Thursday, March 14, 2013

on anger {4 ways to deal with it}

I will not ever forget the moment I threw a shoe at my dad. I think we were fighting about a bowling outing. I think. I honestly don't remember. I do remember the horrifying moment when the shoe left my hand and flew across the room and bounced off the mini blinds behind my dad's head. Lucky for him, I had terrible aim. I don't necessarily remember the exact consequences of the violent shoe incident. But I have a feeling they were immediate and they were harsh. Clearly, I had some anger issues. 

Way before the shoe throwing thing I remember my mom sitting me down with her ragged Bible concordance and my Precious Moments Bible. It was in the kitchen of the first ever house I lived in. Green appliances hummed behind us as she instructed me in looking up the verses and then said something like, "Don't let your butt leave this seat until you've copied five hundred verses about anger." Clearly I had some anger issues. 

And that old saying, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree? Well, anger still lives here at our house too. 

We walk the line, we deal with it and it drives us downright nuts. Three kids, who can all be as hot headed as the day is long, sometimes make for explosive conditions. And this isn't just about when they all wore diapers. 

The thing is, we all deal with anger. Some of us stay pretty cool under pressure. But, others, like red faced me, don't. And now, consequently, some of our kids do the same. We are all one big mess waiting for God to redeem us. And since he hasn't come back for us yet, we still have to figure out how to live life and just play nice without killing each other. Or throwing shoes. 

So what do we do to tame the beast of anger? How do we find freedom and learn to respect the emotion without it running our lives?

  • Figure out the source

Often just taking a few minutes to slow down and figure out why we are so mad is enough to begin the cool down process. At least it is for me. But it most often requires me physically distancing myself from the source of anger. Leave the room, the house, the general area. Just walk away. And then take a moment to really think about what is going on. Yes, you're angry. But why? Have you been wronged? Did someone offend you? Embarrass you? Do something you don't approve of? So many times I get angry with my kids for the wrong reasons, I get mad because of their disobedience or willfulness, and I forget that they are just being kids. They are learning too. If God is slow to anger when I mess up and get it wrong, I need to pray to be slow to anger when my kids are simply just being kids. Anger towards them just because they're little is not okay, they are not an inconvenience, they are tiny little humans that God to me to love and raise and mother. Getting angry at them for moving to slow, or spilling the milk, or getting up too soon from a nap, for poking a sibling, or for any other reason, that kind of angry does not accomplish God's righteousness. That kind of anger is really rooted in selfishness, and I know this because I've been there. With three littles I spent many toddler days redirecting and then getting angry because they were simply acting their age.

  • Do something about it

Once we've determined the source of anger we have to decide what to do with it. Just because we've identified what makes us mad doesn't make the anger disappear. If we are angry for a valid reason, being wronged or hurt, then we can respond one way. But if we are angry just because something didn't go our way, or we are inconvenienced, we need to take that straight to God and ask for his perspective on this situation. A bit of time in quiet prayer can quickly change any situation. Getting God's eyes can allow us to see that we have over reacted or blown things out of proportion or made a mountain out of molehill. Choose your own metaphor. 

  • Use God's Word

But what if we realize our anger is rooted in our own selfishness? And we are still angry? That is when we pull out the big guns: memorized Scripture. God's word is a sword, a weapon. And with it we can pull down the strongholds of the enemy. Because the battle here lies in our minds, as we fight anger and our ungodly ways of dealing with it. Because it's clear that throwing shoes or punching walls gets us nowhere. So when anger grabs hold we can get angry at our anger and fight back with the best weapon of all. 

  • Search and Replace

You know the search and replace function on your computer? Our brains and our hearts need that too. Sometimes we just need to replace our angry thoughts with other thoughts. If my anger is valid there may be something constructive I can do with it. We allow ourselves time to cool down and pray about the issue, then take some action once things are calm. Write a letter to person who wronged you, telling them why you hurt. You don't have to deliver it. Sometimes just the act of getting the feelings out is enough. But it may truly be something that needs to be addressed, pray for wisdom on how and when. Pick your right moment with the other person and seek God's direction in working to make things right. This holds true for big issues and little issues. 

How does this work when the anger we feel isn't right because it's based on selfishness or our own overreactions? Then we get to change our background. Just like we often change backgrounds on our phones or tablets, we can remove the wrong way of thinking and replace it with God's way of thinking. This is where that memorized Scripture comes in handy. We take those angry thoughts, and we make a conscious choice to stop thinking them and start thinking on God's truth. If we get into this habit, we truly can have success in breaking the angry pattern and taming the angry beast.

Of course, this is just the start. But I think it's a pretty good one. It is what we are really working on practicing in our house and in our hearts.

How about you? Is this something you deal with? If so, how do you find victory?

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