Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4: 23
Many problems in relationships are caused by unprocessed anger. Anger is that God-given emotion that warns us when an injustice has been committed. Yes, anger is God-given. God Himself tells us to be angry, but not to sin in the process (Ephesians 4:26). Problems with anger arise when our God-given emotions are not handled properly, resulting in misunderstanding, conflict, and, sometimes, even violence.
Like any emotion, anger has two parts: the feeling and the behavior. While we cannot control the feeling of anger, we can control the behavior that results from the feeling. Most people, however, have never learned how to control their behavior when they are angry. Instead, they either explode by lashing out verbally and/or physically, or they implode by withdrawing and suppressing their negative feelings. Neither behavior is proper, and both lead to further problems, emotional as well as physical.
If you are having trouble controlling your anger, here are some suggestions that will help you to do so in a healthful way:
1. Admit that you are angry. Say out loud something like the following: “I am angry about this situation. Now what do I plan to do about it?” This kind of statement helps you to be aware that you are angry and gives you time to think about the action you are going to take.
2. Control your immediate response. The triggering of all emotions involves a stimulus followed by a response. The split second between the stimulus and the response is the moment of choice. It is during that split second that we decide how we are going to respond to the stimulus.
When dealing with anger, decide ahead of time that when a stimulus triggers your anger, you will stop to think before responding to the anger.
Don’t give in to the two most common responses to anger: a) verbal or physical venting or b) the silent treatment. Count to ten, leave the room, or do whatever you have to do to avoid getting out of control. When I feel angry, I usually go off by myself to vent to God and to pray for His help in dealing with the situation that caused my anger. When you wait before responding to anger, you will avoid saying or doing things you will regret later.
3. Determine the cause of your anger. Ask yourself what triggered your anger. Was it a legitimate injustice, or was it an honest mistake? Often people allow themselves to get angry over something that later turns out to be insignificant.
4. Consider your options. Ask yourself if the response you wish to make to your anger will help or hurt your relationship with the person who has wronged you. The two basic choices you have when facing anger are (a) lovingly confront the person who has wronged you or (b) decide to forget about the matter.
5. Act on the option you have chosen. If you’ve chosen to confront the person who has wronged you, do so in love. Listen to his side of the story. It may totally change your perception of the situation. If the person who has wronged you asks for your forgiveness, forgive him.
If you’ve chosen to forget about the matter, tell God what you’ve decided. Give your anger to God and trust Him to deal with the person who has wronged you in His own time and in His own way.
By implementing these five steps, you can turn your anger into something productive that will not destroy your relationships but actually improve them.
Now, it’s YOUR turn: How do you deal with anger?
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Matters of the Heart is a weekly blog that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart, the issues we all face but sometimes don’t want to talk about. The heart is the programming center of our lives. What is programmed into our heart will affect every area of our lives. Learn how to discover what is in your heart and how to program your heart for success.
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