By Ada Brownell
A crying infant suddenly is grasped by the ankles and hurled against the wall. A teenager kills his parents, then marches into a school and shoots several students and a teacher. A mother walks out on the most important thing in her life—her family.
Angry people are said to be mad. Perhaps that’s appropriate, because anger sometimes causes people to act insane.
Anger can consume your happiness, rob you of your job, affect your health, end relationships, mangle your faith, and may even lead to murder.
When I was a child, I’d get so angry at my older brother’s teasing I’d start swinging at him. I was a scrawny freckle-faced redhead and two years younger, so no wonder he laughed hysterically as he held me at arm’s length with his hand on my forehead while I swung into the air.
After I married and had five children, I grew weary of going to bed feeling guilty about my angry outbursts that day. I asked forgiveness from God, my husband and my children. About that time I read Henry Drummond’s book, The greatest Thing in the World. In his comment on love “is not easily provoked” (2 Corinthians 13:5), he says, “No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to unchristianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery producing power this influence stands alone.”
Here are 10 ways to help control inappropriate responses to anger, compiled from my experience, research, and interview with the late Derrald Vaughn, Ph.D, a former psychologist and professor at Bethany College of the Assemblies of God in Scotts Valley, California.
1. Realize anger is one of the emotions God gave you and is not a sin in itself. We all have anger, but most of us don’t lose control. If you have something to be upset about, you can communicate it and probably should before the problem gets worse. For instance, this helps spouses with serious problems get into counseling (and usually at least one of them will be helped).
2. Acknowledge that being hot-blooded, a redhead, or someone who needs to vent feelings are not plausible excuses for out-of-control outbursts.
3. Realize actions are controlled by the will, so you can decide to control anger’s behavior. You can stop and pray for help. Sometimes anger should be vented to God alone. Or you can write a letter and destroy it. You can take anger out by doing housework or washing the car.
4. Decide what is important to be angry about. Don’t bother with spilled milk, scratched furniture, dented cars or money. With children, get upset with rebellion, disobedience, lying, breaking the Ten Commandments, or other things that will hurt the child or someone else. To find appropriate places for anger, study the Bible and pray for wisdom.
5. Use anger constructively, but accept what can’t be changed. We must not take matters into our own hands, however, Bombing an abortion clinic is inappropriate use of anger because it breaks the same commandment abortionists are breaking. It is not righteous indignation.
Anger at Satan’s work should take us to our knees to intercede for family, friends, neighbors and nations; cause us to volunteer to teach Sunday school, visit the sick, love the broken, feed the hungry: vote and speak out on moral matters, sometimes with our vote.
6. Humble yourself and listen to other people. Much anger is caused by pride—you are always right; you know better than anyone.
7. Ask forgiveness from those offended by your angry outbursts. Sometimes we use anger inappropriately because we are rewarded for it temporarily. However, it doesn’t solve problems in the long run. When we ask forgiveness, that’s punishment and becomes a deterrent.
8. Forgive those that cause anger.
9. Avoid substances that unleash anger. Also investigate other causes. Alcohol affects inhibitory pathways in the brain, sometimes causing angry outbursts, violence and even murder. Research has found drinking is the No.1 predictor of physical and sexual abuse. Grief also could be involved because anger is a state in the grieving process for any loss.
10. Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). When you’re filled with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self control, there’s little room for inappropriate use of anger.
When I decided I would no longer be ruled by anger, our house became a home filled with peace and laughter.
Note: This originally appeared in The Pentecostal Evangel ” Then it was reprinted in the book. 50 Tough Questions, youth Sunday school curriculum and other places.
Copyright © Ada B. Brownell