Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV)
For some of us, anger can be a dangerous and destructive force in our lives. Getting angry rarely solves problem -- in general, losing our cool only makes things worse. We may find our relationships with others deteriorating, moving away from the ideals of love and compassion that Christ brought to humanity through his ministry and teachings.
Identifying Aggressive Anger
Sometimes, we can be more angry than we realize -- as with most things, the proof is in the pudding, as actions speak louder than words. People who have a problem with aggressive anger may exhibit any or all of the following kinds of behavior:
- Threatening: Promising harm to other people, their families, or their property, finger-pointing or fist-shaking, aggressive driving, slamming tables or doors.
- Hurtful: Physical violence, verbal abuse, excessive foul language, willfully ignoring others' feelings.
- Destructive: Breaking things, deliberately wasting resources, excessive pollution, knowingly destroying relationships, reckless driving.
- Bullying: Pushing, shoving, using power to intimidate other people, "high-beaming" other drivers.
- Selfish: Ignoring other people's needs, failing to respond to requests for help.
- Revengeful: Bringing up hurtful past memories, refusing to forgive trespasses, holding grudges.
- Unpredictability: hot and cold moods, explosive rages, excessive drinking and drug use, illogical arguments.
Many people exhibit one or all of these behaviors at some point, which are all natural responses to the stresses we confront every day. It's only when these sorts of behavior become habitual that aggressive anger has truly taken hold of our lives.
Changing Angry Behavior
According to mental health professionals, the best way to reduce the negative effects of anger in our lives is to identify "triggers", which are the things that "set us off" or provoke us to an angry mindset. These are different for everyone. Some people have bosses they can't stand; others are aggravated by their in-laws or spouses. By identifying anger-triggers, we can begin to avoid certain things that cause us to become angry.
Some things, of course, we just can't avoid, and that's a part of anger management, too. For the things in our lives that we can't work our way around, the best bet for a happier, less angry life is to change the way we think about our problems.
Many people who are habitually angry are fond of superlatives. This always happens to them, they never catch a break, it's the worst day of their lives. Although it may feel that way at the time, that sort of thinking is ultimately self-pitying and weak. Every day, bad things (and good things) happen to both good and bad people.
By being aware of these kinds of thoughts, it's possible to take a step back from the situation. Is this really the worst day of your life? What about all the things you have going for you, like a family, money enough to feed them, and a relationship with a Lord who will forgive you and show you mercy if you accept him into your heart?
Those who thrive on anger are also prone to jump to conclusions. They're often sure that they've had bad luck for this reason, whether it's the government trying to hold them down or a family member trying to go behind their back. They have a hard time objectively looking at problems, and don't take all possibilities into account when looking for a person to blame.
Humor can be a great benefit to those who are angry. Again, this involves the ability to step back from oneself -- take, for example, the performances of many modern comedians, which are filled with angry raves and rants. Anger itself is funny -- it's only because it's happening to us that we feel otherwise.
If changing the way we think seems too challenging a place to start, there are also some practical ways of dealing with anger which might be helpful.
- Leaving the Area: If you have the option of leaving, do so. Get out of the office and take a walk, or retire to your study for a half an hour. A bit of personal time can go a long way toward allowing you to cool off before blowing up at a coworker or loved one.
- Meditation and Prayer: There any many different kinds of each, but the basic idea is closing your eyes and focusing your attention on the here and now. Prayer allows you to directly ask for divine help in releasing your anger.
- Tense and Release: Beginning with your toes, tense and release each of the muscle groups in your body, moving up through your feet to your calves to your thighs and so on. Concentrate on completely tensing your muscles and then completely relaxing them. This exercise should take a few minutes to complete.
- Deep Breathing: Take ten deep, slow breaths, pausing briefly between inhale and exhale. While breathing, imagine a cool blue color and a pleasant humming sound.