Our friend, Anger

Our friend, Anger

Has anyone ever said to you “I never get angry?” Don’t believe them.  If people are normal, they’ll experience some form of anger. After several conversations this week where anger was the main topic,   I realized it was time to re-visit our friend, anger. One gal said she feels badly that she stays angry with a co-worker but sees no solution since their work areas are adjoining. A daughter is angry with her uncooperative parent with living adjustments that have to be made.  “My husband is constantly ranting and raving about everything and everyone”, a distraught wife sighed; “He needs professional help.”

At birth we all receive the God-given emotion of anger.  I observed a toddler’s early encounter with anger while she watched her older cousin examine her car seat that was equipped with a neat protective cover. Eventually, he maneuvered his too-large body into her car seat pulled the cover over and began to rock the car seat evoking her to consternation. She was aware it was her car seat but was powerless to remove him. She didn’t cry but by sheer luck she pressed the siren on the toy fire truck that he had played with earlier. When he heard ‘his’ fire truck, he squeezed out of that car seat pronto.

My focus is to encourage you, my reader-family, to identify anger and accept angry feelings. Then, to take time to think through the ramifications in order to dismiss the problems and/or master communication skills which calmly, wisely and respectfully resolve anger issues.

Anger is a positive and legitimate emotion not a negative behavior that should be ignored or denied. I regard anger as a friend, designed by God to alert us in pinpointing what goes against our grain, then equipping us to adjust to unkind comments, troubles and dealing with difficult behavior.  Healthy communication skills are so important to develop that I’ve included a section on anger in all of my books.  Chapter 7 in How to Get Along with Everyone discusses the positive and negative sides of anger in detail. Some brief quizzes and examples are offered to help the reader to select their unique anger mode.

The reality of anger is often a subtle surpriser, surfacing when one least expects or when time to settle an issue is at a premium.  Angry feelings need to be carefully analyzed and followed to their source. But first we need a definition.  One dictionary says that ‘anger is a feeling of extreme displeasure, hostility, indignation, or exasperation toward someone or something; rage, wrath, ire.

Many people deny that they have angry feelings because they believe that anger is unspiritual or a sign of immaturity or weakness. Others assume that an aggressive display of temper is the only way anger is expressed or experienced.  Anger is evoked when anything or anybody hinders our forward progress, challenges our intelligence, or takes us for granted.

Anger-alerts can be compared to traffic warning signs which are met with heavy sighs when we see ‘road work ahead’ fearful that slowing down will play havoc with our schedules.  Electronic flashing arrows warning ‘be careful’, ‘watch for falling rock’, ‘bump ahead’, ‘dangerous curve’, ‘road narrows’, ‘right lane ends’, ‘disabled vehicle ahead’.  Warning signs and flashing lights are actually positive physical protective reminders doing for us what our friend anger contributes toward our mental and emotional welfare. And in many instances even physical safety.

Anger, like love, is a feeling that almost everyone struggles to explain and understand, but the mark of maturity is proven by the way angry feelings are handled. There seem to be two basic immature responses to anger—noisy overreaction or stony silence. As already stated, depending on your personality makeup, your expression of anger will usually be either straightforward or disguised. Both are deadly If not appreciated and handled quickly and constructively.  Anger points out when something is awry and needs special attention.  Actually, if you reflect on what makes you angry, you’ll discover your character and what you really care about.   The Gospels record many times “And Jesus was angry”. Not surprisingly, he was angry with mistreatment of others and peoples’ general unbelief.

Compassionate anger inspires missionaries and social workers to sacrifice comfort and convenience,  endure separation from family and risk disease in order to teach English and technologies to underprivileged citizens in struggling third world countries to attain productivity and progress.

Misunderstanding gives anger a bad rap. Many ministers preach that anger is sin. Not so. Uncontrolled anger can lead to sin, but anger itself is a reminder—a helper. “In your anger do not sin.” (Eph.4:26)

When we’re fuming on the inside, silently unhappy, upset, disrespected, disappointed, hurt, feeling rejected, put down, etc.—some of the anger ‘road ‘signs—we are wise to intentionally focus on understanding the circumstances behind the incident about why that particular statement or treatment upsets us so much. We can make a mental list or write it out. “I thought I was more important than that”, “He must have forgotten what he promised,” “They were glad to talk to me until they saw someone more important come in.”  “I wonder why that person thought he/she could cheat me?”

We have to do our part to get to the bottom of the infraction.  People say many hurtful things without considering how it will sound or affect the hearer. Anger helps us to slow down and think through our unhappy situation.  Give yourself a day or so if necessary.  Decide if you need to talk things over with a trusted friend.  Sometimes, professional counseling is the best solution.

Our mind-set needs to be thankfulness for the person and the circumstances and for God’s presence and guidance as we decide how to handle the situation.  Our basic goal should be to neutralize or prevent the residue of resentments. Developing a positive approach toward anger and learning how to use it properly will accomplish this since angry feelings slow down our productivity and cloud our thinking.  Out-of-control anger inhibits effective communication.  And if by chance you are the offender, be ready to say “I apologize”, “I was wrong”, ” I misspoke,” followed by an honest “Please forgive me”.

Some people let angry encounters pile up until there are very few people they want to be around. I received a positive introduction about the utter danger of stored-up anger from The Angry Book, by Theodore Isaac Rubin, MD.  If anger is ignored and allowed to build, resentments which I regard as cancer of the heart move in and take over.  So, the sooner we acknowledge the presence of anger, the easier and quicker the situation will be resolved.  Addressing our angry feelings in a positive way refreshes our souls and maintains friendships.

Learn to express anger honestly and simply like: “I get angry when I see your belongings out of place”. “I feel disrespected when my opinion has not been considered.” “I feel hurt when everything I’ve done is ignored.” Non-offensive honest statements like these resonate positively with children teens, older folks, bosses and mates.  And it relieves a lot of inner tension.

Determine to not dwell on your hurt, but on the importance of the person who overlooked or mistreated you. Joy enters when you prayerfully deal with anger you have toward others or even yourself.

Facing adverse circumstances and conversations is one way that we grow spiritually, much the same as strong winds help trees deepen their roots. Warning signs won’t hurt us but what’s behind them could.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

Finally, brothers (sisters) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things. Phil 4:8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thess 5:16-18

Father, help me to interact honestly and kindly with others with eyes on your son and dependence on your Spirit for wisdom and understanding.