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.]

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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

i_cannot

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.]