When Anger Is Wrong
- Definition: Anger toward any kind of genuine wrongdoing; mistreatment, injustice, breaking of laws
- Sparked by: Violation of laws or moral code
- How to recognize: If you can answer yes to the questions, Was a wrong committed? and Do I have all the facts?
- What to do: Either confront the person or decide to overlook the offense
- Definition: Anger toward a perceived wrongdoing where no wrong occurred
- Sparked by: People who hurt us; stress; fatigue; unrealistic expectations
- How to recognize: Feelings of frustration or disappointment feed the anger.
- What to do: Halt the anger, and gather information to process your anger.
When You’re Angry for Good Reason
- Consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are angry.
Say it out loud: “I’m angry about this! Now what am I going to do?” Such a statement makes you aware of your own anger and also helps you recognize both your anger and the action you are going to take. You have set the stage for applying reason to your anger.
- Restrain your immediate response.
Avoid the common but destructive responses of verbal or physical venting or their opposite, withdrawal and silence. Refuse to take the action that you typically take when feeling angry. Waiting can help you avoid both saying and doing things you may not mean and later will regret.
- Locate the focus of your anger.
What words or actions by the other person have made you angry? If the person has truly wronged you, identify the person’s sin. How has she wronged you? Then determine how serious the offense is. Some wrongs are minor and some are major. Knowing its seriousness should affect your response.
- Analyze your options.
Ask yourself: Does the action I am considering have any potential for dealing with the wrong and helping the relationship? And is it best for the person at whom I am angry? The two most constructive options are either to confront the person in a helpful way, or to consciously decide to overlook the matter.
- Take constructive action.
If you choose to “let the offense go,” then, in prayer, confess your anger and your willingness to turn the person over to God. Then release your anger to Him. If you choose to confront the person who has wronged you, do so gently. Listen to any explanation; it can give you a different perspective on the person’s actions and intentions. If the person admits that what he or she did was wrong and asks you to forgive, do so
When You’re Angry for Bad Reason
- Share information.
Tell the other person about your concern and ask to talk about it. Be sure to focus on the situation that sparked your emotion, rather than on the person.
- Gather information.
What are the facts?
- Negotiate understanding.
Express your struggles; then listen to the other person’s response. Be honest.
- Request change.
As long as you neither demand nor manipulate for a change, this can have a positive outcome.
Explosions and Implosions
“Implosive” anger is internalized anger that is never expressed. Implosions are bred by fear of confrontation or belief that feeling or expressing anger is wrong. A person denies that he or she is angry; responds by withdrawing; says things like, “I’m not angry, but I’m disappointed.”
The results are physiological and psychological stress; “passive-aggressive” behavior; resentment, bitterness, and even hatred and violence.
The Anger That Lasts for Years
- Make a list of (significant) wrongs done to you over the years.
- Analyze how you responded to each event or person.
- If the person is no longer living or available to reconcile, release your anger toward them to God.
- For those still living, decide whether to seek reconciliation or to “let the offense go.”
- If you decide to proceed with reconciliation, bring a trusted third party, such as a pastor, to the meeting. This third party can act as a mediator or facilitator during the dispute and keep the dialogue on the main issue.
- Seek forgiveness. Reconciliation almost always requires forgiveness, usually by you, but sometimes by the other party, whom you have perhaps unintentionally offended.
What about Forgiveness?
- Rebuke the offending person—bring the offense to his or her attention. Do this only after you have calmed down emotionally.
- Wait for the person to admit his wrongdoing and express a desire to turn from practicing that wrong in the future. When the individual does this, you should forgive him or her.
- Even after the person repents, realize that there might be lasting scars from the event. You may still struggle with anger or disappointment, but remember that forgiveness entails a commitment to accept the person in spite of what he or she has done.
When You Are Angry at Your Spouse
- Acknowledge the reality of your anger, remembering that anger itself is not sinful.
- Agree to acknowledge anger to each other. Do not make your mate “guess” about how you’re feeling.
- Agree that verbal or physical explosions against the other person are not appropriate reactions to anger—they will always make things worse.
- Agree to seek an explanation before jumping to conclusions. The person may supply valuable missing information that could change your understanding of the issue.
- Agree to seek resolution and reconciliation. With more information from your spouse and the fuller perspective, you are ready to find a solution satisfactory to both of you.
- Agree to affirm your love for each other. After the resolution is found, verbally declare your love for each other
Helping Children Handle Anger
- Model healthy behavior. Your kids are watching how you handle your anger—and will emulate it. Parents who display positive changes toward their own anger will soon see their children improve how they manage their personal anger.
- Guide your child through her anger episodes: Listen to her, take her feelings seriously, but help her deal with the issues and find a resolution. As a parent, you have the final word on what will be done, but your child needs to feel that you think her feelings and ideas are important.
- Give instruction rooted in unconditional love, positive modeling, and loving guidance.
Confronting an Angry Person
- Listen to the person. The best thing you can do is hear him out and begin to understand his story.
- Listen to the person. Having heard his story, ask the angry person to repeat it. This shows that you really want to understand what happened and that you are not condemning his anger.
- Listen to the person. Ask additional questions to clarify the situation. It can take three or four rounds of listening for the angry person to get out all of his or her concerns.
- Try to understand his plight. Ask yourself if you would be angry in the same situation.
- Express your understanding of the situation. Speak with compassion; affirm the person’s feelings of anger.
- Share any additional information that may shed light on the subject. At this point you may help the person realize that you have not wronged him.
- Confess any wrongdoing and seek to make right the wrong you have committed. If the person’s anger is valid and you have wronged him, this is the step to take.