Anger is a natural emotion that all humans experience in life. Yet, frequent displays of anger is counterproductive to the necessary process of interpersonal healing and problem resolution. Before I continue, please allow me to share a disclaimer: This advice is not written by an expert who has an easy life and is out of touch with reality. Yes, I am a licensed clinical social worker in practice for over fifteen years. But sadly, I have internalized some of these lessons only recently. Yes, I have written a parenting book that I am proud to share. However, I am also still learning from my children how to be mature. Yes, I am happily married (my Honey proof-reads my blogs) with three wonderful kids. Yet, they are no more precious or easier to raise than yours.
Indeed, I am a life-long learner who chooses faith every day over self-pity even though I frequently fail. And like you, I am tempted to give in to despair, bury my head in humiliation, at times even fantasize about an escape from this difficult life. But instead, I am here to share with you some important, painstaking life lessons.**
7 Consequences of Retaining Anger:
- Anger prevents personal growth.
Staying in anger clouds your perspective by removing the process of self-examination or introspection. Do you want to stay blind in one eye? Then wherever you display your anger the most, start putting a video camera there. If it’s everywhere then attach a video-camera to yourself and make sure it’s on everywhere you go. Interview the people that you’re angry with or the people who live with you (note: ensure the interviewees’ anonymity and safety from repercussions to achieve authentic results). Reality is made up of the experiences and perspectives of everyone in it, not just your own. When we are so busy planning, feeling, and doing, we often do not put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. And sometimes, even when we relay our frustrations to a neutral party who is trying to help us, we often don’t relay the full truth but only from our perspectives. Seek wise counsel for a breakthrough.
2. Anger obstructs you from achieving your goals.
If you spend so much time and energy reacting to aggravating people or events in your life, you miss out on pursuing your goals proactively. If your goal is to control other adults who are frustrating or threatening to you and “put them in their place!”, then continue yelling, threatening, name-calling, scheming, manipulating, and bullying with your hardened heart. And continue to justify your off-putting misbehaviors with a long list of their wrongdoings. And continue to demonize them with all your family and friends. But is that truly what you desire?
If you are a mom or dad who takes your parenting job seriously, you can still address disrespect and disobedience in your children without resorting to wrath. Disciplining in anger can lead to a disconnect with our child(ren). This has been a humbling lesson for me, prompting me to share this blog.
3. Anger outbursts perpetuate your suffering.
Do you have a need to feel successful or to receive respect from others? Or need people to acknowledge where they are wrong and hurtful towards you? Do you need everyone to just get along and to stop fighting? Or your children to stop their disrespect and disobedience? Your gruesome face and anger displays will not get you any of these results. When you engage in anger outbursts, essentially, you are shooting your own foot and perpetuating your suffering. Seek professional help to learn better strategies to regulate your emotions and overcome the difficult areas of your life. Even the professionals do it.
4. Anger masks your true struggles.
Some people find it easier to be angry than to be sad. Anger seems to make us appear impenetrable while sadness or depression reveals our vulnerable state. Anger is depression/grief displayed outwardly. So many addictive behaviors are just loss of self-control in the midst of trauma and high levels of stress. These maladaptive ways of coping include porn use, alcohol abuse, drug use, serial fornication, addictive spending, eating disorders (too much or too little), sexual promiscuity, and self-mutilation. Perhaps you just really want to feel safe, to not struggle so much? Could it be that you long to be loved, accepted, understood, belong, respected, or appreciated?
5. Anger keeps you from a balanced perspective.
Your healing depends on perspective, balance, and a sense of purpose. Staying in an angry state of mind keeps you from understanding that life is difficult for everyone. Cognitive behavior therapy can help you understand that your agitator is just a broken person living a broken life. Despite how it may look, they don’t have it easier than you. Life is a trial and arduous journey for every single person. This truth applies also to individuals who are born to a rich American family and raised by two seemingly happily married, mature parents with no challenges to overcome–I personally have yet to meet such a person. This reality of brokenness applies to Christians also even though we are often misunderstood by nonbelievers as having it all so easy, or that we are such shallow bible-verse-posting-fakes and uncaring hypocrites.
The fact is that many adults are still recovering from the grief of failed marriages, their own or their parents. Marriages don’t fail because the two are incompatible with each other and “should have never married in the first place”. They often fail because of the brokenness of two people, not that one partner, good, was paired with a bad one. But often in our shortsighted minds, we are the victims and never the perpetrators.
