wrote, “In your anger, do not sin.” I believe this verse tells us that the emotion of anger is not wrong, but that our words and behaviors when we are angry can be (and very often are). Thus, while it is okay to feel angry, it is not okay to, for example, physically, verbally, or emotionally abuse others.
Anger can be positive in that it can motivate us to try to improve a situation. For example, if a person feels his or her personal boundaries have been violated, anger may empower that person to confront another in order to protect themselves and improve the relationship. But often when angry, it can be difficult for a person to confront another in a healthy way.
I recommend to people that in times of anger it is good to stop and think before saying or doing anything. This can help prevent an unhealthy outpouring of anger. Sometimes it is enough for people to stop and count to ten in their heads. Other times, they need to physically remove themselves from the situation for a period of time. This is often referred to as a “time out.” While separated from the situation, a person may feel the need to burn off adrenaline that has built and may go for a walk, run, or bike ride. To share one’s feelings with God and a counselor and/or a support person can help release anger and help the person to become more calm. It also provides an opportunity to make healthier choices about what to say or do about the anger-provoking situation.
If anger is denied or ignored, it can sit inside a person like a time bomb and can go off in situations unrelated to the cause of one’s anger, often causing harm to others. It can also lead to depression, anxiety, or physical problems such as stomach pain or headaches. Thus, anger needs to be acknowledged and released in safe and healthy ways. Another positive aspect of anger is that it can serve as a signal that something is wrong. It is important to examine what is causing the anger. For example, what emotion is under the anger? Is it pain? Is it fear? One can seek the help of God and a counselor and/or supportive people to help work through pain or fear. If these emotions are not dealt with, anger and unhealthy effects of the anger usually continue.
What else may be producing anger? Perhaps it is due to unmet needs or feeling exhausted. Maybe it is due to the way one interprets or perceives a situation. Often a person’s expectations can lead to anger. Sometimes people are angry about things they have no control over. I have also heard people say that their anger is a result of their own pride or selfishness. Others have identified insecurities and low self-esteem as underlying issues. Perhaps one has not forgiven another person and the ongoing anger is controlling him or her as it affects every area of his or her life. By identifying the source of one’s anger, a person can learn what needs to be dealt with to improve his or her life.
Remember that the emotion of anger is not wrong and can be helpful to us. We need to be careful so that our anger does not lead us into unhealthy situations. I recommend that anger be acknowledged, controlled, released, understood, worked through, and learned from in order to make positive changes for the future.
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Andy has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the Meier Clinics in Wheaton, IL, since 1994, counseling individuals, families and couples with a wide range of mental health and relational needs. Andy continues to display his foot bag skills at events, having won a number of championships and world records over the years.