It is okay to get angry. Anger is a natural response to injustice, or a trigger alerting us that something is wrong. Having feelings is totally normal.
* Originally posted on my old blog. Updated in April 2021*
Anger in the Bible
We often think of anger as a negative emotion that we should avoid, however anger comes up in the Bible many times. As caring, loving people we should be outraged at the injustice, poverty, and suffering around us. Jesus responded in anger towards the ungodly attitudes and actions of others. (Matthew 21:12-13, and Mark 3:5) Yet He was not an angry person, nor did He sin.
We can learn from Jesus’s response to anger. Firstly our anger should have a good and godly reason behind it. Here I mean things like injustice, poverty, oppression or hypocrisy. Getting angry just because you didn’t get your own way is a response your child might have, but they are still growing and developing. When we do get angry there is usually other emotions layered underneath it. Secondly our reaction should be appropriate; one that leads to action that will improve the situation not just acting in anger (sin).
Verses in the Bible about Anger
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. Psalm 37:8 KJV
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. Proverbs 14:29 KJV
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Ephesians 4:26 KJV
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19 KJV
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Colossians 3: 8 KJV
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. (some versions have anger instead of awe) Psalm 4:4 KJV
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. Psalm 103:8 KJV
Responding to anger
What we don’t want is to stay angry, or to act upon that anger in a way that causes harm to ourselves or others. Anger is like a warning light that goes off and let’s you know that something isn’t right. Our goal then should be to find out what is the real message behind that anger.
The first step is to calm ourselves down. Why? So that we don’t act rashly and we are able to look beneath the anger at what is really going on. You may have heard of our initial stress responses of flight, fight, freeze. Much research has gone into this. I love Daniel Seigel’s explanation about flipping your lid. He has several videos and articles. Basically when we are operating under stress, and anger, we are not utilizing our whole brain, just those basic stress responses. By taking a few deep breaths and pausing a moment we can reengage the whole brain and think more clearly.
This sounds simple enough but it really takes a lot of practice. One simple mantra that I’ve come to appreciate comes from Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting. She uses STOP, DROP, BREATHE.
Stop – physically stop what you are doing
Drop – drop your agenda, most of life isn’t an emergency
Breath – take some breaths to calm down
Karol Ladd shares another acronym that is also effective in her book “A Positive Plan for Creating More Calm, Less Stress”.
S – Step away from the situation
T – Take several deep, calming breaths
O – Objectively look at the situation and employ self-control
P – Pray
Ways to release anger
- Visualizing yourself releasing the anger,
- Moving your body in ways that help, like stretches
- Listen to music
- Walk away or take a step back
- Take a time out for yourself
- Just the simple act of getting a drink of water or washing your hands is tactile and gives you a chance to gather yourself.
I also have a free PDF full of ideas on what to do when kids push your buttons (this also applies to any situation) that you can get free when you subscribe to my newsletter.
When you are calm
So now that we are calmer. Where does that leave you?
READY FOR MORE??
Now we are ready to look at the feelings and needs behind the anger.
The processing of your feelings and needs, and being able to present your requests in a way that leads to more empathy, come from the works of Marshall Rosenberg.
We want to next clearly look at what happened. Observations are different that judgements. State only what you can with your 5 senses, not what you are thinking. Often our judgements of others or a situation prevent us from moving past the anger towards solutions.
How then do I feel in relation to what I observe. What are my feelings or sensations? Remember we are talking about your emotions not about the issues or what other people have done. If you say, “I feel like…”, that isn’t a true feeling.
Now take hold of your own thinking. Offer yourself empathy, reflect on your feelings and search for the needs associated. According to Marshall Rosenberg all feelings when we are upset are a result of an unmet need. What values or needs to I have as a result of how I feel?
Making a request
Once you know what your deeper feelings and needs are it is much more productive and easier to proceed. Well truthfully it might not be any easier, but you should by now have some clarity. Now you are ready to make a request. This can be of yourself or someone else.
If you are interested in learning more about communicating your requests with empathy, contact me and we can work through that or, I can direct you do the best resources and people who taught me. Do check out Non-violent communication for more on empathy communication. My good friend at Meta Mentoring offers a conscious parenting course for those looking to use empathy communication in their parenting.
More resources about anger
Joyful Mud Puddles Courses on Emotions
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