Years ago, when Phil was finishing up his Ph.D., we had a little money, a little time, and a little boy. All in all, it was really a happy season of life—with one little exception.
Actually, it wasn’t so little.
I was overwhelmed with stress and couldn’t figure out how to manage it.
Ever felt like that?
Oh, I internalized everything. My weak survival skills showed up in things like constant illness and chronic aggravation. Rage simmered just below the surface of my placid demeanor.
One afternoon, Phil called from campus. I don’t even remember what he said or what he wanted, but I certainly remember my response. I remember yelling. I also remember slamming the phone down while he was mid-sentence.
I felt like a volcano must feel right before it erupts—hot, quivering, and rumbling from the roots. I was furious. My internalizing days were officially over and the angry birds were ready to fly.
With one completely abandoned and reckless move, I externalized in a big way. I swung my leg back and then forward, kicking the wall as hard as I could.
The pictures shook, and that made me feel some satisfaction. The things on the shelf all wobbled in mortal fear of my wrath, and that made me feel like I was proving my point.
Then, the wall crackled. I heard drywall falling and splintering off. I felt my foot woefully wedged within the wall while dust blew into my face.
I was stuck.
When I pulled my tennis shoe out, the hole only got bigger. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good. I had damaged our rented apartment, and really, I had no excuse.
I had heard of the “count to ten” anger management rule. But I didn’t want to count. I wanted to explode. I had given full control to my anger, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
You may have never kicked a hole in the wall as I did, but maybe you too have let anger control you.
Louis L’Amour, a Western novelist, once wrote, “Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before—it takes something from him.” I don’t want that to happen, and I doubt you do either.
We can’t always avoid feeling angry, but we can find ways to manage it. Here are five helpful methods I’ve learned.
5 Ways to Control Anger So It Doesn’t Control You
- Be still, not speedy. When anger rises in you, stop and be still. Take a moment to quiet your heart. Being still doesn’t mean you are silent. Instead, it gives you a chance to align your spirit with God’s so you can speak the truth in love. Quieting yourself allows you to have control over your anger, rather than your anger having control over you.
- Inspect, not invent. Sometimes we invent a problem that doesn’t even exist by assuming the worst or assigning meaning that doesn’t belong. When anger starts to rise, inspect the situation. Ask yourself:— Why am I angry?
— Is my anger warranted?
— Is my anger based on fact or speculation?
— Am I assuming the worst about this situation or this person?If you take a breath and inspect the situation and your own heart, you will be less likely to invent a problem that doesn’t exist … or invent an even bigger problem than the one that already exists.
- Respond, not react. Responses are most often based on thought, while reactions are usually based on emotion. A response tends to be other-centered, while a reaction tends to be self-centered. And—as we all know—when we’re mad, that emotion we’re feeling isn’t usually one that will lead to a mature reaction. So, when you start to fume, take that breath and count to ten. Be still and inspect so you can respond and not react.
- Deal with it, don’t deny it. Some of us don’t deal with anger; instead, we repress it. When you do this, it becomes just as destructive as if you’d exploded in a fury of emotion to everyone in earshot. It can morph into depression and grow into resentment. So, deal with your anger. Find a way to lovingly confront, wisely work things out, and forgive.
- Sense, but don’t sin. To experience feelings of anger is not a sin. If it were, the Bible wouldn’t tell us to be angry and sin not. But we can feel anger in such a way that it turns to sin. Sometimes our anger even feels good. We coddle it, justify it, and feed it, causing it to grow until it devours people. Sense and feel anger, but don’t indulge it. Sin hurts you.
No matter how difficult it may seem at times to manage your anger, remember you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
This post originally appeared on JenniferRothschild.com and was republished with permission.
Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.