Welcome to the human race. To struggle with anger is pretty common, but also pretty disturbing. We don’t like who we are when we succumb to the emotion of anger and do and say things we regret afterward. There is a lot of talk about ‘anger management’ and a lot of comedy written to poke fun at angry people. The reason is we display our foolishness when we get angry. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but as human beings our anger – even if it starts out as ‘righteous’ or ‘understandable’ doesn’t tend to stay righteous very long. Our selfishness starts to show when we allow anger to get ahold of us. But, what are we to do? How do we turn the tide on that powerful emotion and curtail its destructive undercurrents?
It’s good to ask ourselves some things in relation to our anger. What is the root of our anger? Said to be a secondary emotion, anger usually is seen when really underneath we are hurt, frustrated, fearful, or in pain. Anger is the easy ‘go to’ emotion that is generally accepted by society – yet it can be so damaging destroying relationships and worse.
Anger is a good reason for us to start and ponder, what is it that I want so badly that when I didn’t get it I became angry? What is it specifically that has ‘pushed our buttons?’ Sometimes in processing exactly what the issue is we can learn a lot about ourselves.
My very wise mother once, when we were observing a child having a bit of a temper tantrum, said to me, “don’t you ever feel that way?” “Well, yes, I said.” She replied, “little children can’t hide what they feel.” As adults we can smile at a two-year old having a temper tantrum and understand that a part of childhood is coming to grips with the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around us – no matter how we feel! But as adults we tend to mask all those very raw self-absorbed feelings with other things. Anger causes us to look at ourselves and see what may need some “soul work” in our own lives?
Even if we are absolutely wronged, we can turn the tide of resolving our anger by considering that if we take an opportunity to get the focus off of ourselves in the matter, we may be able to catch a glimpse of what might be going on in the inside workings of the other person. If they sinned against us, we may do well to consider that things are evidently not good in their heart and their life. While it doesn’t erase the harm done, it does allow us to have some compassion for their ‘lost state’ or ‘dark place’ or titanic struggle that may be going on with the other person. When we can begin to have a little compassion, our hearts can start to change. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:26NLT), he says, “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The principle here is that if we allow our anger to smolder – keeping the recording going over and over in our minds -it can gain control over us and the results can be devastating. In taking steps to resolve our anger – by asking God to come and begin to change our hearts – then we can avert future disaster and grow in stature as a kinder more compassionate human being.