Why? We are either deathly afraid of this emotion or we just don’t know what to do with it. We daily see the devastating effects of anger and wish that anger would somehow just go away.
But anger, like any other emotion is not going to go away. It is as much a part of whom we are as happiness, sadness, hope, and joy. And, in reality, this is a good thing. Historically, anger has been an important component in bringing about needed change in areas such as prejudice, oppression, injustice, and working through the grieving process.
Unfortunately, anger can also be used as a powerfully destructive force. Untold harm can easily be a product of anger poorly managed. For this reason, it is essential to follow five basic guidelines in dealing with this emotion.
If you feel mistreated, make your feelings known. Acting out your anger by yelling or hitting, blaming your feelings on someone else, or denying your feelings evades dealing with your anger honestly and forthrightly. If you are angry, directly tell the person without shouting, pointing the finger, or pretending that you’re not angry.
Using the word “I” helps you to take responsibility for your feelings. For example, “I am angry because what you said really offended me. Can we talk about this?”
Talking about anger constructively is really an affirmation of caring. Your actions show that you don’t want any ill feelings to reside between you.
Disagree as equals. Too often, anger results in power struggles. We are tempted to want to win, not solve the problem. This never accomplishes anything worthwhile and often leaves both individuals feeling resentful. Focusing on solving the problem often removes the power struggle and communicates that the other person is far more important than the issue at hand.
Disagree about one subject at a time. It’s tempting to bring up every other unresolved issue when someone addresses us with anger. For example, a husband asks, “Why didn’t you fix dinner like you promised?”
The wife responds, “You said you would fix the sink.”
He retorts, “In this mess? Why don’t you ever clean?”
She screams, “Why bother with the friends you bring around here!”
He yells, “What’s my friends got to do with this ...” Before long, neither remembers what started the argument and thus the issue-at-hand (in this case dinner) is never solved.
Attack the problem, forgive the person. Inflicting wounds can do enough damage that it feels like we have won the argument. The truth is, when wounds are inflicted, no one really wins.
The biblical writer, James, was right when he said that the tongue is the most lethal part of our body. Untold misery has been inflicted by a reckless tongue that attacks not the problem, but the person.
Find a peacemaker. If you can’t solve the problem, get some help. Rather than continue to injure one another (and yourself) with your anger, seek out a minister or therapist who can help you better understand your anger and guide you toward a more constructive path.