Last week we talked about telling our anger where to go. We encouraged an honest appraisal of our anger and then we examined unhealthy expressions of such.
In Unshakable You: 5 Choices of Emotionally Healthy People, John Opalewski says, “In Ephesians 4:31, the apostle Paul command his friends, ‘Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…’ He was not instructing them to deny these emotions or pretend they didn’t exist. He was encouraging his readers to deal with them.”
So today, let’s explore five ways to express our anger properly. To tell it where to go.
Understand the negative impact of mishandled anger
If mishandled anger is a pattern in our lives, it’s likely a trail of negative relational issues are being left in our wake. The inability to tell our anger the right places to go often isolates us from the people who love us most.
Take a step back and identify anger’s roots
Remember in last week’s post we mentioned that anger is often a secondary emotion? The presenting reason for our anger is many times not the real reason we’re upset. When you feel anger rising, take a deep breath, pause for a second and ask yourself “Why am I angry right now? What’s really bothering me?” Ask the Lord to help you identify the source.
Identify relationships or situations where an emotional eruption is more likely to occur For me this happens when I have to fly on an airplane. I stress about all the things I cannot control: Traffic, TSA, delayed flights, etc. I get short-tempered and my family is usually annoyed with me by the end of the day. Once we identify these situations, we can utilize tools to help navigate them.
I’ve learned that I need to spend a few extra minutes asking God to help me chill, drink plenty of water, and stay fed so that dehydration and low blood sugar don’t get thrown into the mix. No one likes me when I’m hangry.
Become committed to forgive no matter what
Ah . . . the F-word. Forgiveness. This one is tricky. But it’s one of the healthiest places to tell anger where to go.
Let’s begin this by quoting John’s book: “Forgiveness doesn’t diminish or marginalize the pain inflicted on us.” Rather, it should move us toward healing. However, many people have been shamed or bullied into forgiveness by other Christians. We know that the forgiveness process can be slow and take time, depending on the severity of the wound. In deep-wound situations,
- Be honest about the harm done. Some counselors believe you cannot fully forgive someone until you have fully acknowledged the pain they’ve inflicted on you. The difficult work of processing the pain cannot be rushed.
- Don’t give up if the feelings of unforgiveness creep up again. Often Matthew 6:14-15 is used as a spiritual sledgehammer to beat each other into forgiving before processing the offense. Yes, Jesus requires us to forgive, but we aren’t Jesus and therefore often can’t do it in an instant like He can. You may need the help of qualified professionals to work through your pain, along with adding prayer to the mix.
- Be patient with yourself. Even if you’ve processed and forgiven, periodically something may trigger a memory of the wound and anger may flare again. If this happens, don’t despair. Just keep at it until the process is complete. Don’t give yourself a deadline.
Learn to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive. Assertiveness, along with forgiveness, are the proper places for our anger.
Let’s try to define what assertive is by first of all defining what it’s not. Being assertive is not the same thing as being aggressive. Aggression includes yelling, bullying, foul language and/or physical abuse.
Being assertive is not the same thing as being passive. Passive behavior is just as unhealthy and is often expressed in the “silent treatment,” sarcastic comments or martyr tendencies.
Assertiveness is this: standing up for yourself by communicating what you need or are feeling in a loving, respectful manner. Expressing how a person’s poor behavior is negatively impacting your life while acknowledging any contribution you have made to the situation—without excusing the other person’s contribution.
In March, we will begin focusing on the next choices we can make on our emotional health journey. But in the meantime, let’s get better at telling anger where to go. Declare out loud: I choose to manage my anger instead of anger managing me.
This choice can be tough, so . . .
We are definitely rooting and praying for you!