How Do You Deal With Anger?
What comes to mind when you hear the word “anger?” For some, this word may conjure up an image of someone yelling. For others, it might bring up images of someone “slamming a door” and walking out. And yet for someone else it might raise the thought of someone totally shutting down and disengaging. For many, the thought of anger quickly evokes feelings of fear and anxiety . . . something to be “avoided at all costs.” But what does God want us to do with anger? Is it always sinful? Apparently not, or Scripture would not direct us to “not sin in our anger” (Eph. 4:26). And the best role model we have–Jesus–surely felt and expressed anger but did not sin (John 2:15). Although there are many references in Scripture to sinful anger–and as counselors we deal with many individuals and couples who struggle with inappropriate expression of anger–we also work with many people who have never allowed themselves to feel or deal with it in a healthy way. Anger is simply a “pointer” to a deeper emotion within. Let me say that again–anger is simply a pointer. It may be pointing to a real or perceived injustice or it may be pointing to loss, disappointment, fear and anxiety, or an unmet need.
We were recently working with a client who was processing through her childhood wounds of abuse and the loss of the things she needed as a child growing up, but did not receive. In that process she needed to take a closer look at anger and how her avoidance of it affected her and her relationships. She envisioned her anger as piece of furniture–a couch–and she wrote about it. Here is her story that we share with her permission. Maybe it will help you take another look at how you deal with anger–particularly if your pattern has been to run away from it.
The Anger Couch
After so many years of denying anger it’s rightful place in my life, I’m coming to learn that it’s okay to keep it around. For so many years I would shut down when anger even seemed remotely close to engaging me. The truth is that God made ALL of our emotions–anger included–and none of them are either “good” or “bad.” They are all merely guiding us closer to God (the healthy use of emotions) or drawing us further from Him (the unhealthy, sinful use of emotions). They were all subject to the fall of man, even happiness and joy. And happiness and joy can lead us astray from God just as much as anger can (particularly if I limit myself to feeling and expressing only these emotions and avoid others).
I have treated anger like it was invalid in my life. Like a piece of dirt that quickly needed to be swept under an area rug and hidden. I’ve thought by not engaging anger I was being polite and more “kind” to others around me. The truth is, it was sin. By not engaging anger, I have denied myself and others around me true, intimate relationships. Anger has a place and it also has a voice. I have denied part of who I am, who God created me to be, and a large part of my voice.
I am learning that anger is okay to “keep around the house,” just as much as joy is okay to keep around. And, just like joy, it can exist in your life without being manifested at every waking moment. It’s like a nice couch in your living room. Not the couch that you sit on everyday, but one that you sit on from time to time. You walk by it and notice it everyday, but you don’t always need to sit down. It’s always there, always present and waiting for you to sit on it when it’s necessary. Sometimes you may only need to sit down for a brief moment–just enough to “take a break” while you acknowledge it’s existence. At other times you may need to sit down for quite awhile, and maybe make a habit of it for many days or weeks in a row. You may need to have a conversation on it with someone, or maybe read a good book on it. Nevertheless, it is an important piece of furniture in your house, and if it was removed, there would be an obvious void in your living room.
The couch is neither “good” nor “bad,” it’s just there. It’s not explosive. It’s not silent. It just is. How it’s treated and used is up to the owner. Like myself, you may not have treated it properly in the past. You may have ignored it, never sat on it, covered it up with a sheet, or perhaps ripped it to shreds in a fit of rage. What’s important now is to acknowledge it’s there and let it have healthy engagement with your life. Let anger draw you closer to the Father, just like joy does. It’s time for you and me to give anger a healthy expression and voice in our lives. It’s time to truly live!
Jerry and Denise Basel
We invite you to check out our Book, DVD and Study Guide on The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself — How Loving Yourself the Way God Does Can Bring Healing and Freedom to Your Life. All of these are available at jerryanddenisebasel.com.
NOTE: If you or someone you know is in need of finding a safe place for emotional and/or spiritual healing and restoration, please contact us at The Father’s Heart Ministry through our web site at www.fathersheart.com or email us directly firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We are located in the North Georgia Mountains in a retreat-oriented environment and have established opportunities for ministry to individuals or couples for time periods as little as a few hours to as long as five days.