Entries in anger (4)
Who or what gets you angry? As you do an inventory, let me give you some of my biggest pet peeves. First, ridiculous traffic light sequences make me angry. We can put a man on the moon but we have yet to figure out how to improve and expedite traffic flow. I cannot tell you the number of times I have sat at a light waiting for the green and see no other traffic travelling on the street I have intersected with. My comment more often than not is, “This is just ridiculous!” (emphasis added J). Those lights make me so angry! Another regular frustration is the instrument that I’m using to record this blog… my computer. I love the convenience that it brings, but when it’s acting up, I don’t think that there’s anything more aggravating and time-consuming. My frequent comment here is, “Oh no, not again!” Do you feel my pain?
So, where does anger (frustration, irritability, aggravation) come from? My thought is that it does not come from the actual precipitating events, it comes from inside me. It is a response to my life and its daily activities not going according to my plan. Someone or something has interposed himself or itself in my life to take me off my plans… plans for time usage, plans for productivity, or plans for rest. But those people or events aren’t producing my anger, they are revealing it. Anger is a God-given emotion and is not inherently bad or evil. But anger is prone to go in very dysfunctional directions if we do not handle it correctly. Our anger, properly viewed, is an invitation to a more accurate self-perception and growth. Why do I get upset when my wife does that? Why am I so stressed when I’m late? Why does my lack of knowledge and ability make me so mad? The answer is not a cookie cutter one… one size does not fit all. But our regular irritations are a call to a deeper place where God can speak to us in a more profound manner. God speaks to Cain’s anger at his rejected sacrifice and says: “Why are you angry? …if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The goal is not to stop being angry, but to be its master and not let that anger lead us into sin. So stop blaming others or events or even God for your anger, and allow Him to take you into a place where you can use that anger to lead you to greater personal insights and more healthy relationships.
I have been coughing for a month and it is probably been the most frustrating illness I have had in quite some time. I have a cold. Or, probably more accurately, I suffer from “the common cold”. I wish it were more dramatic, that descriptor. Something like “The Phlegmatic Flare-up” or “The Pulmonary Piranha”, because at times it feels as if evil little fish are swimming around in my lungs causing all kinds of pain and mischief. But, alas, I am left with no other categorization than “I have a cold.” It’s not a very impressive illness and everyone seems to respond by saying “Oh, me too.”
Sometimes, the most emotionally difficult hurdles to jump are seemingly the smaller ones. The co-worker that talks behind your back, the friend who stands you up, the spouse that just doesn’t seem to care about what you’re going through to the extent that you want him or her to. I find that it’s not the dramatic challenges and difficulties that are the most dangerous; it’s the little ones that don’t seem to be or shouldn’t be so hard. No one can fully understand or comprehend that the small and seemingly insignificant difficulties that we encounter every day are the ones that sap our energies the most. And it’s during those times that we need to be most on our guard. You see, the common cold can become pneumonia if it is not dealt with appropriately. And the small stressors can become roots of bitterness and anger that can lead to bad decisions and chronically bad attitudes.
Solomon stated in his “Song of Songs” that it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine and the Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:13 that: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man [there’s that word ‘common’ again!]. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” So my encouragement to you is not to let those “little” frustrations fester and begin to fetter you. Instead, give them the appropriate attention they need, and then, before God and in the presence of a trusted friend or counselor, allow these wounds to be appropriately dressed and healed and may your physical and emotional “colds” soon be healed!
I don't think that anyone can argue that it is extremely hot right now in Orlando, Florida. In my opinion, miserably hot! How to stay clear of heat exhaustion during this time is all over the news. Recently in the Orlando Sentinel I came across an article that was talking about athletes, both High School and College, going back to practice for their respective fall sports. In it they stressed the importance of water and coaches paying attention and taking the time for their players to rest in the heat. I began to think about this. It dawned on me that our “souls” are similar. They need nourishing especially when things are "hot". Whether it be a hardship in our marriage, your kids, or any other relationship, things can make us "hot", or angry. Just like a time out in practices for fall sports in order to hydrate, we need time out for our souls to hydrate.
So what is the purpose of time out for the soul? It helps us cool down. Take inventory of our emotions so that when we deal with a "hot" situation we have the composure to do it without "losing it" so to speak. The important thing to remember is that anger is usually a response to not being heard or understood. We often, mistakenly so, assume that the louder we get the more we will be heard. The opposite is actually truer. The louder we get, the less we are heard.
As we are in a time of transition with kids going back to school, our economy all over the place, and a million other things, I encourage you to take inventory of the "heat" in your soul. Take time to attend to it. It can only help you and the relationships around you.
Sometimes I get angry at the oddest things. If my wife points out a legitimate criticism (You left the freezer open all night... You forgot to pay this bill... The lawn's looking kinda ragged...), I feel angry. A couple months ago when I used an online pricing service to book a weekend get-away and upon arrival discovered they probably gave us the worst available room, I felt angry when my wife expressed disappointment, even though I agreed with her completely. Sometimes my anger hardly makes sense, but I feel it anyway.
In situations like these, I've learned that my anger is really an indication of something deeper going on. When I'm criticized (or something I am responsible for is criticized), I feel shamed. Somebody is pointing out an inadequacy in me and instead of being honest about the embarrassement or disappointment, I get angry. Being honest about the deeper feelings requires vulnerability, but being angry keeps me "in control."
It's that way with nearly every expression of anger; another feeling, more significant, is below it. If you want to use anger in a healthy way, let it be a signal that something more important is going on. Try to identify the deeper feeling and have conversations about that rather than just letting anger take its course.
Think of it this way: anger is like a fishing bobber, jerking on the surface of the water, agitated by a fish underneath. So when anger comes, let it be the bobber telling you you've got a FISH on the hook. Find out what kind of FISH is there. It will likely be one of these:
- F Fear: feeling afraid, threatened, insecure
- I Inhibition: feeling frustrated because something or someone is blocking you from a goal, keeping you from getting what you want
- S Shame: feeling guilty, embarrassed
- H Hurt: feeling physical or emotional pain
Next time your bobber starts bouncing, go for the FISH. For more information, read the Look Beneath Your Anger post on my CoupleCareOrlando.com site.