Anger is a natural emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with having anger or expressing it. In fact, Jesus expressed His own anger. The problem is that sometimes our anger can get the best of us. Anger in and of itself is not a sin, but the way we handle it certainly can be. It shouldn’t be held in, but it also shouldn’t run our lives. Our goal when it relates to anger should be to learn to control it, rather than allowing it to control you.
These five simple steps can go a long way in learning to keep your anger under control, and give you the opportunity to express it in a healthy way.
1. Know what pushes your buttons
Most of us, if not all of us, have things in our life that pushes our buttons and can instantly make us angry. You shouldn’t walk around constantly worried that something will set you off, but you should at least be aware of those things that can push you over the edge. When you are prepared for them, you have a much better chance of keeping your anger under control.
2. Know your body’s warning signs
You know that feeling you get when you start feeling angry? Maybe it’s a flushed face, or shaking. For some people, it could be crying. Whatever the case, begin to recognize those things. When you feel them start to bubble up, take the opportunity to cool down and remove yourself from the stressful situation. Consider a breathing exercise to help bring your level of anger down. Or, as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood used to tell my children, “When you’re feeling mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”*
*Don’t judge. You probably remember all those songs from Sesame Street and Barney too.
3. Stop and Think
Ask yourself: “What happened that made me angry?”
Yes, I know that’s a bit overly simplified. But it’s still an important question to ask yourself. Was it really something that a person said to you, or was it the rejection you felt when they said it? Was it really that somebody didn’t follow through with a promise, or was it that you feel really let down on the inside? Understanding the basis of our anger helps us to begin to improve our situation and begin feeling better.
It’s also important to ask, “What else did I feel when it happened?”
Remember, anger is a secondary emotion. That means that some other emotion always happens first. What is that emotion? Sadness? Jealousy? Hurt feelings? Rejection? Get to know yourself and answer these questions.
4. Keep it Together
It’s really hard to take back a hurtful remark after it’s been said. In the heat of the moment, you may not be able to change how you feel, but you can decide not to tear the other person down. Don’t lash out. Walk away. Get control of yourself before you have a conversation.
5. Decide What to Do
Anger has a way of making us want to throw our hands up and give up. Sometimes following anger, fear creeps in and keeps us from doing something.
Get your response under control, and then decide how you’re going to handle it. Keeping it bottled in and not doing anything to change it makes you just as guilty as the person who made you angry.