Healing Deep-Seated Anger

Continued from here.

If you frequently “overreact” to life annoyances by becoming angry, I recommend that you pray for God’s wisdom and discernment about the real source of your anger. He fully understands the source of your underlying anger, even if you do not. Invite Him in to heal whatever is driving your anger.

The same advice applies if you are a “stuffer” rather than an “exploder.” That’s how I was for many years. I carried around a lot of repressed anger from the child abuse, but I didn’t feel safe enough to express it. So, I would stuff… and stuff … and stuff … And then, about once a year, I would explode and vent everything I had stuffed over the years. That’s no way to live – not for you or for the people in your life who love you.

I found it helpful to work through my repressed anger with a therapist. He gave me tools to help me express my anger at the source. For example, I used to have an aversion to popsicle sticks because of childhood trauma. I bought a large box of popsicle sticks from a craft store, broke them one-by-one, and threw them at the wall while venting my anger toward all I had suffered as a child. This was a “safe” way to express my anger that did no harm to anyone else and did no damage to anything except the popsicle sticks, which I didn’t care about.

As part of your process in figuring out why you “overreact” to life’s disappointments, you can run through the four steps I previously shared, taking it all to a deeper level:

  1. What do you want that you are not getting? Control over what happens in my life.
  2. Why do you want it? When other people were in control over my life, they hurt me.
  3. What does God’s Word tell you to do in this situation? Trust that God is in control over my life and will work everything, even this, for good.
  4. What should you do next? Pray for God to help me stop trying to control everything that happens in my life and, instead, learn to trust that God is in control, no matter how chaotic my life circumstances seem.

If you struggle with “stuffing” or “exploding” when life doesn’t go your way, I recommend reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. She provides practical ways to invite God into your “unglued” emotions so you can stop allowing Satan to steal your joy. Remember – It’s not about the chocolate!

[Graphic: Cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

It’s Not About the Chocolate

bummerContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared a simple example of how to put out the fire of anger. Unfortunately, people are rarely simple, so we must go deeper to get to the root of our anger and put it out. My cousin and I have a shorthand saying for this: It’s not about the chocolate.

My cousin and I traveled to Europe with a tour group. For our last day in Switzerland, we had the morning to buy souvenirs and then spent the afternoon atop Mt. Pilatus. Of course, many people bought Swiss chocolate, which they left on the bus while we visited Mt. Pilatus. The day was warmer than expected, so some of the chocolate melted. On the surface, getting angry about melted chocolate seems silly, but my cousin knew the back story of one of the travelers and pointed out that her anger was “not about the chocolate,” hence our shorthand saying.

Often, our anger is not about the precipitating issue. Instead, the current (often trivial) issue triggers a deeper reaction to something in our lives that we have not yet given over to God to heal. Until we heal the deeper issue, seemingly trivial issues will continue to trigger our deep-seated anger, causing the people around us to draw conclusions about us that might be way off base.

This is a common dynamic for child abuse survivors. They carry around anger from being abused as children that was unsafe to express at the time the abuse happened. They lock the anger away, but it’s always simmering beneath the surface. Then, when their chocolate melts (or something else happens to trigger their irritation), they react out of proportion to the surface-level trigger. As they choose to allow a small opening to vent their frustration over melted chocolate, the pent up anger from years of child abuse also pushes its way out, causing them to come across as “overreacting” to melted chocolate when they are really expressing legitimate anger toward past pain that was never processed.

If you find yourself repeatedly “overreacting” to trivial life annoyances, you might have repressed anger that needs to be dealt with. Thankfully, you have a God who understands the real source of your anger, and He’s waiting for you to invite Him in to heal it.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning over the word, “Bummer.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How to Put out the Fire of Anger

stay_coolContinued from here.

As I pointed out in my last blog entry, anger is a choice. So, whenever you feel angry, don’t let yourself off the hook by assuming that you have no control over your anger. You do. You chose anger, and you can also “unchoose it.” But how?

Here are the steps that God showed me after praying for guidance about how to “unchoose” anger. Each step is a question for you to consider:

  1. What do you want that you are not getting?
  2. Why do you want it?
  3. What does God’s Word tell you to do in this situation?
  4. What should you do next?

Let me give you an example. I was traveling with a group and was erroneously told that during our 30-minute lunch break, I could cross a bridge to purchase food and return in time to move on to the next destination. As it turned out, the tour guide was provided with incorrect information, which she passed along to me. It took almost a full 15 minutes to cross the bridge, and there were no eating establishments on the other side. So, I wound up using my entire lunch break to cross over a bridge twice without being able to eat lunch.

Let’s apply the four steps to the situation:

  1. What do you want that you are not getting? Lunch.
  2. Why do you want it? I’m hungry.
  3. What does God’s Word tell you to do in this situation? Remain content.
  4. What should you do next? Extend grace. The tour guide did not intentionally lead me in the wrong direction, and expressing anger toward her is not going to get me what I want (food). I can choose to be gracious, even when I am hungry.

The tour guide was apologetic and appeared to be ready for a “tongue lashing,” but I extended grace. I ate a protein bar for lunch instead, enjoyed the next leg of the tour, and had a hearty appetite for dinner. I did not have to “get my own way” to have a pleasant afternoon.

Put another way, I chose not to exchange my joy for anger. If I had chosen to become angry, I still would have missed lunch, but I would have also lost my joy. By choosing grace over anger, I was able to continue experiencing joy, even as I missed lunch.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surfing on a popsicle under the words, “Stay cool.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Anger is a Choice


Continued from here.

