We all experience anger from time to time. Anger is a completely normal and healthy human emotion. Although a small amount of anger is considered necessary for survival, it needs to be handled in a healthy way. Anger is a natural response to threats and it aids us in our survival in that it helps trigger our “fight or flight” response. It helps us to be able to better defend ourselves when we’re threatened.
So there’s nothing at all wrong with us when we feel angry at times. It’s perfectly normal. It’s when we let that anger get out of control, when we let that anger drive us to the point of unhealthy rage and feelings that we are going to explode at any minute– THEN anger becomes a negative emotion and it becomes unhealthy.
I know a woman who seems to just stay angry. She seems mad at the world. She is very much aware that she is like this and I believe she very much wants to change. Though she has a good heart and a helping spirit, being around her is like walking on eggshells all the time. We’ve talked about it. A lot. She comes from a dysfunctional family and life has been unkind to her. There was some abuse in her life (verbal, physical, and sexual). She feels anger towards her family, her friends, her life. Everyone. Everything. I’ve watched this anger over the years adversely affect her. As you can imagine, this girl doesn’t have very many friends or successful relationships because she’s never learned to constructively “deal” with her anger. She burns a lot of bridges, loses a lot of friends. She knows this. People don’t feel comfortable around her and they never know what to say to her as they never know what is going to set her off or what she will do. It also affects her work relationships and she has had job after job after job. At more than one of those jobs, she has quit in a rage. She’s stormed out doors cursing and slamming those doors behind her. Only to regret it later. She alienates people because she often lashes out at them. She eats into any respect they might have had for her.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve always suspected that this woman is bipolar. She never goes to doctors and she can’t afford therapy so she’s never been for an evaluation or been given an official diagnosis. She wouldn’t go anyway. I think in general, she feels that the world and people are “out to get her.” She often jumps to conclusions– the wrong conclusions. Her assessment of situations happening around her are most often very inaccurate. She seems to have this attitude that things MUST go her way and when they don’t, she explodes. She can’t seem to handle viewpoints that differ from hers and she can’t communicate with people who have differing viewpoints and opinions in a respectful way. She views other people’s perspectives as a direct challenge to her being…. her ways are always right and when other’s disagree with her– well she explodes. I’ve noticed a strong need for her to be in control.
When anything bad happens in her life (which is often), it’s always someone else’s fault. She starts the blame game. It’s her mother’s fault, her brother’s fault, her husband’s fault, the church’s fault, the pastor’s fault, God’s fault, the man at the grocery stores fault. Life is just a blame game for her. Rather than taking responsibility for her own life, she blames others for things that happen to her. She’s always thinking that people upset her on purpose, that they intentionally ignored her wishes. She inaccurately assesses most situations and always assumes people are out to destroy her, to prove her wrong. She’s forever putting others down, criticizing those who disagree with her viewpoints, and demanding fairness. And believe me, when her demands aren’t meant, she becomes very angry. What I often don’t witness though, is her confronting people directly. It’s always in an indirect manner that she “attacks people.” She rages behind their back to other people and she let’s her anger loose on Facebook or through an email or through some form of writing, but usually not to the person she’s angry at. I’ve witnessed this becoming more common in this electronic and virtual world we live in, hence ONE of the reasons I’m no longer on Facebook. She can’t see that this passive-aggressive behavior of hers is pathological. She never confronts people to their face and tells them directly why she is angry. She lets it fester inside of her until it becomes like a cancer that eats away at her mind, body, and soul.
Having said all this, she has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know. She will literally give you the shirt off her back. I’ve seen her do it a million times. I’ve seen her give and give until she had no more to give. She would help you in a heartbeat. She would go hungry herself to give another person food. She’s very intelligent and I suspect her IQ is pretty high up there. She’s street smart. She’s talented. But angry. SO angry.
I’ve always heard that anger turned inward is depression and I know she struggles with that from time to time. It’s a known fact that chronic anger affects both our physical and mental health. It can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, and a weakened immune system. Anger takes the enjoyment out of life, causes our thinking to become all fuzzy, and leads to stress and depression.
I talked to her the other night when she was very angry about something. A friend had
“used her and taken advantage of her.” And she had allowed them to. Not once, but twice. She called me to vent as she often does. We talked about how anger can have adverse effects on our health. We talked about how anger can often mask other feelings we are having, such as insecurity, shame, hurt, jealousy, etc. And we talked about forgiveness. I told her I feared she was going to eat herself up with her own bitterness and that it was unrealistic to expect that everyone is going to behave in a way that she wants them to ALL the time. I was pretty blunt with her and told her that I felt she was allowing her anger and negativity to crowd out all other positive feelings. I talked to her about communicating with people in her life in a more direct way– a more RESPECTFUL way. We have read scripture together before and it’s something we both enjoy doing. Sometimes we do this in person, sometimes on the phone. That night I read aloud some scriptures pertaining to anger.
Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper–it only leads to harm. Psalm 37:8 NLT
I have a little book called Prayers for Difficult Times: When You Don’t Know What to Pray. It has a prayer for everything. Here are a few of the prayers on anger that I found in the book. I think they are worded so well.
Jesus, I try to get rid of my anger, but it keeps coming back. My rage is like a dark stain on a white wall. No matter how many times I try to paint over it, I can still see its mark. And then the paint peels off, and there it is, as dark as ever. Show me how to strip off the stain before I try to paint the wall. Show me the source of my anger. Is it because I am hurt? Or afraid? Is some reaction from my childhood being triggered? Am I jealous and insecure? Am I unsure of my own worth in this situation? Reveal the truth to me, whatever it is– and then heal me, I pray. Only then will I be able to truly turn from anger.
Loving God, I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to get angry when I’m focused on myself. I want to be in control–and when I’m not, even little things upset me. Remind me that You are in control, not me. My life is in Your hands. I don’t need to feel frustrated when things don’t go the way I want. Instead, I can wait to see what new thing You will do.
God, remind me that the sun should not go down on my anger. Help me not to go to bed nursing a grudge that will haunt my sleep and get up with me in the morning. Instead, let me value my relationships enough that I commit myself to working through the conflicts that arise. I know You want us to live in harmony.
Strip away my anger, Lord. Let me cloth myself instead with love and self-control.
We need to acknowledge our anger. Hiding it away or ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t exist won’t help. But we don’t need to continue to nurse it and dwell on it. We need to learn to deal with it constructively. We need to learn to turn it over to God and then to let it go. My friend acknowledged she knows she needs to do this but that it was “easier said than done.” I couldn’t agree with her more. I told her it IS hard work. VERY hard work. I told her it’s something I need to work on as well and maybe we could work on it together.