Typically there are three reactions to anger — being aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive or dismissive. Many know that I love reptiles. In most families there is an alligator, turtle, a viper and a lizard. You always know when the alligator is angry — they growl and show their teeth. When the turtle is angry, they withdraw into a shell. Or the viper, pushes down their anger, it turns to venom and they bite when you least expect it. The lizard just runs away. Which are you?
Anger is a legitimate emotion. But how we express it is what matters.
How to Defuse Anger:
- Acknowledge My Anger
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…
26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:25-26 (NIV)
Anger is a God-given emotion. If you never get upset over anything you’re not in touch with reality. Anger just means you care deeply about some things. Sometimes the most appropriate emotion is anger. Even God gets angry — 375 times in the Old Testament it says God got angry. We know Jesus got angry when he drove out the money changers at the temple who were ripping people off. The number one cause of depression is anger that is pushed down. When I swallow my anger, my stomach keeps score. Many say, “I’m so depressed!” Have you ever thought that maybe you may be angry and you just don’t want to admit it? We don’t like to admit it when we’re angry.
If we’re going to resolve our anger we first have to admit our anger. Don’t lie. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Once we admit it then we can resolve it.
The more I understand my anger, the more patient I’m going to be. We need to ask ourselves, “Why am I angry? Why am I ticked off? What is upsetting me so much?” Anger is a warning light that I’m dealing with a different issue than what is on the surface. We get irritated by surface issues but we get angry by life issues. Have you noticed that most arguments don’t start with the real problem? They start with a surface irritation. You only get to the real problem if you hang in there, keep talking until you both get in touch with why you are angry, why you feel the way you do.
A few root causes of anger:
- When I feel unaccepted. When you reject what or who I am, when you compare me to other people, when you nag me, when you make fun of me I get angry.
- When I feel unappreciated. When you take me for granted, don’t value my work, don’t value my effort at home or at work, when everything else in the whole world seems more important than me I get angry. Husbands, that’s one of the main reasons your wife gets upset. She feels that everything else is more important than her.
- When I feel unsupported. When you work against me instead of with me, when you don’t share the load, when you’re not feeling responsible, when I feel unprotected I get angry.
- When I feel uncertain. When I don’t know I can trust you. When you don’t tell me the truth. When I’m not certain what you’re saying is right I get angry.
The key to dealing with your anger is to understand it. The bottom line in 90% of all anger — the root issues — is the either hurt or fear. When we say, “I’m angry!”, what we really ought to be saying is “I’m hurt! I’m disappointed! I’m afraid” When we begin to focus on hurt and fear we’re going to get to the real issue instead of dealing with the anger.
When we say to our mate, “I’m so mad at you! You make me angry!” that’s a “you” statement and all it does is make people defensive. But when you say, “I’m hurt!” or “I’m afraid!” they are much more willing to listen. Stay at the table until you get to the real issue. What are you feeling? And then deal with that. The sooner we learn to say, “I was hurt by that. I felt unloved (or unappreciated or unaccepted)” the sooner we can say this, the quicker we can get to resolution. Now we’re dealing with the real issue.
- Deal With My Anger
26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)
This passage teaches that when we get angry we should deal with it in a 24 hour period. This is a great literal rule you can to apply in your marriage.
Any doctor or psychologist can tell you that anger is energy. It’s got to be expressed. When I swallow my anger, my stomach keeps score. If I don’t talk it out, I’m going to take it out on myself. Why? Anger produces biochemical changes in your body. That’s a well-known fact. People get flushed, their neck gets tight, their muscles get tensed. Your adrenals go into overdrive. Have you ever heard anybody say, “That just burns me up!” They’re right. “He’s a pain in the … back.” Maybe that’s our back problem — unresolved anger.
The issue is deal with it. There is only one letter difference between danger and anger. And anger is a very dangerous emotion if not handled properly. It’s like nitroglycerin. It’s dangerous to you physically, emotionally, relationally; it’s dangerous to you spiritually. You’ve got to deal with it in a timely manner so it doesn’t build up and hurt you. If you hold on to hurt it just becomes resentment. And that’s the problem.
Unresolved conflict just keeps growing. Push it under the table under the carpet and you may think it’s dead but it will rise again. And like some of those horror movies when the monster comes back to life, it’s more powerful than before. They’ve got twice as much atomic energy. It’s going to come back to haunt us. Deal with it now. The best time to deal with it is as quickly as possible. Unexpressed anger becomes bitterness and that is always wrong. Anger is not always wrong, but resentment and bitterness are always wrong. That’s why the scripture says, “If you are angry, don’t sin…” [That means there’s a way to be angry and sin and a way to be angry and not sin.] ” If we hold onto it, it becomes resentment.
In the next post we will examine the last way to Defuse Anger.