Dr. Susan Grove is a Psychologist and Christian Counselor and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology at Louisiana Baptist University.
Just how do we hang up the phone?
Anger is not a "nice" emotion, is it? As Christians, we may have an idea that we're not supposed to get angry, and that we should turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39). Scripture also tells us anger is for fools (Job 5:2, Prov 14:17, Ecc 7:9); that we should be slow to anger (Prov 14:29, Prov 15:18, Prov 16:32), and that anger may even kill us (Prov 5:2). We might tell ourselves: but we're human! We are going to feel angry; so what are we supposed to do? ignore it? or stuff it? Just what do we do with our anger?
As it turns out, anger is a God-given emotion given to make our hearts burn with righteousness for the things of God, against evil and the things that God hates. We mirror of our Creator in many ways, and from scripture we know that God feels anger too; however, God instructs us to leave responding to unrighteousness to Him. He said, "Vengeance is Mine" (Heb 10:30). Where we run into trouble is, unlike God, we tend to sin in our anger, when we don’t deal our anger in healthy way; instead, we stuff it (perhaps getting sick over it), explode, or act out in some other (displaced) way. It's bewildering really; we can have such good intentions to deal with our anger in a Godly way but fail to achieve that objective. Why is this we may ask? Well, one difficulty we can have is when we don't know why we're angry. Or maybe we know, but our anger is disproportionate to what's going on. Our anger serves its purpose best when we can view it as a message.
So, what is our anger really trying to tell us? And what do we need to do about it? As it turns out, anger can be a motivating factor; it can motivate us to take action. Sometimes, we might feel like we need the anger, for example, to set a much-needed boundary, or to motivate someone to stop behaving a certain way. What's sometimes hard to see, is that we can't be effective if stay angry. Anger is like a ringing telephone; it's a message that something is amiss, and we need to take action on it. If we stay angry it's like the phone is off-the-hook notifying us in an annoying way that we need to hang it up; but we can't hear the message above the noise of our anger. We need to listen to the message that the anger is trying to give us, then hang up the phone (let go of the anger), so we can be effective; but how? Most of us have no clue, have never learned how to do this. Just how do we turn off the anger in a Godly, healthy, and non-destructive way?
If we stay angry, it’s like we are leaving the phone off the hook…"beep, beep, beep". The thing is, we don’t have to leave the phone off the hook (stay angry) to get what we need. We must hang up the phone and examine the message to be effective. What is the message trying to tell us? What is the underlying message? What has this triggered in us? Did someone cross our boundary? Is there an old message that is no longer true? Is the message distorted in any way?
So, where did we get the idea that we must stay angry to get what we want? From childhood? From Television? Movies? Music? The reality is, to be effective in getting our needs met, we need to simply pick up the phone (listen to the message), hang up the phone, then get to work by examining the message, so we can figure out what we need to do about it.
So just how do we stop feeling angry? Prayer is how we hang up the phone. When we can step back, take a deep breath and reach out to the One who knows how we feel, Who listens to us, Who is there for us - good or bad, when we can talk to Him about what's really going on, the anger starts to drain away.
When we first notice we are angry, we must distance ourselves from whatever it is we are reacting to, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Get quiet, and as we do, in this sacred pause, let our souls commune with God where we can be restored to peace.
Take a look at what caused us to feel this way? Did someone violate our boundaries? Were our needs not met? Are we responding to old tapes from our childhood? What instincts got triggered or skewed? Were we coming from a place of entitlement? What really happened here? Is it as important as it seemed at the time? Is it really the end of the world, or just sad and disappointing? Do we need to set a Godly boundary? Is this a problem we can solve? Is now an ideal time to try to solve it? Is this a hill we want to die on? What is the stronghold (deep underlying thought about our situation, which may be ancient history repeating itself)?
We ask ourselves: How can I take care of myself? Do we need to pray about releasing this? We ask God to show us our part in it and ask Him to set our instincts-gone-awry back in balance. Do we need to ask Him to give us forgiveness for our part in this? Do we need to forgive someone? Do we need to have a serious talk with someone? Do we need to set a Godly boundary? Do we need to go for a walk? Have a good cry? Journal about it? Call someone for support and encouragement? Read our Bible? just what do we need to do? We enquire of God...and wait for the answers...He is not silent.
Next, come the part where we practice tools we have learned. We launch into action! We pray and ask God for direction. If this is not a problem we can solve, or now is not a good time to solve it, or we don’t want to die on this hill, we must let go, and let God take care of it or bitterness may begin to take root poisoning our hearts, minds, and souls. We must accept that we are powerless over this, and it's God's job to work on an individual or on a situation, or even to get vengeance (Ro 12:19). If the answer is: yes, we can solve this problem now, we may need to have that heart-felt talk or set a Godly boundary; perhaps we will have to have a good cry first, pray some more, sleep and see if all is not better in the morning. We must wait on taking direct action until our mind has cleared and our heart has calmed down. We do well to take action from a place of the calm after a storm rather than from a place in the midst of the storm.
As to long standing resentments, well, we can pray for these individuals daily, praying that they may have love, peace, prosperity, and a personal relationship with Jesus. We can pray that God softens their hearts. We may have to do this every day for several days. The surprising thing is, often God softens our heart instead and we no longer feel a burning resentment.
We can look to God as a model for how He handled anger; when He should have been very mad, He often turned away and forgave us instead (Ps 78:38, Is 12:1, Is 48:9, Jer 3:12, Jer 32:37, Hos 14:4). Ultimately, giving His only Son to pay for our transgression so that we could be reconciled to Him. We remember how much we are loved by the Creator of the universe, and pray for the fruits of the spirit, in our lives and in the lives of others: for the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We set our mind on things above (Col 3:2-4) and know that God will help us if we ask Him to.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2016 Susan Grove
Mari Young from Long Beach on August 30, 2016:
Wow that is well put and thank you for all the tools to take action!