Fire is one of the most useful of all natural phenomena harnessed by humanity. It permeates the dark with light … provides warmth … produces energy … and prepares food. But nothing is more blistering than uncontrolled fire that has escaped its proper bounds.
Last year, wildfires ravaged more than 8.7 million acres, destroying thousands of homes across the country. That's more than the states of Delaware, Connecticut and Hawaii combined! And the outlook for forest fires appears dismal for this year due to dry, windy and warmer-than-average weather.
Despite the destruction it can cause, fire, itself, is not evil. Fire is only deadly when it becomes uncontrollable. Likewise, uncontrolled anger can become deadly – destroying everything in its path. Yet anger, in and of itself, isn't bad.
In Scripture we see that Jesus expressed anger. The initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. Like the red warning light on the dashboard of a car, your anger is a signal telling you: Something's wrong! The purpose of a warning light is to propel you to action – to cause you to stop, evaluate what is wrong and then take appropriate steps.
The Bible cautions: "In your anger do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). The way you express anger determines whether or not it becomes sinful. Make sure your sparks of anger do not become a blazing inferno that threatens those around you.
But what about those times when you find yourself embroiled in a conflict where sparks are already flying? When you feel self-control giving way to uncontrolled anger, immediately call a truce … or take a time out. Without intervention, escalating anger will only ignite further conflict.
Here are my "Steps to Take Control of Anger":
1. Stop and take a deep breath – literally. Oxygen will help you think clearly.
2. Hold up both hands to indicate you are "surrendering" for the time being and are calling a halt to the heated conflict.
3. State slowly in a low tone of voice (remember, slow and low) that the conversation isn't going in a positive direction and isn't resolving any issues.
4. Explain, "I need time to think reasonably and rationally." This gives you time to calm down and regain a cool head.
5. Take a walk around the block, retreat to a quiet place, listen to music, take a shower or take other self-soothing steps that will help you regain your composure.
6. Agree on a time to resume the conversation once you have regained your composure and have processed what has been said.
If you reach an impasse where agreement between the two of you is not possible …
• Agree to have different opinions on the subject, but refuse to let those differences become a problem in the relationship.
• Remember, if two people agree on everything all the time, their relationship runs the high risk of becoming stagnant and void of growth.
• Decide to engage in stimulating conversations where varied opinions are expressed in order to develop listening skills, to learn from others, to think through your own opinions and to practice expressing those opinions to others in a clear, concise (non-offensive) manner.
• Commit to valuing, accepting and respecting each other as you grow in your understanding of one another.
Remember: "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions" (Proverbs 18:2 NIV).
In reality, anger is merely a secondary response to at least one of four sources: hurt, injustice, fear or frustration. To deal with anger effectively, it's critical to address the root cause. As you do, bring your anger to God and allow Him the freedom to change you. …
• Admit your feelings – your hurt, sense of injustice, fear and/or frustration.
• Release to God all the pain you feel, along with the situations beyond your control.
• Release your expectation that life must go your way.
• Trust God to give you the grace and insight to deal constructively with each difficulty.
With a sincere heart, pray, "Lord, thank You for being sovereign over my life. Whatever it takes, I want to respond to You with a heart of gratitude and accept the unchangeable circumstances in my life. I choose to stop being angry over something I cannot change. Instead, I thank You for teaching me empathy toward others even in the most difficult situations of my life. And thank You for Your promise that somehow You will use all things for good. In Your holy name I pray. Amen."
Anger can be useful. It prompted the apostle Paul to confront bigotry in the church. Anger compelled Jesus to stand against the greed of the money-changers in the Synagogue and hypocrisy among the religious leaders. But anger becomes dangerous when not expressed with discernment. Therefore, control your anger … before you find yourself surrounded by scorched relationships.
Learn more about June and Hope for the Heart by visiting hopefortheheart.org/CP. Here you can connect with June on Facebook and Twitter, listen to her radio broadcasts, or find much-needed resources.