Anger is often the biggest roadblock to forgiveness. Since it’s Anger Awareness Week (Dec 1-7), I’d like to share with you some anger management tips from my book, The Road to Forgiveness: Removing the Roadblocks.
Repressed anger leads to many new problems.
When I was small, I was never allowed to express emotions. If I shouted and laughed, I was told to pipe down. If I got angry, I was punished for expressing myself. If I was sad, I was told to turn off the tears. If this sounds familiar, you may be stuffing your anger, just as I learned to do.
Some people try to cover up their anger. Do yourself a huge favor: don’t bury your anger under things such as comfort food, alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, pornography, excessive TV viewing, over-work, silence, or any other avoidance activity that only leaves you feeling worse.
Anger can be justified or displaced.
Justified anger, sometimes known as righteous anger, occurs when something happens to upset God’s order. When we hear on the news that a child has been kidnapped, murdered, and left in a creek bed; righteous anger kicks in. It’s a feeling that tells us someone has broken God’s command to love one another.
Displaced anger, on the other hand, shows up unexpectedly to events that may not even warrant it. A man who goes to the hospital for a simple operation which turns into a heart attack gets angry at the doctors and nurses. When a snowstorm prevents his wife from driving to the hospital to visit him, he’s angry at her.
Anger often masquerades as a cover-up feeling for fear. Perhaps this man is fearful of his own mortality, the loss of his wife’s love, or the prospect of living as an invalid.
This anger he feels today may also be stemming from old hurts that he has not processed. If he was abused or neglected as a child, his basic needs for safety, nurturing, protection, and love were probably not fulfilled. His hospital experience may be churning up that repressed anger from decades ago, and now it is aimed at all the wrong people. Hence, we have the term, displaced anger.
Follow The Three Rs to manage anger.
We must make a conscious decision to respond differently to things that anger us, otherwise we will just become known as perpetually angry people. Understanding that lashing out in anger is hurtful to us, we can follow three simple steps to make sure that we don’t sin in our anger. I call this process The Three Rs: Remove, Review, and Reason.
Every single time we feel ourselves getting angry; we can remove ourselves from the situation before we do something we will regret later. We can take a walk, breathe deeply, or try some gentle stretching. Remember Proverbs 30:33 (NIV): As the beating of cream yields butter and striking the nose causes bleeding, so stirring up anger causes quarrels.
We must not turn our time-out into another avoidance tactic, though. When we are calm, we must continue onto the next step.
We can memorize a Scripture passage, such as Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) and review it until our anger simmers down: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Repeating the passage to ourselves until we feel more peaceful helps to dampen the fires of anger.
When we have calmed down, we can take out our journal and write down the real reasons why we are angry. We can look at the situation and consider what happened.
Was someone behaving badly because they were afraid, lonely, needy, out of control, or being pushed around by someone else? Is our anger telling us that something about our relationship with this person needs to change? Or are we dwelling on that old, displaced anger that continues to fester within our souls?
Get professional help.
If anger is the roadblock that is preventing us from forgiving someone, we can seek the help of a professional counselor, psychologist, or specialist to help us re-program the faulty wiring in our brains. With their guidance, we can learn how to avoid anger and fear as knee-jerk reactions to conflict.