After my last entry, I know many of you are wondering how anything good can come from anger. Take a look around, and all you see is it’s destructive power. Aren’t these school shootings proof that anger is bad? Isn’t the case of the cover artist attempting suicide over a dispute over a stock photo proof that anger leads to destruction? Aren’t the terrorist attacks, wars, rumors of wars, threats, and increasing violence in society worldwise proof that anger needs to be squashed?
No. These things are proof that we don’t know how to handle it properly. And that’s why we really fear it: because we don’t know what to do with it. The strength of the emotion is frightening. And it’s funny, because joy and love are also strong emotions, but we don’t fear them because they’re perceived as “positive.” And yet, we can make as many destructive mistakes in either of these states by lack of wisdom as we can with anger. How many times have your heard (or even said) that love is blind? How many people have you watched rush headlong into commitments that turned into disaster because they failed to consider long-term implications in their excited rush to get what they want? So you get it: any emotion can lead to disaster and consequences we don’t want if we don’t channel it properly. Today, let’s take a real look at anger and how it can be used to properly motivate you to better action.
I quoted the above Bible verse for a reason. It’s a simple primer on a good way to set your attitude with three basic points:
- Act justly,
- Love mercy,
- Walk humbly with your God.
The answer to this is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process to communicate and express our emotions, and to establish proper boundaries in our relationships and the situations we life with on a day to day basis. However, this is rather expansive, and many other books have been written on it. I encourage you to check them out. Joy on the Journey has a chapter on managing anger. If you need more direction and want an entire book on the topic, I recommend How to Forgive ... When You Don’t Feel Like It, by June Hunt.
Good enough. But how do you get on that path? How can you get out of your own head, so to speak, and find a better path for yourself as you work through this larger issue of forgiveness? There are three things you can do to get the balance reset, and to feel better as you work through this process. These three things are, in fact, the things that reign in the raw emotion, and can lead you to positive action and clarity in your own life:
- Check your perspective. It’s tempting to tell everybody how somebody’s wronged you, but you need to resist this urge. Recently, some people made me angry, and my first course of action was to have conversations with my husband, my parents, and a close friend. I wanted to “bounce” this off of them to see if my anger was justified, or if I was over-reacting. Sometimes, we don’t perceive things correctly, and fly off the handle when no offence is meant. While our frustration may show to people around us, I encourage you to limit your in-depth discussions on your deep emotions to a small, inner circle that isn’t connected with the situation. If the situation involves your inner circle, you’ll need to move to others who are disconnected with the situation. The reason for this is to get a clear opinion on where your head is at. Do you have a right to be angry, or are you already stressed and some thoughtless work or action by a person who’s insensitive or doesn’t know what’s happening with you was the “straw that broke the camel’s back?” You don’t need opinions from everybody, but a few from trusted people can open your eyes and help you see things in a wider perspective.
- Pray/meditate. Take a “time out” to consider the feedback and consider it in prayer or meditation. This helps you to take stock of what’s happening in your heart, and to identify the injustice you perceived. This is where you release the anger and frustration privately. Take some time alone to vent, yell, scream, curse, cry, or whatever you need to do to release it. This step is difficult, because we usually don’t want to be alone when we’re angry. Misery loves company, and we want to commiserate with as many people as possible. Don’t do it at this point! You need time alone to release the initial burst of energy from your anger, and to process why you have this reaction. So clear out the bad stuff privately, so you can open yourself to realizations to resolution. Consider not only why you’re offended, but what you really want in the resolution. It might be that your anger at this person is about something completely different in your life. For example, the people who offended me a few weeks ago brought me to the realization that I was frustrated because I hadn’t had time to follow up on some things in another area of my life, which lead to --
- Take positive, inspired action toward a resolution. Use what you learned in the last two steps to develop a plan of action that will lead you in the right direction. Do you need to make some personal adjustments so people don’t perceive that it’s ok to treat you that way again? Are you really frustrated by something else that their behavior chastised you about, so you need to take positive action in another area? Did you make a mistake of your own, and you got called on it? I saw all three of these things in that situation a couple of weeks ago, and you probably will in your own experience. It’s rare that something is completely one persons’ fault. 99.9% of the time, we played a part in things and need to make corrections. That’s ok. Sometimes boundaries need to be set, confirmed, or re-established, and that means that all parties need to make adjustments. It doesn’t feel good to see how you were wrong, but the good news is that we can use the wisdom from the experience to self-correct, to use the energy from our anger to propel us forward in the right direction, and to decrease the opportunities for anger in the future.
There may be times when it’s appropriate to share what happened with the world, but you’ll be prepared to share your anger more articulately and with more wisdom if you take these steps before you take it to the world. Yes, there are times when it’s appropriate to vent to a larger audience (like in the last entry, when spreading the word and the message of it was important for the well being of others), but make sure you take a time out to get it right. I blogged about that story on Sunday, but I actually heard about it on Saturday, watched online reactions, and considered my own response before deciding a public “call to action” was appropriate. In retrospect, I wish I had waited another day or two before I blogged about it and taken more time to consider it. But it's out there now and to be fair I did use it to open this discussion on anger, so I'll leave it be. Note to self for the future: assess what's "time sensitive" with a bit more discernment! Most of the time, there's no need to rush.
This is a long entry, yet it barely touches the surface of dealing with anger appropriately. I hope that I’ve at least demonstrated how it can be channeled properly for good, and the great need for us to work on that. Anger isn’t something to be feared. In fact, I think more of us need to be honest about it, lose our fear of it, and just go ahead and get pissed off so we can get propelled in a better direction. It’s a natural emotion and, like all emotions, can lead to good if we’re patient enough to handle it right. Again, if you need more in-depth information on dealing with anger appropriately, this is just a start. Go check out Joy on the Journey and How to Forgive ... When You Don’t Feel Like It for more tips and deeper discussion.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.