10 Ways to Better Handle Anger (Before it Gets the Best of You) Jolene Underwood
10 Ways to Better Handle Anger (Before it Gets the Best of You) Jolene Underwood Someone cuts me off on the highway and my immediate reaction is unworthy of social media sharing. If someone acts contrary to what I think is right or what I want them to do, words may fly out of my mouth which I immediately regret. Or I stew inside wondering why they would do such a thing. If you’re anything like me, a Christian who wants to live well, you might feel shame and embarrassment when you don’t act well. Especially, when it has to do with anger. When anger controls us, we might feel condemned for what we said or did. We might justify our actions, so we look better on the outside than we feel on the inside. We might pretend our reactions never happened, or we ruminate over the fact that it did. If we believe it’s never OK to be angry, we will try to manage anger in our own strength. It doesn’t work. It just turns inward, and the result is still harmful. No one wants to be an angry person. Yet, many of us deal with anger whether it’s expressed in obvious ways or shoved aside and hidden. Anger, like all emotions, in and of itself, is not sin. Jesus was angry for the right reasons and expressed his anger perfectly. David and others also expressed anger in healthy ways. Anger identifies something is wrong, whether by our standards or God’s, and is designed to spark action towards restoration. Instead of living under the weight of condemnation or continuing in sinful patterns by minimizing and justifying our actions, consider anger as a cue to get proactive in emotional health and spiritual growth. Let anger bring awareness to something God wants to do in and through you. Let anger become an instrument towards healing rather than destruction. Here are 10 ways to proactively deal with anger before it controls you. 1. Notice Warning Signs Before an angry explosion occurs, there is usually a buildup. Muscles get tighter, breathing gets faster, verbal responses fill with tension. Take notice of what happens before anger comes out in unhealthy ways. Consider these signals. Attend to your body and evaluate your thoughts before speaking or acting. As anger rises, our thought patterns will take us towards healthy or unhealthy responses. Bring them before God for truth to replace lies. Practice this before an explosion occurs. 2. Consider What’s Hidden We all self-protect in some way. We want to be seen, known, and loved. Yet at our core we struggle with being truly seen, because if we are, we fear others might not love us. But God always sees and loves us, even while we are sinners (Romans 5:8). Why hide the truth of our inner struggles from Him? Anger may escalate when the person we want to be doesn’t match who we are on the inside - much less who we are in Christ. Consider ways in which you might be hiding the truth to yourself, to God, and to others. Perhaps you reach for food, sex, porn, TV, drugs, alcohol, or other things in order to not feel what’s hard to feel. Anything we turn to instead of turning to God keeps us from being wholly available to God. We must trust Him by being honest with Him. What we keep secret remains in darkness where the enemy wants it. Confess what’s hidden and let God’s truth be light to your soul. Find ways to share your feelings honestly. It’s possible to hide what’s going on inside of us for a lifetime, but it will leak out in the ways we live. 3. Consider Unexpressed Grief We all experience losses in life. Some are more traumatic than others, but loss still impacts us. Grieving is a natural way of dealing with loss. Because it involves a mix of emotions and emotional expression, we may avoid experiencing all the feelings. Both anger and sadness must be felt and dealt with for healing to begin. If we ignore the anger we feel over experiencing loss, anger continues, although it may lay dormant for years. Your pain is valid. Your Creator cares for what hurts. 4. Consider Unhealed Hurts Lifetimes can go by with deep, unhealed wounds. We don’t need to dig up all our hurts to examine each one, but we are wise to consider them when hurt rises to the surface. Sometimes the anger we express is caused by unhealed hurts and acts of injustice that happened in our lives. When the pain becomes fresh, we want to push it aside because it’s hard to deal with. Yet God wants to bring healing. Consider how angry responses might indicate unhealed hurts that God wants to bring restoration to. Ask God to give you courage to walk through the healing process. Make choices that help you do so. 5. Consider Inappropriate Expectations We tend to expect others to meet our needs and desires without taking into account the reality of current circumstances, such as: What they are capable of? What they are likely to do? What freedom do they have to make their own choices? People put inappropriate expectations on us as well. Consider what expectations you have of others. Are they appropriate? To find out, consider asking a wise and godly mentor for input. Also, explore the concept of boundaries. 6. Consider Healthy Expression of Emotions When anger rules us, we will become bitter, resentful, harmful, and disconnected from God and others. We all feel angry at times, but we can reduce the way anger controls us by dealing with the feelings instead of ignoring them. Write them out. Pour out your heart before God like David did in the Psalms. Have safe people in your life to talk with about how you feel. If you’ve been afraid to tell God you’re angry, don’t be. He already knows. Telling him you’re angry opens the door for honest and authentic communication with God. This is not a license to rail against God and oppose Him (Ephesians 4:26), but rather to honestly admit and express what you’re already feeling and thinking. Let God speak to you in return. Let Him comfort you through the pain. Receive what He wants to say and do. Then deal with the bitterness and sin that may have resulted from unhealthy expressions. 7. Remember You Are Not God All too often, angry words and actions come from wanting to control someone or something. We only have control over our own choices, actions, thoughts, feelings, and desires. Not those of others. We do not have control over circumstances and outcomes, only God does. Anger may reveal areas where we are playing God or putting something/someone in place of God in our lives. When you are aware of this, confess it. Let God’s forgiveness soften your heart to let go of the need to control. It may be easy to say and hard to do, but it’s incredibly worth it. Playing God is exhausting and destructive. Let God be God. 8. Take Care of Physical Needs When our bodies are hungry, tired, overly stressed, and depleted, we are more prone to angry reactions. We all have physical limits, and we need to consider the toll it takes when we push ourselves well beyond them, especially on a regular basis. We can’t always manage the things which keep us living stressed and stretched-thin but consider small steps you could take that would make a difference. A short walk, a nap, a healthier meal, or a date on the calendar to do something enjoyable. 9. Practice Humility Humility develops when we choose to trust that God’s way is best and His Word is true. We make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, so our hearts are shaped for God. God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6) and opposes the proud. Our pride fuels anger because it fuels attempts to control what we cannot. Consider how God values you and others, both with great love. 10. Receive Forgiveness Where sin is plenty, there is even more grace. (Romans 5:20-21) Receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness for how you’ve harmed others and yourself through sinful reactions. Let God’s heart for you shape your heart for Him. Anger should prompt us to some kind of action. Hopefully, that action draws us nearer to God rather than farther away. When we don’t deal with what’s causing us to be angry, we live in a state of reaction and this is destructive. By dealing with the underlying causes, we can become proactive and let anger prompt us to live well.