I’m writing this week’s blog sort of on the fly. There are some things going on with mentees and friends and I’m in a bit of a quandary on the topic of “Anger”. I’m going to ponder openly here; process my thoughts. Weigh in with a reply if you choose.
I’ve heard it said by other professionals that “anger is a secondary emotion. Find out what’s motivating the anger and you can correct it.” Here’s part of my dilemma: Isn’t that true of all of our emotions?
We don’t go from “zero to Frightened”, “zero to Ecstatic” or “zero to Revolted” without some kind of a “motivator.” Frightened isn’t bad if there really is something to be afraid of. Who doesn’t want to be Ecstatic now and again? Feeling Revolted could prevent you from making a really poor choice.
Is the motivator the issue? Appropriate motivator = appropriate response? And vice versa with an inappropriate motivator? At first, I thought so but I see now that an insignificant motivator can be responded to with an inappropriate amount of emotion. The motivator isn’t guilty of causing inappropriate fear, ecstasy, revulsion or anger. So ‘anger’ doesn’t live in a vacuum all by itself as far as being a secondary emotion. Emotions require a motivator but they also require appropriate application.
I’m not saying we should never get angry. Anger is an attribute of our Heavenly Father and also Jesus. God has emotions and He transferred them to us when He created us in His image. There are most definitely times when anger is called for. As a Father, God got angry at His children the Israelites. Often. They misunderstood Him, mistreated Him, cheated on Him, lied to Him and turned away from Him and He responded with anger – rightly justified anger, with the overall well-being of His children always at the forefront of His actions. Consequences? Yes. Indeed. There are always consequences for disobedience.
What parent hasn’t been in this position? Which of our children hasn’t stretched their wings to fly and done something to hurt us or disobey us? Which of us hasn’t been cut off by another driver on the highway? And my personal favorite, which of us hasn’t been snookered by an electronic device or software app? Which of us hasn’t felt the anger rise?
My darling wife walked on eggshells for 33 years of our marriage because she never knew what tiny, insignificant slight would give me ammo to become angry. Anger is a chameleon and is expressed in a lot of different ways. Mine was to clam up and pout. Yes. Pout. Like a two-year-old. We used to joke that Lynn had five kids and I had four. Then Recovery began and it ceased to be funny because it was too painfully true.
It is possible to express anger as justification for an addiction: ‘life’ at home doesn’t look like we expected it to. Basically, we’re not getting our way. Again, the two-year-old and yes, again, me. And there’s no comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in this behavior. I can still be moved to tears when I remember how I treated Lynn. Thank you, God, You’re in the Redemption business.
We can also use anger to push away the ones we claim to love so no one can get too close. Intimacy is frightening. In this case, fright being an inappropriate response to a perfectly good motivator.
Pornography is a perfect example of using anger inappropriately to objectify, depersonalize and contribute to the abuse of other human beings.
There are also the ‘exploders.’ The ones whose anger builds up (often with a very short fuse!) until it explodes like a nuclear bomb, leaving a holocaust in its wake.
I know this isn’t a comprehensive list but those are my thoughts as they flowed out. When I began this blog, I didn’t know for sure where it was going or how I was going to finish. Thank you for letting me process “out loud.” I know now.
What’s the difference between an anger that looks like God’s Image and an anger that doesn’t? In a word: self. Selfish or selfless motivation? For my benefit or for someone else’s?
God’s anger ALWAYS burns for the benefit of someone else – us. It begs the question: “For whom does my anger burn?” Is the motivator truly righteous or has my fragile little ego been bruised by a truly insignificant, or even only perceived, slight? How will I CHOOSE to respond? Anger, in and of itself, shouldn’t be demonized. It’s the age-old choice: Self or others?
Freedom is a gift from God. It is also His Promise; and He ALWAYS keeps His Promises.