Anger – LET IT GO
It’s hard to be simultaneously angry and truly happy. Anger is inevitable. It’s part of the human condition. Things happen that violates our sense of justice or fairness or pride. You are going to get angry; the question is what do you do with your anger?
What is your default response? Blow up? Calculate a way to get back at the other, maybe silent treatment, sarcastic remark, or passive-aggressive actions? Maybe you internalize the anger—just stuff it deep inside and pretend it doesn’t bother you? Make excuses for the other person?
The upside of anger
There is an upside to anger. It serves to alert us to things we need to pay attention to. Having a short fuse and constantly blowing up seldom leads to a satisfactory resolution. Psychologist, Harriett Learner, who wrote The Dance of Anger says, “Anger is signal, and one worth listening to.” Minimizing your experience of pain just serves to stuff it down further and leads to feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Try to let your anger motivate change.
Jesus got angry. In the temple, he turned over the tables and threw out the moneychangers. He got angry with people who criticized him for healing a man on the Sabbath. He gets angry about injustice and the anger motivates him to act for changing they system. He demonstrates how to take the anger and use that energy to do something positive.
In the scripture, Paul says, “Be angry. But do not sin.” That is, “Deal with it.” To do that you have to look under the surface to get down to what is really wrong. If you find yourself getting angry over little things and growing disproportionately angry over something that shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s time to step back to see what is really going on and deal with that.
I think of it like geysers, you know like Old Faithful. Pressure causes pockets of steam to rise from under the surface and it has to find some way out. In relationships, there are pockets of emotions under the surface and when they are pressured, that heat will find a way out. And the stuff under the surface are some basic human needs like feeling appreciated, respected, admired, valued, loved. If we feel those needs aren’t being met the pressure builds and there are blowouts. You can count on it a surely as you can count on Old Faithful.
Be angry, but do not sin.
“Be angry, but do not sin.” It’s a reminder not to retaliate or do something mean or take the low road. Forget about silent treatments and ridicule and biting comments. Let go of the passive-aggressive stuff, attempts to even the score when you’ve been wronged.
Our scripture says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” One woman told me that is why you should get angry in the morning, so you have all day to savor it. “What good is getting angry right before bed and having to let it go?” She asked.
She is on to the fact that there is a certain self-righteous feeling we get when we are angry. And that feels good. Nothing is better than knowing you are in the right. But savoring that feeling leads to awful consequences. Frederich Buechner, said it this way:
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
The feast is you. Anger can be a barrier to your own happiness. Maybe there is someone in your life who has hurt you in the past? That can eat away at your health and well-being. Studies show that holding onto anger affects your happiness and it even has negative effects on your health.
But how do you let it go? The scriptures give us some insights. Remember that you are not perfect and need forgiveness. Jesus talked about praying for your enemies, doing good to those who persecute you.
Empathy for the other is key to letting go of your anger
Now science is backing Jesus up. Researchers in the science of happiness reveal that one of the best things you can do to let go of your anger is to find empathy for the other. It is the great pressure valve that lets off steam and lowers the intensity and softens the edges of the raw emotion.
Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. When possible, give the other person the benefit of the doubt and say they were probably doing the best they could with the resources and knowledge they had.
That leaves room for saying maybe they didn’t know better, maybe they don’t have the emotional resources built up to expect any better behavior from them. Maybe because of their upbringing they were raised to think that their actions were totally justified. It doesn’t mean they acted appropriately; it just means you assume they were trying to do their best with what they had. If you start from there rather then they are pure evil out to get you, it helps.