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Seeing Red?! A Perspective on Anger

We've all experienced anger in some form or fashion. It's a powerful emotion often leaving devastation and division in its wake. It can leave invisible scars, which are nonetheless very real and painful.

Although anger is usually a curse, it can also be a blessing if we learn to identify its source and then turn that energy into something productive.

For years, I struggled with anger and for the most part, did not have a clue as to what caused my anger or how to deal with it.

The feeling of anger is not necessarily a sin. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold." Another translation reads, "In your anger, do not sin."

So angry feelings are not sin. The sin is in where we go with our anger and how we express it. We must discover the root behind our anger: whether it is born out of hurt, frustration, fear or guilt. Then we must learn to deal with it.

While it may have many causes, often times anger can be:

  • A survival or biological response to fear or danger. For instance, if a wild animal were about to attack your child, anger would obviously allow you to respond without a lot of forethought.
  • The emotion that surrounds the hurt in our lives. It is like a "protective barrier" that says, "Don't come near me. I can't trust that you won't hurt me." Even animals have this kind of defense.
  • A response to feeling trapped by guilt. If you grew up in a home or come from a church background where fear or guilt was used as motivation to get you to do what was right, you probably now wrestle with a lot of angry feelings.
  • A response to the frustration of unmet expectations and values. We all bring expectations into our relationships. It's when reality collides with our idealism that tension can result.
How do most people deal with anger?
  • Denial
  • Suppression
  • Loss of control
  • Self-contempt

In essence, anger is a signal that there is something else underneath that we are not dealing with properly. When we experience the emotions I described above-fear, hurt, guilt or frustration from unmet expectations-we need to ask ourselves these questions:

Is there anything of which I am afraid?
Is there any unresolved hurt in my life?
Do I have strong guilt feelings? Is this conviction by the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 7:10) or is it guilt generated by man?
Do I have unrealistic expectations of my spouse or with significant others?

Determining who or what is controlling us will help us gain the advantage over anger. As I examined my anger, I found that it was usually triggered by feelings of guilt.

I was raised in a family who used guilt as a motivator. Even as an adult my mother had a way of using guilt to get me to do what she wanted. I would quickly fall into my early conditioning and feel guilty, then I'd get angry, then I'd feel guilty for getting angry, so I'd end up doing what my mother wanted me to do.

I broke the cycle when I began sorting out true guilt and false guilt. Just because I felt guilty didn't mean that I was. We can read in II Corinthians 7:10 that godly grief (guilt) leads to repentance without regret. I believe God is saying in this verse that if the Holy Spirit is convicting you, you will know what you have done and what to do about it.

It is very important to understand that the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes from exposing ourselves to truth in His Word and not from the world. When we approach the Word with a humble heart asking that He reveal our sin to us, He will. Repentance is our response that follows the conviction by the Holy Spirit. All other guilt feelings are not from God and are manipulative.

If we don't deal with the source of our anger, it can snowball into resentment and bitterness, which can lead to revenge. The Scriptures are very clear that these emotions can destroy you.

Do you want to gain control over your anger? Just remember that with any kind of change, it takes time to retrain the thinking attached to the triggering emotions. The first step is acknowledging the underlying emotion and dealing with it. Remember, too, that putting your renewed thinking into practice is a process.

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