Anger is one of the most powerful yet misunderstood emotions we experience. On the one hand, it has become a form of entertainment on TV, video games, social media, and Youtube. Housewives from states across the nation screaming at one another and flipping tables are cheered on each week by millions. Amateur cell phone videos of physical altercations posted on Youtube receive tens of millions of hits world-wide. This misunderstood emotion has become a global phenomenon, a form of entertainment. Yet in real life, it continues to carry a social stigma. It is prohibited in the workplace and can cost an employee his or her job. In domestic situations, physically expressed anger can land a person in jail. Out of control, it can kill.
A common misconception about anger is that it is inherently bad. However, anger itself is not an issue. All emotions have purpose and value. I learn much about myself based on how I feel in or about any given situation. Anger enables me to discern what truly matters to me as opposed to what I consider insignificant; or to identify personal issues I still need to address and heal. Emotions even reveal how I feel about myself. It is the expression of those feelings and/or how I use them that determines whether or not they are beneficial or destructive to myself and those around me.
The FILD Test is a simple way to gauge when anger is an issue:
1.Frequent: is your anger chronic? Do you become upset quickly and easily? Do you have a short fuse or quick temper? Do relatively small issues bother you? Are others telling you that you have anger issues?
2. Intense: does your anger run deep? Are you easily enraged rather than mildly annoyed? On a scale of one to ten (ten being off-the-charts angry) where do you typically function?
3. Lasting: do you have difficulty letting go of your anger? Do you allow it to fester long after the incident has occurred? Do you replay it over and over again in your mind? Is forgiveness difficult elusive?
4. Destructive: is your anger hurting yourself or others? Do you lash out at others, punish yourself, or damage personal property when you’re upset? Do the consequences for your actions make your life more difficult and/or cause feelings of remorse? Has your anger alienated others or caused you to get in trouble with the law?
If any or all of the above apply then anger is creating an issue in your life. However, I’m not recommending that you eliminate it from your emotional cache completely. Instead, try the following suggestions to ensure that it is utilized in a healthy and productive manner.
Consider the LEFC Approach: Listen; Express; Forgive: Change
1. Listen to your anger. It is a messenger of great importance. What is it here to reveal to you? Seek to understand it before expressing it. Ask yourself, “Why did I respond so intensely in this situation? Are there deeper issues I’m not aware of that need my attention and healing? Is this issue even worthy of my indignation?”
2. Respectfully Express how you feel to the appropriate party. (The optimum word being respectfully.) Give yourself enough time to calm down and cool off before doing so. Carefully craft your comments before speaking, picking and choosing the precise words and tone to accurately convey how you feel. Always consider how your words will sound to those listening and how they may possibly affect them.
3. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you. Be less judgmental and more compassionate of others. Everyone is struggling with something and our challenges often express themselves in the most unfortunate way. Set boundaries in your relationships whenever necessary.
4. Seek Change. Use your anger to motivate you to make constructive changes in your life or in the lives of others. In doing so, you can channel your time and energy into something beneficial rather than destructive.
Anger is a very necessary and useful emotion. After all, even Jesus experienced anger at the injustices He witnessed. But He never misused it to cause harm to Himself or those around Him. I spent three years in a domestic violence relationship. Only when I became angry enough at my abuser for the pain he was subjecting me to did I channel my energy into ending the relationship. In this way I protected myself from certain death and rebuilt the amazing life I now enjoy. Additionally, I’ve been able to share my awareness of this powerful emotion with people world-wide and provide them with the understanding and tools they need to heal their pain and rediscover the peace God intended for them. All-in-all, my anger, properly channeled, has benefitted not only myself but millions of others. Now that’s a productive use of energy.
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