“I can’t imagine you being angry,” I heard whenever I confessed my greatest shortcoming. “You seem like such a mild and even-tempered person to me.”
Oh, but I was often angry! You can ask my kids. A word about the quiet ones: they do have a voice; and they have a heart that feels deeply.
My anger seemed to have a mind of its own. It would spring out of nowhere without any warning. Fits of rage would be followed not only by excuses and remorse, but also by confusion as to how I exploded so quickly and why I couldn’t seem to control it. Before I had kids I rarely got angry so once I started battling it as a mom it was easy to blame my kids. At the same time I knew that excuse was totally unacceptable. I was determined to get to the bottom of it—if I ever had time.
Well, time eventually found me—the time I got so angry I struck out at my child in an physically abusive way. The next day I called my therapist who directed me to an anger management class. What a difference that class made!
First, I learned that the root of anger is fear. What a relief to learn I wasn’t a horrible monster. That in itself was enough to lower the voltage of my power-packed reactions.
Next, I had to address my fear which was driven by pain from my past. Anytime a situation similar to a painful experience from my past occurred, fear would signal me to do whatever necessary to prevent further pain. I had to deal with the past in order to function well in the present.
I also learned that angry outbursts do have warning signs. When something triggers our anger, hormones are released sending out stress signals to other parts of the body. Everyone’s different, but if we pay attention we can notice a tightening of the stomach, chest, hands, legs, shoulders, or other body part. In short order these same hormones dull the brains ability to think clearly, but there is still time to prevent even that if we can notice the signals our body is giving us.
This information also encouraged me tremendously. Learning that anger is actually a physiological response that gives warnings and can be controlled, helped remove the “I’m an awful person” lie that had further fed the pain and fueled my anger.
After coming to understand the cause of anger, I learned to identify how those causes made me feel: inadequate, rejected, unwanted, etc. All lies from the enemy of our souls—the enemy of our families. I then learned how to take truth from the Bible to combat these lies.
We are not angry because we are some sort of Hitler-ine. We are not angry because we are a self-centered diva. We are not angry because we are a proud Queen of hearts. We are not angry because we are a lesser person in any way.
We are angry because we are hurting.
But, we know the Healer. And this Healer? He thinks we’re awesome. He knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1). He calls us His children (1 John 3:1). He calls us friend (John 15:14). He even throws a concert when He thinks of us.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17, NIV
As long as I took the time to sink into His loving embrace, anger could not come near me. I was accepted and safe. Pain lost its sting, fear lost it’s grip, and anger had no fuel.