Other adults are still recovering from the childhood trauma of perceived parental abandonment or rejection, sibling issues, or abuse and neglect. Parents often are raising kids to the best of our abilities. However, it’s not inconceivable that we struggle privately with doubt, fears, frustrations, all while displaying our successes (perhaps defensively) on social media. This behavior, in turn, triggers doubts, fears, and frustrations in others. I may be guilty of this. For a balanced and broader perspective, realize that as humans, we see through a glass dimly. It is helpful to read a lot but also read between the lines. Hear with an open heart, and rely on wisdom from above to understand more clearly.
6. Anger drives people who care for you away.
Loud voice, mean looks, and threatening gestures make you the unapproachable aggressor no matter how hurt and small you actually feel inside. Most people who sense that we are lonely, sad, or grieving are usually quick to open their hearts, time, and sometimes even their pocketbooks to help. However, this offer to help dwindles when we display frequent vitriolic resentment, unpredictable mood swings, or destructive rages. Then, people who want to love and care for us are left with the only options to stay safe and guarded far away or to fight back with their own aggression. Grace (forgiveness, mercy, and kindness) begets more grace. Anger begets more anger (leading to more isolation/depression or more aggression). No matter your history or circumstances, you are just as capable of putting on grace as anyone else.
7. Anger keeps you from your blessings.
You have a beautiful, precious gift laid out in front of you unopened. It is the gift of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love just for you. Never mind that a family member or relative has wronged you. And in your perspective, they are untrustworthy and have been unloving to you. Never mind that it seems that all of the undeserving people are getting all the love, respect, credit, recognition, and success that should be yours instead. Never mind that “bad people” seem to be so callous, corrupt, and apathetic while the “good guys” like you are left to bleed to death. Never mind that it seems that no one understands you, that you feel inadequate, insecure, unlovable, and a walking failure. God’s blessings are enough.
How You Can Let Go
Open your gift today. Let go of your anger, fears, resentment, and need for control. Trust that the Creator of the universe has not abandoned or rejected you. He knows you by name (John 10:3). He wonderfully knitted you together while you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He knows the number of strands of hair on your head (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30 ) and would leave the 99 in His loving care just to find you (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4).
Receive the gift of God’s great love for you. Accept that over two thousand years ago, while you were still a sinner not yet born, God came in the flesh, born in a lowly manger, was tempted in all ways possible, was scorned, persecuted, and suffered a painful death, all just for you. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to earn His love. It has already been freely given. You don’t have to make sure your positives outweigh your negatives. You don’t have to live in continual shame or guilt. You have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23). You have been freed from the cost of your sins–your temper, mistakes, short-sightedness, jealousy, defiance, and the hurt you bring on others intentionally or unintentionally.
Drop the angry heart and closed mindset. Recognize God’s grace in your life and start the new year with more joy, love, and peace than you’ve ever experienced in your life. Believe in God’s love for you, in your past, present, and future. Realize that in your pain and loneliness, God has been carrying you. Open your eyes to His majesty and trust in His justice.
If you are already a Christian, perhaps you’ve been praying that God would open your agitator’s eyes? Instead, pray that God would soften your heart and open your eyes towards them. Let go of your fears and reach out in grace to the raging pitbull** in your life (who is just a really wounded puppy inside). Or love the angry person from a distance, surrendering your narrative as a victim, and trusting that God knows how to love them more than you do. Perhaps you have the opportunity to engage in selfless love–the kind that says love isn’t truly loving until you give it away with no strings attached? Or maybe you are a Christian who needs to do the hard but mature thing? Maybe this blog is prompting you to go repent and confess your hurtful behaviors towards your brother or sister before approaching the Father with your prayer requests or praises?
As a born-again follower of Christ for almost three decades, I can say that despite the often humbling journey of “growing into the image of Christ”, God’s love, mercy, and justice are real. He wants to be glorified in all that we do and will settle for nothing less. He, alone, is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise!
If this blog encourages you, please share it with your circle of friends to help open eyes and hearts. Hopefully, with all of us working together, we can begin the healing of all the hurt that has been passed around in this fallen world.
** This advice does not apply to cases of domestic violence where you are being physically or sexually abused. In such cases, please get to safety asap and seek professional help.