Anger is a funny emotion.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my life trying to suppress it – to secretly pretend like I don’t struggle with it and that when I feel it coming on it doesn’t consume me like a piece of parched kindling wood.
But the truth is, like an innocent wild fire, it can take nothing more than the tiniest culprit to send me into a blazing glory.
On my best days, a bit of self-discipline and prayer can keep me in check, choosing to respond rather than react. But sadly on my worst, it’s takes an army of rescue crew to put me out.
It took me months to recognize the shame that I’d allowed to surrounded my struggle with anger-
The incessant self talk that told me if people really knew what I was dealing with inside and what I really wanted to say, they’d hate me. The lie that I am a bad person. Not that my behaviour is bad (or some of the behaviour I choose to entertain when I grab the bait of temptation in anger) but
that ME – I am bad.
But that’s a lie from the pit of hades! And it doesn’t hold one iota of truth when measured against the word of God.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.- Romans 5:8
Be angry and do not sin. – Ephesians 4:26
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John:9
It’s not the sinner that God despises, but the sin. And it’s not the emotion that’s the sin either…
It’s how we choose to respond in our emotional state that can lead us to sin.
God gave us emotions for a reason and 10 out of 10 times, our emotions are arrows pointing to our hearts condition.
Too often though, we choose to react on our feelings before stopping to do a quick self evaluation.
Like battling an addiction, we can’t run from our behaviour or will ourselves to do better; nor can we simply run to God before checking our hearts motive. Because before we can ask for help, we need to understand what it is we need help with exactly.
Emotions are meant to direct us to our needs. We just need to take the time to assess them.
And when we can’t figure it out, God is more than delighted to give us insight and wisdom.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5
Anger is no different than any other God given emotion. And he gave it to us for a reason!
Anger tells us something is wrong or not right inside us. It can be guilt directing us to confess and make amends where we’ve made a mistake. It can be injustice which can spur us to action or change. It can be pride that tells us we deserve to be treated better. And in my case, a healthy dose of all of the above.
But I’ve found the times in my life when anger seems to get the worst of me is when it’s fuelled by events and circumstances that are out of my control, significantly more when it involves the people closest to me. And this is where the battle truly begins.
Even when it’s tempting and even when it’s warranted, I must intentionally choose to respond in my anger rather than react. I must take the time to check my hearts motives and only when it’s fuelled by love, can I verbalize my anger to the one who it’s directed at.
(Note: I don’t mean we go and talk to everyone other than the person we’re mad at. I choose to talk to God first, then one or two close friends who I trust to give me a healthy (and biblical perspective) and aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m wrong.
And yes, I fail at this many times also, giving in to my flesh and reacting in anger. But rather than beating myself up, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, I try to thank God in advance that he is faithful to forgive me and is at work refining me until the day of Christ’s return.)
Like Solomon says, for everything there is a season. And friend, there is a season for (righteous) anger too….
2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:8
So if you too are struggling with anger and the nasty bits of guilt and shame that come along with it, please know you’re not alone.
I’m praying along with you that God would give us wisdom to recognize the lies, insight to our true hearts cry, self-discipline to respond rather than react and discernment to know when our anger is and isn’t justified.
Please Note: This post was written in the wake of hearing and processing news that shook my entire world and turned my life upside down. What followed was the commence of a deeply personal healing journey and with the help of counselling, I was able to recognize this anger as a necessary part of not only the grief cycle, but of establishing personal boundaries.
After years of complying, their pent up rage explodes. This reactive phase of boundary creation is crucial, especially for victims. They need to get out of the powerless , victimized place in which they find themselves, forced by physical and sexual abuse or by emotional blackmail and manipulation.
They must react to find their boundaries, but having found them, they must not “use their freedom to indulge in sinful behaviour.” A reactive stage is that- a stage- not an identity. Necessary but not sufficient. – Boundaries | Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
If you too find yourself in this place, (or if you struggle with anger or rage on a regular basis) please reach out to someone you trust. I would highly suggest seeing a professional counsellor in your area.