Dealing with Anger

Task 36

The Psalmist writes: “Be angry but do not sin.” Psalm 4:4, which is quoted in Ephesians 4:26. Other translations say “Tremble and do not sin”, referring to shaking with rage. The Hebrew Scriptures also say that if someone owns a bull that gores other people, he or she is responsible. Exodus 21:28,29 The bull, in this case, could represent our violent actions coming from anger.

Anger is one of our many emotions, and it has its use. It can spur us on to right a wrong. And there is anger that hurts us and can damage others.

The question is how to deal with anger when it arises. This task assumes that anger is a response to threat. If we can identify what it is in us that feels threatened we are taking the first step in dealing with it. For example, if we are insulted we might feel it as an attack on our character. If we are conned out of money, our love of wealth might be threatened. Understanding the part of us that is at risk can be a useful first step.

The second step involves noticing the combustible material that makes the anger flare up. This could include memories of being criticized in the past, recollections of other things the person threatening us has done, thoughts about how little we are understood, and so on and on. We probably cannot control the anger directly, but we can douse these combustible thoughts with the truth. We first have to notice if there are ideas in our head that magnify the hurt and intensify the anger. As far as possible we need to counteract those thoughts with more positive ones.

The third step is to be still. This could include taking a few deep breaths, relaxing the body and calming down. This is done as a way of controlling the wild bull that is pawing the ground ready to counter attack. When we achieve stillness we are less likely to make the situation worse with ill considered words or violent actions. This is a protection for us (anger is hard on us spiritually) and for others that might be hurt by us if we retaliate.

When you observe anger in yourself: 1. Identify the love that is being attacked. What is being threatened in you? 2. Identify the combustible material- the ideas or thoughts that burst into flame. 3. Be still and let the fire of anger die down without bursting forth into violent actions or words.