“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly”
Proverbs 14:29 (ESV).
I have a temper. We all do on different levels. We all know what an unwanted companion anger can be.
There is surface anger: a heated argument, the kids not cooperating, and unending messes. Then anger that bites a bit harder: the betrayal from a friend, deep, wounding loss, lack of control. The scenarios are endless.
And anger is a normal emotional response. Yes, it is normal. Proverbs says “Whoever is slow to anger…” Slow to anger happens when anger is coupled with understanding. Understanding then creates a healthy emotion. How do we gain understanding? We get to the bottom of anger, to the source.
When I was younger, I loved taking personality tests to better understand how I was wired. I am now married to a counselor/professor in the mental wellness field and have since learned that as a broken person, I cannot fix myself, my anger, or my need for God.
Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is a perfect depiction of our sovereign God as our Shepherd. God is with us and will carry us to greater knowledge and understanding of Him through what He allows us to experience in life. He is not surprised by my anger. It is not dirty or forbidden. God created our emotions and wants us to understand them and then correctly handle the anger.
Here is what I have learned about my anger:
- Anger manifests in our physical body, not just our head.
- A root of anger is unresolved grief.
- We have control of our anger.
According to a visual body scan… when angry, the blood in your brain will drain from your head and move to your abdomen and your extremities. One particular scan showed the energy of anger centered in the chest, arms, and legs. The blood drains from the brain so we, literally, cannot make good judgment decisions until we have calmed down. It’s fight or flight mode.
When I was a child, I had to have a medical procedure done. It was going to hurt. I knew it. Everyone knew it. A young, medical intern, with, albeit, good intentions, tried to reassure me. He patted me on the knee and said “This won’t hurt a bit.” I looked him in the eye and was furious about his horrible lie. Blood drained from my little head and I hauled back and punched him in the nose. Exhibit A.
Anger can also rear its head in more than one way. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, A Grief Observed, “I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief.” Every form of loss, past or present, has to be processed through grief.
Grief is defined as “deep sorrow” or “anguish”. Those words could easily replace anger in many scenarios. An author of a recent book I read tells the story of how a major change in her life led to needing to grieve all that was lost during that time. She could not just pick herself up by her bootstraps. The effects of that loss caused lingering anger. Time passed with anger being her companion before she understood the root was always grief. We have all felt our own versions of grief. More times than not, we turn to anger to control that which we cannot. Grief is an unknown but anger is familiar.
I like to read parenting blogs and self-help books on emotions. One particular blog talked about letting your child fully feel their emotion. They likened it to a train going through a tunnel. The only way to the other side was to let the train run all the way through the tunnel.
We recently received some not-great news. I was shocked at how quickly I was enraged. I looked at my husband and kids, excused myself, and bolted out the front door. I am not a power walker by nature but that day I was. Looking a bit odd to the neighbors, I circled our large yard a few times trying to outwalk my rage. Eventually, I calmed down to the point I could talk it out and see reason, but I had to get to the other side of that tunnel.
Here are some of my go-to outlets for healthy anger:
- Prayer Walk it out -If you’re angry, go for a walk. Take God with you like you are walking with a trusted friend. Research shows that walking uses both sides of the brain and using both sides of the brain helps process emotions in a healthy way.
- Prayer journal- Pour your heart out to the One who loves you!
- Journal- (a therapist’s suggestion) Write in your journal; don’t take the time to write perfectly, but at the pace of your thoughts. The writing looks like scribbles on the page, but it releases your thoughts and anger. The goal is to get it out of your mind.
- Firestarter- Write down your thoughts and then burn them when you are done. Grab some marshmallows and watch your angry burn. In a productive way. Outside. Then make s’mores.
- Clean- My house gets crazy clean when I am angry. Use the anger for good.
Each of these ideas is tried and tested and so helpful!
Remember that He is still doing a work in us. Philippians 1:6 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
We aren’t done yet. Praise Jesus!
*Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I do not claim to be one. This article is based on my own personal journey and what I have gleaned along the way. Also, anger is never grounds to hurt anyone mentally, physically, or emotionally. If you are experiencing this level of anger, please seek professional help.