Saturday, October 31, 2009

When “Angry” is not “Mad”

“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

–Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT).

How often do we see people lose their tempers and end up ruining a career, committing a crime or damage their families in the process? It appears, too often. In his classic book, Making Life Work, Bill Hybels[1] contrasts a beautifully biblical concept regarding anger and how we’re best to deal with it, so we don’t get “mad.” It is okay, after all, to become angry—it’d be too bad if it wasn’t; we all get angry.

Managing Anger & Learning – the Life Skill

Solving intrapersonal problems such as negative approaches to anger is about a mode of learning—the most innate and most important kind of learning. It has to be the most critical imperative of our lives.

One of the most important (and most interesting) considerations involved in anger is it’s perhaps God’s way of forcing us to own up to the fact we have much to learn in this life. And if we can’t embrace this concept of learning to manage our anger it could well forever plague us.

The key question seems to be, can we learn from that which angers us? Secondarily, can we learn how to respond (more) appropriately? And if we can learn and adapt our behaviour, experiencing anger without ‘bottling’ or ‘spewing’[2] (as Hybels puts it), chances are we’ll be learning and adapting in many other ways.

Perhaps at its core is the reality that mismanaged and inappropriately directed anger harms, whereas processed anger soothes and heals. All of our anger can probably be stemmed back to some injustice(s) we faced, but couldn’t deal with, when we were very young.

Again, it’s a process of learning and no one can learn in this way unless they’re prepared to be honest with themselves about their past; a past where we were largely victims of circumstance—therefore, how could it be our fault?

Enter also, forgiveness. This is when we can finally lay to rest our former grievances and move onto greater happiness in life.

The end goal: to be able to get angry without getting mad.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Bill Hybels, Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 173-91.

[2] When we direct our anger inwardly as bottlers do it corrodes us from the inside out. When we direct our anger outwardly like the spewer we corrode our relationships.

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