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Processing Anger

Surrender is not easy or fun. It goes against every instinct of our being. Add anger to the mix and surrender becomes that much more difficult. So how do we get things handed over to God?

Trying to tamp anger down is a futile effort. The more you squeeze it, the more toxic it gets. A key word is processing. My last blog, “Anger” talked about submitting to what God is saying or to what He is doing. Once we clearly hear the voice of God, surrender is easier … but most of the time, there is still a process to get to the place we need to be.

Anger is a motivator. It is a part of the passion family. Without passion, we go nowhere. We do nothing. With unhealthy passion, we go to destructive places. Anger quickly can take us in directions that are not good.

To try to suppress anger almost never works. Passion has to be expressed … used up … spent in a direction. The best direction for anger is God. It is not necessarily good to direct anger at God, though that is better than trying to suppress anger. The better way is to simply acknowledge anger before God.

“I am ticked! Why is this happening? I don’t get this God!” Healthy processing of anger starts with “I am statements” toward God. “I am angry!” Yes. God already knows your condition. But passion needs an outlet. It needs to be able to burn. And you need ownership. These “I am angry” statements meet both of these needs.

Have you ever tried to intervene with a child during a temper tantrum? How did that work out? Similarly, when we are ranting before God, there seldom will be much if any response from Him. When anger is unhealthy, the “tantrum” needs to be expressed—in the healthiest way possible. Why not before God?

Sometimes, there is a clear, positive way to burn the energy of anger. My wife can turn her anger into motivation to clean house. Finding a completely different direction for energy burn can be effective in some cases, but often, it just avoids the issue in a way that means it will return in a greater way later. Generally, the anger should motivate us to find the purpose of God and face what we need to face or do what we need to do. Healthy anger helps us generate the needed courage to act in ways we might not have been willing to act if the anger was absent.

Unfortunately, most who are responding because of anger act with “a chip”. They don’t respond with a pure heart but let the pain driving the anger dump on the other person. When that happens, an action that could have been positive becomes toxic. People need to take an inventory of self before acting out of anger!

By doing “I statements” before God, there are several benefits. First, the anger is being bled off. The emotions wear down to a more manageable level. Second, you are speaking to God. That is the right direction. You can be totally honest with Him because He already knows. Games with Him are foolish. Talking to God is what so many of the Psalms are all about. Writers of the Psalms often start with an anger or frustration, but as the psalmists direct their conversations toward God, they move to a better place.

“I statements” done right also move the person in anger to start owning his anger. He might even see his part in the drama more accurately. If a person uses the energy of anger to act without owning his own stuff, it will be a dump on the other person. Unless the other person on the receiving end is very godly, the outcome of that kind of dump will not be good. Process first! Own your stuff. Then speak. “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26a).

Hopefully, if you are processing anger before God, you get to the point of humbling yourself before Him and His word. None of us is innocent. Even if the other person is 99% in the wrong, that would mean I still own 1% of the wrong. I am still required to acknowledge that before God … and probably before the person. Humility works to restore relationship. Restored relationship works much better than anger when it comes to influencing change in a person or situation.

If you really want to change things, you find that place of humility before you act out any anger. Some don’t want positive outcomes as much as they believe they do. They would rather “be right” or “vent anger” than work for a solution. And that is maturity? That is healthy? If that is your heart, you own more than 1 %!

The key word is process. Energy needs an outlet, and preferably not in a way that will make the situation worse. God and godly counselors are a place for that to happen. When needed, we take the final step of addressing the person or situation. More often than not, my response is much more muted when I walk things out God’s way. The original fiery response was not His will!

Some hate the anger part of themselves. That is not helpful. Anger is passion. The key is finding a positive expression for that energy. Are you learning to process life issues before God? Are your responses generally healthy? You will be one who motivates and energizes others. The person with anger issues can be the “life” of the group. Will you do the work you need to do to get there?

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