In today’s post Jaime Hlavin and I collaborate to answer the question every human needs to ask: “What can I do with my anger?” How we answer this most important question significantly impacts our mental and emotional health. Enjoy ~ John
If you live in Michigan, you are probably painfully aware of the weight of January, February, and March can have on one’s mental health. It’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s in full swing. Therefore, we are dedicating four weeks to covering emotional and mental health.
In last week’s blog, we covered some shocking statistics regarding depression, specifically amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many therapists believe a major cause in most cases of significant depression is the mishandling of anger or “anger turned inward.” And people who love Jesus are not immune from this.
Anger doesn’t simply dissipate on its own. We must adhere to Ephesians 4:26 which states “In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” How do we do this? Often, it’s much easier to rattle off this scripture in hopes that it will fix the root problem than to do the hard work of processing our anger.
If we don’t tell anger where to go, it will take us to places we don’t want go – down the path of anxiety every time we see a person we’re angry with and eventually, to a place of fractured relationships. The anger journey can end in deep sadness and even depression.
So, what do we do when anger threatens to drive us to these undesired locations?
I think we first need to come to terms with four fundamentals of anger:
- Anger is a human emotion. Therefore everyone will feel it at some time during their life. A life without anger is probably a life devoid of deep emotion. Anger is often an appropriate reaction to injustice and sin.
- Anger is a secondary emotion. It’s often a symptom of a much deeper emotion or wound that needs to be healed.
- Anger is a revealing emotion. Anger can call to attention issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes our anger is a response to very practical things . . . such as an overstuffed calendar.
- Anger can be a devastating emotion. Unmanaged and unprocessed anger can leave destruction in its wake.
Once we understand the basics of anger, and that it’s something we must address before it manifests itself in emotionally and mentally unhealthy ways, we can develop tools to process it. These tools include determining healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger.
Unhealthy Expressions of Anger
- Caving in. Often people will just say “This is how I am!” “Everyone one in my family is this way.” “My life experiences dictate that I can be this way.” This results in throwing up our hands and acting however our rage dictates. That can affect nearly everything we touch – yelling at store employees when a return policy isn’t what we expected, losing our cool at a server in a restaurant who brings us the wrong meal, going off on someone we disagree with on social media, developing an unhealthy relationship with food to mask our emotions – the list could go on and on.
- Blaming others. It’s so easy to blame our angry sinning on those who made us angry or didn’t meet our expectation. “I wouldn’t act this way if you would just stop (fill in the blank with whatever behavior it was that set you off.) As adults, we have to take responsibility for our actions, and this is the ultimate act of abdicating that responsibility.
- Submerging. There are those among us who push anger down in hopes that it will just go away. Well, it doesn’t just go away. Instead, it festers under the surface until the infection spreads and makes you emotionally septic.
Healthy Expressions of Anger
- Learn the art of assertiveness. Assertiveness is simply speaking the truth in love. You stand up for yourself by expressing your needs to others while showing respect to them at the same time. You outline how the behavior of the person causing you pain is negatively impacting your life, while at the same time acknowledging any contribution you yourself have made to the situation. Assertiveness is a productive way to handle our anger rather than raging in aggression or submerging in passivity.
- Learn to forgive. As a Christian, this is the most important key to handling anger in a healthy manner. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forgiveness doesn’t minimize the pain inflicted on us. It moves us toward healing. In the process of forgiveness, it’s important to learn the difference between minor offenses (which we can get beyond quickly) and deep wounds. One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive a person who’s deeply wounded you. When the wound is deep be honest with yourself about the harm done and be committed to the process. Forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous.
If you don’t tell anger where to go, it will take you to places you don’t want go. Anger will end up running . . . and ruining your life.
We realize we’ve only scratched the surface regarding where to tell anger to go. At Converge Coaching, we’re committed to helping you obtain and maintain emotional and mental health. In order to help you do that, we are offering, for the entire month of February, John’s book Unshakable You, 5 Choices of Emotionally Healthy People at a 40% discount. You can order copies here.
If you’re struggling emotionally today, we’re here to help. Reach out to us today.
Rooting and praying for you to manage your anger in healthy and Godly ways!
John & Jaime