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Marriage 911 02/21/17

The Truth about Anger

Wife yelling at husband

Charlotte and Jack had flown out to Seattle for a Marriage Intensive. Having had significant conflict in their marriage, they came as "a last effort" to save their marriage.

It did not take long for me to see some of reasons their marriage was in the shape it was in. Shortly after asking why they had come for Intensive help, Charlotte yelled at her husband, who cowered in the face of her anger.

"He is not the kind of man I want to be with anymore," Charlotte yelled. "I'm tired of how he treats me and I'm not going to put up with it anymore."

Jack sat quietly, looking at her.

"It's certainly true that I've added to the problems in our marriage," he said. "But, as you can see, Charlotte talks to me so disrespectfully. I hate it."

"Anger is normal emotion," Charlotte said emphatically. "Jesus was angry in the Temple. I have a right to be angry too."

"Actually, Charlotte," I said carefully, "Jesus' anger was quite a bit different than what is common for many of us."

"How so?" she asked.

"Jesus' anger was righteous indignation, a holy anger for a sinful actions on the part of the Pharisees. He actually speaks out against anger many times and numerous other authors in scripture implore us to 'put away anger.' We must be very careful to discern why we are angry and if it is for holy purposes."

"Well, I don't know about that," Charlotte said. "I know Jack makes me angry and I'm not going to hold it in."

"Can we talk about your anger?" I asked. "Can we explore whether there might be other more vulnerable feelings beneath your anger, such as hurt, fear, and feeling voiceless?"

"Sure," she said. "I actually feel all of those feelings you mentioned. But, I'm not sure he cares if I'm hurt."

"I do care," Jack said, "and I can listen to your hurt and sadness a lot easier than your anger, that's for sure."

With that we continued exploring what Charlotte was truly feeling beneath her external anger. We discussed how anger is considered a 'secondary emotion' and how anger rarely connects us to others as do more vulnerable feelings.

If you or someone you love struggles with anger, consider some of these action steps:

1. Do an anger inventory.

Honestly evaluate your attitude about anger and the ways you express it. Has anyone ever told you that you had an anger problem? Have you ever considered the possibility of having an anger problem? What has been the impact of your anger?   

2. Ask for feedback from others.

Consider asking someone close to you, such as your mate, if they believe you have issues with anger. Ask for specific feedback. Ask if they have ever been afraid of your anger. Watch your feelings and monitor the impact of them, both on you and those around you.  

3. Explore vulnerable feelings beneath your anger.

Anger is a 'secondary emotion,' often expressed more easily than taking the time and energy to seek out deeper emotions. We connect more easily, however, to more vulnerable feelings, whereas we are often pushed away and upset by anger. We all need to learn the language of emotion and cultivate an ability to know our deeper feelings.

4. Practice expressing vulnerable feelings.

Sharing vulnerable feelings takes practice and does not come easily. Create an environment in your relationship where you share intimate feelings. Sharing emotion frequently creates a greater ability to share in the future.

5. Ask God for wisdom regarding your anger.

Scripture is clear that we are to "get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Ephesians 4:31). We need to be in the practice of bringing all our emotion to God and place it under the guidance of scripture.

Do you struggle with anger? Have you offended anyone you love with angry outbursts? We are here to help. Share your feedback below, send me a confidential email, or read more about The Marriage Recovery Center.

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