Since last week, when I posted “Anger Mismanagement,” I can’t believe how many times I’ve gotten into conversations with people about anger. I always knew it was a powerful emotion that people struggled with but I had no idea how much until I started researching it and talking to people about it. So what is anger all about anyway? Why is it such a hot topic?
WHAT IS ANGER?
Believe it or not, anger is a God given emotion that can help us navigate through life. This emotion helps us to address threats whether real or perceived. It’s known as the fight or flight mode. I would like to introduce a third response which I gained from being a police officer called- Freeze, police don’t move . I’m just kidding about the “Police, don’t move” part, but many people do freeze by shutting down when they become angry. The long and short of it is, anger causes some kind of reaction in us. The problem is sometimes we allow our emotions to get the best of us
ARE YOUR EMOTIONS GETTING THE BEST OF YOU?
Before now, have you ever really given any thought as to what anger truly is? I think that most of us probably think about the things that can cause us to get angry … Our triggers. But, that’s as far as we go. Perhaps you have attempted to defeat your anger and no doubt there were times that you have succeed and other times you that you failed. If anger is your enemy you need to learn as much as possible about this enemy before you can get the victory over it. Sometimes we might discover that we need not look any further then the mirror to identify the enemy … whoops, did I just say that the enemy just might be you (your attitude)!
Now, let us reason together concerning anger. Are you allowing your emotions to get the best of you? I can’t begin tell you how many times that I have thought this very thing about other people, but excluded myself. What does it mean to allow your emotions to get the best of you? What if it were as simple as giving our emotions the best part of us; while we gave others the worst part of us. I’ve learned from my own personal experiences, that more often then not, I have been misled by my emotions.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a mom who’s daughter attends the same gymnastic school as my seven year old. I shared with this mom that I was currently doing research on anger for my weekly blog. I asked her if she had ever given much thought as to why we get angry. Her face lit up with a smile, and to my surprise, she replied, “As a matter of fact, I have!” What she shared with me was so insightful. She told me that she believed that some people’s anger is rooted in fear – the dread of a potential negative, future outcome. She shared that there was also biological connection to our fear as well … Remember fight, flight and freeze? The long and short of it is, our emotions can produce a chemical chain reaction within our bodies. This chemical reaction can cause us to focus more on the emotions and what we feel becomes truth. Then, we’ll respond based upon this truth even though this truth may not even be accurate. At times, these emotions can run so high and a person can become momentarily paralyzed with fear (the deer in the headlights syndrome).
The Bible teaches us that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel and this mom I was talking to had wisdom to share. She asked me it I had ever read the book called The Ladder of Inference. An inference is a conclusion one reaches on the basis of evidence and reasoning. However, our emotions can interfere with the conclusions we draw especially when we don’t corroborate the evidence with actual facts and just respond based on our emotions.
Every day of our lives we observe things and based upon what we observe we make and draw our own assumptions about them. These assumptions turn into conclusions and our conclusion can trigger certain feelings and emotions inside of us. Most often we will deem what we are feeling as truth, even when there is limited information. We quickly fill in where there are gaps of knowledge with our own assumptions; usually based upon our cultural beliefs, personal experiences and our world view. So why are we so quick to make these assumptions and draw our own conclusions? We do it to make sense of what’s going on around us, it gives meaning to it. The stronger our emotions the more it can impact our perception of what’s going on around us.
All of what I just shared can apply to us when it comes that emotion called anger. All through life, there are blind spots. Things that will make it difficult for us to see and to navigate. When we allow ourselves to become to emotionally charged, its like having your GPS system go down. I’ve discovered that when we create our own blind spots it becomes all the more difficult to control our anger. Ask yourself how often have you found yourself climbing the Ladder of Inference (ASSUMING)? The word of God gives us great insight on how to avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions without all the facts.
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. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
Recently, I was driving the family to Target and for ten minutes all I could hear was my daughter, Emma Grace, talking to her mom about her up-coming birthday party. I had been listening to Emma’s birthday party plans for over a month now and I had enough. I could feel myself getting angry, so I said, “Emma, your party is only a day away, how much longer are you and mommy going to keep talking about it?” Well, my little girl was crushed by my words. My wife, Amy, calmly said, ” Hon, she is just excited and nervous.” Amy went on to explain to me that she had discovered that Emma Grace was really nervous about this party. She was afraid no one would come and afraid if they did that the party wouldn’t be fun for her friends. Amy shared with me that talking about the party was Emma Grace’s way of managing her anxious feelings. You see this was all so foreign to me. As a child growing up in the inner city, I didn’t have birthday parties. My first birthday party ever was one that Amy had planned for me. And for my 60th birthday she went all out. “How long do you think it took me to plan your 60th birthday party?” Amy asked. “Oh, probably a week or so,” I replied. “No,” Amy said, “Try three months!” “Yea, Daddy!” Emma Grace chimed in from the back. Amy reached back and gave Emma Grace a fist bump … Got to love it when they gang up on Daddy.
Well, I was shocked to learn how long the planning of my birthday party took. I had no idea! You see, my personal experience, cultural beliefs and world view was totally different from my wife’s. So what was really fueling my emotions? All of the above, I guess, with one extra hidden ingredient, jealousy. I never had this done for me as a child growing up, and those words were being repeated over and over in my head. I had allowed that approaching car of jealousy to enter my blind spot, so to speak. I would have not have even noticed it if not for the Holy Spirit sifting through the emotions fueling my anger. Thank God, the spirit speaks to us Now, we don’t have to be lead by our emotions, but we do have to be lead by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
For some of us, ANGER is like that annoying pothole that from time to time disrupts our normally smooth ride. And for other, you may be traveling on the “angry road of life” hoping to find an exit ramp that will lead to a better road. However ANGER is affecting you and your life, remember walking in the Spirit is the solution.