In my last blog entry, I talked about Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study, in which she asked the question, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” While Shirer indicated that asking this question is enough to redirect her away from her anger, that wasn’t the case for me. When I was angry about my cold last month, I remembered to ask myself this question. My response was, “Perhaps I don’t have good reason to be angry, but my reality is that I AM angry. What do I do with these angry feelings now?” Clearly, I need more steps to help me “unchoose” anger.

As is evident by my response to the question, I did not view my anger as a choice I made. I believed it was a state of being that was outside of my control, but that simply is not true. The Bible is clear that anger is a choice:

Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still [reflect on your sin and repent of your rebellion]. ~ Ps. 4:4

“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. ~ Eph. 4:26-27

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. ~ Jas. 1:19-20

All three of these passages indicate that we CHOOSE anger. How do we choose it? By our thoughts!

Think of anger as a fire burning inside of you. If you use your angry thoughts to pour gasoline on it, the fire will rage. However, if you “starve” the fire by choosing thoughts that don’t stoke the fire … or, better yet, thoughts that pour water on the fire … then your anger will subside. As with many Biblical truths, it really is that simple. The problem is that simple isn’t easy.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding her hand to her face and saying, “I cannot.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?

Continued from here.

Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted Bible Study talks about making sure you have good reason to be angry. For those of you who don’t know Jonah’s story beyond him spending three nights in the belly of a large fish, Jonah was a prophet who ran in the opposite direction when God told him to go to Ninevah. Ninevah was the capitol of Assyria, which was Israel’s enemy, and Jonah did not want God to show those people mercy. After the fish incident, Jonah did what God told him to do, resulting in the entire city repenting, which angered Jonah.

God’s response to Jonah was to ask whether he had good reason to be angry. Shirer put much emphasis on this question and said she now asks herself this question whenever she feels angry. Before allowing herself to indulge in her anger, she stops and thinks about whether she has good reason to be angry.

What might be a good reason to be angry? The Bible records Jesus driving out people involved in buying and selling in the temple and overturning their tables. While the word “angry” does not appear in the passage, one could surmise that he was angry as he did this. Assuming that is the case, he had “good reason:”

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” ~ Mark 11:17

So, a good reason to be angry might be when God is being dishonored. Jesus’ focus was clearly on God, not on himself, and I think that might be the key to whether we have “good reason” to be angry.

In her Bible study, To Live Is Christ: The Life and Ministry of Paul, Beth Moore contrasts Paul with Jonah and points out that even though Jonah accomplished God’s will, he did so with the complete absence of joy. Perhaps one reason we should ensure we have “good reason” to be angry is that we pay a heavy price when we choose anger – the absence of joy.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted (Bible Study Book). Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Anger Series

angryI am reading a fabulous book by Dallas Willard called The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. I have been pondering this quote for several days:

In the simplest of terms, the cross means not doing or getting what one wants. And of course, from the merely human viewpoint, getting what one wants is everything. Anger is primarily a response to frustration of will, and it makes no difference, to the broken soul, if what is willed is something perfectly trivial.”

~ Dallas Willard

This quote helped me see the Biblical passage about denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus in a new light. Jesus said this is required of his disciples, and after pondering this passage from Willard’s book for a while, it struck me that anger comes from not getting what I want.

While that was sort of a “Duh!” moment for me, I had never really looked at anger in those terms. So, I thought about various situations in which I expressed anger, and the common denominator was that I didn’t get what I wanted. This applied to very serious issues, such as not getting the safe childhood I wanted because of abuse, to the trivial, such as when my dog ate my son’s peanut butter sandwich this morning and I had to make him a new one for school — I want a dog who is better behaved. While my anger reaction has different levels of intensity, the common denominator is that not getting what I want was the trigger for the anger.

I previously shared that I became angry when I got sick last month. Why? Because didn’t get what I want (a healthy body). Since then, I have been contemplating what I could do differently to either avoid getting angry or have a specific plan to channel the anger constructively.

Jesus promised to give us his joy and that our joy would be complete. Whenever I am angry, I displace that joy, rendering my joy incomplete. Up until this point, I have simply accepted that anger is an emotion that I need to ride out. Now, I’m pondering whether anger might instead be a choice. And if anger is a choice, then I have the ability to “unchoose” it. But how?

This series will explain what I have learned and am continuing to learn. I am hoping that the next time I have a bad cold or am tempted to exchange my joy for anger, I will have the tools I need to make a different choice.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking angry and shaded in red. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Developed through the Moments

first_downContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared a five-step procedure that I developed through reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which is helping me stay connected to the true vine. While I am certainly not perfect at facing trials, I am finding it easier to respond rather than react by taking 30 seconds to work through the five steps and redirect my focus to God, which keeps me attached to the vine instead of trying to slay the dragons of life myself.

I am finding that perseverance is developed through the moments, which is such a relief because I am much better able to handle one moment well than I am a rough week … or month … or year. If I knew that I needed to persevere through an entire year of trials, I would be likely to give up before I start because I know my inadequacy. However, I can make a right choice in this moment. As long as I keep making right choices moment by moment, those moments will add up to days … and then weeks … and then months … until I have persevered for a year.

I don’t think God expects us to persevere perfectly. Instead, He is looking for what Lysa TerKeurst calls “imperfect progress.” God is well aware that we are going to fail from time to time, and that’s OK. He’s more concerned about our overall progress over time than a failure in one moment. So, even when I blow it, I can pick myself back up, dust myself off, and resolve to progress in the next moment … and the one after that.

When I view developing perseverance as a series of moments rather than as one long “pass/fail” event, I have hope that I might actually be able to do this. I’ll never do it perfectly, so it’s a relief to know that’s not a requirement. I can extend myself grace as I learn, just as Paul learned, how to be content in every situation. And who knows? Perhaps one day, I’ll actually experience joy in the trials as I grow toward maturity and completeness.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on a football field above the words, “First Down.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]