrapped in love and grace. Assertiveness not only grows you, it gives the person who offended you an opportunity to grow too. Being assertive when we’re angry is not sinful, it’s loving. Both you and the person inflicting pain on you have a chance to benefit when assertiveness is your go-to move.
Anger can be a negative force in our life. . . but it doesn’t have to be. Like John Walsh, we can learn how to unleash its positive power toward productive pursuits; we can allow it to expose emotional grubs buried beneath the surface which keep tripping us up; and we can figure out how to express it assertively and in doing so, get better at relationships. If you’d like more help with learning how to manage your anger, check out my book Unshakable You: Five Choices of Emotionally Healthy People.
So, is anger your friend. . . or your foe? You get to choose.
I’m rooting and praying for you!