7 Important Reasons for Understanding Anger
1. Anger Is A Fact Of Life: One of the most fundamental aspects of being a person is that we were created in God’s image. This means that we are image-bearers. Even though God’s image in man and woman has been damaged and distorted by sin, we are still image-bearers. Part of what it means to be made in God’s image is that we, like God, have a variety of emotions and are able to experience the emotions of others. One of these emotions is anger. The Bible has a lot to say about anger. In fact, in the Old Testament alone, anger is mentioned approximately 455 times with 375 of those passages referring to God’s anger.
What exactly is anger? There are many words we use to describe the emotion of anger. Words like rage, fury, wrath, resentment, and hostility. Webster defines anger as “emotional excitement induced by intense displeasure.” Anger is a strong feeling of irritation or displeasure. Anger involves a physical state of readiness. When we experience anger our mind and our body prepares us to act. Anger involves physical and emotional energy. It is up to us whether use that energy in constructive ways or to abuse ourselves and/or those that we love.
2. Anger Is A Frequently Experienced Emotion: The emotion of anger is experienced much more frequently than most people would like to admit. When we begrudge or disdain others, or when we are annoyed, repulsed, irritated, frustrated, offended or cross, we are probably experiencing some form of anger. The results of research as well as our own experience suggest that most couples experience the emotion of anger a minimum of 8-10 times a day… and that’s before they have kids.
3. Anger Is One Of The Most Powerful Emotions: The emotion of anger can provide tremendous energy to right wrongs and change things for the good. But when we allow it to control us, it can lead to negative destructive actions such as emotional, verbal or even physical abuse and violence. In any intimate relationship, there will be times when you will be hurt or wronged. When that happens, it is likely you will experience anger. The next step is that our human nature wants revenge, and anger can easily distort our perspective, block our ability to love, and thus limit our ability to see things clearly. There are potentially great benefits in allowing ourselves to experience and express anger appropriately. There are also potentially devastating consequences in allowing ourselves to be controlled by our anger.
4. Anger Is A Secondary Emotion: Most couples don’t understand that anger is a secondary emotion that is usually experienced in response to a primary emotion such as hurt, frustration, and fear. Anger can be an almost automatic response to any kind of pain. It is the emotion most of us feel shortly after we have been hurt. When your spouse corrects or talks down to you in public, it hurts, and you may respond to them in anger.
Anger is usually the first emotion we see. At the moment it may be the only emotion that we are aware of, yet it is rarely the only one we have experienced. Just below the surface there are almost always other, deeper emotions that need to be identified and acknowledged. Hidden deep underneath that secondary emotion of anger are the primary emotions of fear, hurt, frustration, disappointment, vulnerability, and the longing for connection.
5. Unhealthy Anger Has Tremendous Potential For Harm: Not only is anger an uncomfortable emotional state, it is also a potentially dangerous one. Most of us have, at one time or another, been pushed so hard and become so angry that we could have, or indeed have, become violent. I recently came across some sobering statistics that clearly demonstrate the potential harm of anger out of control:
· 10 million children were beaten by angry parents, two-thirds were under the age of 3
· 60% of all homicides were committed by people who knew the victim
· 27% of all policemen killed are killed breaking up domestic arguments
· More than 70% of all murderers don’t have a criminal record
One psychiatrist interviewed more than 100 inmates convicted of murder and concluded that most were not angry people… in most cases they had stuffed their emotions and allowed their anger to build and build, and in these cases, they were finally expressed in an out-of-control and violent way.
6. Healthy Anger Has Tremendous Potential For Good: For most people, the emotion of anger is considered negative, a problem, something to be eliminated or solved. What we so often fail to see is that every problem is really an opportunity in disguise… an opportunity to learn, to grow, to mature, to be used of God to make significant changes for the good.
7. Anger Is A Signal: Anger is an emotion that God can use to get our attention and make us more aware of opportunities to learn, to grow, to deepen, to mature, and to make significant changes for the good. Anger, like love, is an emotion that has tremendous potential for both good and evil. That’s why it is so important for us to understand it.
In her helpful book The Dance Of Anger, Harriet Lerner notes:
“Anger is a signal and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something isn’t right. Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self – our beliefs, values, desires or ambitions – is being compromised in a relationship. Our anger may be a signal that we are doing more and giving more than we can comfortably do or give. Or our anger may warn us that others are doing too much for us, at the expense of our own competence and growth. Just as physical pain tells us to take our hand off the hot stove, the pain of our anger preserves the very integrity of our self. Our anger can motivate us to say no to the ways in which we are defined by others and “yes” to the dictates of our inner self.”
Anger is to our lives like a smoke detector is to a house, like a dash warning light is to a car, and like a flashing yellow light is to a driver. Each of those serve as a kind of warning or alarm to stop, look, and listen. They say, “Take caution, something might be wrong.”
It is important for us to remember that anger is energy. While we may have minimal control over the fact that we experience anger, we have almost total control over how we choose to express that anger. We can either spend that energy or we can invest it. We can choose to harness and channel that anger-energy in healthy, positive and constructive ways.
The energy of anger, when wisely invested, can provide greater focus and intensity and lead to greater productivity. Martin Luther said: “When I am angry I can write, pray and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations gone.”
As you learn creative ways to invest the God-given anger-energy, as you develop more effective anger management skills, as you learn how to approach anger from a Biblical perspective, you will find one of the most powerful sources of motivation available to mankind.
IN THE COMMENTS
What are some constructive steps for dealing with anger?
Dr. Gary Oliver has over 30 years experience in individual, premarital, marital and family counseling and for the past 20 years he has had an extensive nationwide teaching ministry.