You can’t make me angry.
I have an anger problem. However, I made a decision some years ago and it’s been life-changing for me. Here’s a conclusion I reached. Try as you might, you can’t make me angry. For me, that decision has made me a better, kinder, more-relaxed person. It took me a while to get there, and I’m still learning, but here’s a two-step plan:
1) Take ownership of your feelings
Don’t get me wrong. When I say, “You can’t make me angry” I am not saying that I don’t get angry. I will openly confess that I still do get angry.
What I am saying is that I have made a conscious effort to have a change of perspective. Here’s what I mean. You can’t make me angry. Instead, I make the choice to get angry.
It’s more than simple semantics, really. For me, the perspective has become quite liberating and refreshing. For if I say “you make me angry”, what I am saying is that I am not in control of my feelings! I have willingly given the control of my emotions over to someone else.
We can’t find wholeness and healing playing the blame game. We must own up to our feelings and actions and not be the victim. Therefore, I made the decision some years ago to accept responsibility for my feelings and my actions. In so doing, I also choose to accept the consequences. Therefore, instead of saying, you made me so angry, I would say, “I chose to respond in anger at your words or actions”.
That change of perspective puts me in the driver’s seat. So, if someone cuts me off on the highway, they can’t make me angry. Instead, I have the power over my feelings and can choose my response. Sometimes I make good decisions. Sometimes I make poor decisions.
2) Identify the true emotion
Anger is a secondary emotion. It is always in response to something else. Think about it, we always get angry “at” something or someone. For example:
- Anger is sometimes expressed when we don’t get our way. We get frustrated and irritated. We feel that we have been violated or taken advantage of.
- We get angry when we are afraid. Our anger is a defense mechanism that helps us deal with our fear and gives us the gumption to respond.
- Anger can also be a response to physical or psychological pain. We lose someone we love and instead of dealing with the true pain, we respond in anger.
In all of these scenarios, anger is a mask hiding something much deeper. Anger can be a good thing, but it can also be destructive especially if we respond inappropriately or if we don’t deal with the true emotion underneath. The path to healing and resolution is to identify the trigger and the underlying, true emotion.
For example, let’s say that the kids keep coming in and out of the house slamming the door. Finally, in desperation you yell out, “if you slam that door one more time…”
The obvious trigger is that the kids keep coming in and going out. But, what is the underlying emotion? It could be a number of things:
- It could be physiological: You are hungry or tired and just want to relax.
- You’re trying to concentrate on something and the noise is a constant interruption.
- You are frugal and you really dislike the fact that you are paying for central air and heat and it is escaping your home.
- You like to keep a clean house and the thought of bugs and dust coming in means more work for you.
- You recognize that you are not the disciplinarian that you should be, but emotionally you are just not prepared to deal with it—until you can stand it no longer and explode.
Identifying the underlying emotion can be painful, but it is absolutely necessary. If we can dig down and get to the root of the issue, only then can we find healing.
Here’s an exercise. Think about a recent situation in which you got angry. Get out a pad and pen and ask God to help you work through the emotions. Write down how you feel about the situation. Then, pray and ask God to help you deal with the real, underlying issue and how you can solve the problem.
Getting angry is part of being human. We all get angry and anger is not a sin. The way we deal with it can be. God gave us emotions for a reason. But, we need to make sure that we are in control of our emotions and express them properly.
We can’t always change our circumstances, but when it comes to anger, we can choose our response. And, if you think about, the reality is, we can’t change anybody but ourselves. And that’s okay because attempting to change ourselves is a full-time job.
Wayne is an ordained minister and has an MS in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary, an MA in Speech Communication from University of Central Missouri, and is currently working on a D.Ed.Min. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Wayne has served as the pastor of several churches in Louisiana and Missouri. He is co-host of the morning show at Life 88.5 in Kansas City and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech at Johnson Country Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.