Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful. We learn this from Paul’s careful distinction between being angry and sinning: “Be ye angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. With insight about the real reasons for your anger and some anger management tips, you can learn to keep your temper from hijacking your life.
The Nature of Anger
Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage,” according to Dr. Charles Spielberger, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a co-worker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a cancelled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems.
Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviours which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. But we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can’t get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions. James 1:19 says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”
So, while it’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged, anger becomes a problem when you express it in a way that harms yourself or others. What can you do to control your anger?
Tip 1: Explore what’s really behind your anger
In order to express your anger in appropriate ways, you need to be in touch with what you are really feeling. Is your anger masking other feelings such as embarrassment, insecurity, hurt, shame, or vulnerability?
Tip 2: Be aware of your anger warning signs and triggers
While you might feel that you just explode into anger without warning, in fact, there are physical warning signs in your body. Becoming aware of your own personal signs that your temper is starting to boil allows you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control.
- Pay attention to the way anger feels in your body
- Identify the negative thought patterns that trigger your temper
- Avoid people, places, and situations that bring out your worst
Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings. Then think about ways to avoid these triggers or view the situation differently so it doesn’t make your blood boil.
Tip 3: Learn ways to cool down
There are many techniques that can help you cool down and keep your anger in check.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Exercise. It releases pent-up energy so you can approach the situation with a cooler head.
- Stretch or massage areas of tension. Roll your shoulders or gently massage your neck and scalp.
- Slowly count to ten. Focus on the counting to let your rational mind catch up with your feelings. If you still feel out of control by the time you reach ten, start counting again.
“He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17).
Tip 4: Give yourself a reality check
- How important is it in the grand scheme of things?
- Is it really worth getting angry about it?
- Is it worth ruining the rest of my day?
- Is my response appropriate to the situation?
- Is there anything I can do about it?
- Is taking action worth my time?
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Tip 5: Find healthier ways to express your anger
If you’ve decided that the situation is worth getting angry about and there’s something you can do to make it better, the key is to express your feelings in a healthy way. When communicated respectfully and channelled effectively, anger can be a tremendous source of energy and inspiration for change.
- Pinpoint what you’re really angry about
- Take five if things get too heated
- Make relationship your priority
- Focus on the present
- Be willing to forgive
“The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a trangression” (Proverbs 19:11; cf. Eph. 4:32).
Tip 6: Consider professional help for anger management if:
- You feel constantly frustrated and angry no matter what you try.
- Your temper causes problems at work or in your relationships.
- You avoid new events and people because you feel like you can’t control your temper.
- You have gotten in trouble with the law due to your anger.
- Your anger has led you to physical violence.
If your loved one has an anger problem, you probably feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time. But always remember that you are not to blame for your loved one’s anger. There is never an excuse for physically or verbally abusive behaviour. You have a right to be treated with respect and to live without fear of an angry outburst or a violent rage. While you can’t control another person’s anger, you can control how you respond to it:
- Set clear boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate.
- Wait for a time when you are both calm to talk to your loved one about the anger problem. Don’t bring it up when either of you is already angry.
- Remove yourself from the situation if your loved one does not calm down.
- Consider counselling if you are having a hard time standing up for yourself.
Put your safety first. If you feel unsafe or threatened in any way, get away from your loved one.
(Adapted from various sources)