One of the biggest enemies to a happy marriage is anger. Ask most people if they have an anger issue and they will say no, but if you ask them if they know an angry person, it’s funny how most will say yes. There’s a lot of anger out there but most people have a hard time seeing it in themselves. One reason may be because we presume that anger is an uncontrollable emotion given to violent outbursts.
However, anger has many faces. Depression, cynicism, sarcasm, resentment, jealousy, grudges, bitterness, and negative talk are just a few ways anger can surface in our marriage. It’s miserable for us and miserable for our spouse and our family. If you struggle with anger, think of the hurtful words that have been said, the regrettable actions taken, the devastating choices made, and the relationships ended, all fueled by anger. The Bible warns: “Anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20).
The Bible doesn’t condemn anger.
In fact, the Bible says, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry” (Eph. 4:26 MSG). Our anger can motivate us to stand up for justice or take corrective action. Anger is like fire in that it can work for us or against us depending on the user. Fire can cook our food, warm our home, and provide light in the darkness. And who doesn’t love a campfire? However, fire can also consume homes, burn paths of total destruction, and kill anyone in its path when uncontrolled.
The problem is not anger. The problem is sustained and unresolved anger that drags on for days, weeks, months, and even years. Look at the next verse after Ephesians 4:26 which says,
“…but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.” (verses 27 MSG)
I think some folks take this Bible passage literally by thinking that not going to bed angry means staying up and fighting! Obviously, the deeper meaning is that it’s okay to be angry, but the Bible is encouraging us to let it go quickly. Don’t hold on to it. Get it resolved. If we don’t, we open ourselves up to all kinds of trouble that can greatly complicate a situation that already has enough problems.
So where does our anger come from?
A baby is not born angry, so how do we learn anger? It starts with poor modeling from parents who have not learned to control their own anger. If a child is raised in a home where fussing, fuming, or violent outbursts are frequent, this child is taught that anger is not only acceptable behavior but also the proper way to deal with life’s problems or relationships.
As children, we also learn that anger can be a way of getting what we want. If we cry hard enough, we’ll get it. Sadly, we often take this pattern into adulthood and believe if we express our anger, we will get our way. We may make life so unbearable for our spouse that they would rather surrender what they want just to keep the peace in the home.
Sadly anger is also an effective way to shield us from the truth.
If I’m feeling convicted about something I need to change in my life, anger can help me raise the walls and put up the shield of defensiveness to make it stop. When we do this, we don’t learn, we don’t grow, and we don’t humble ourselves before God who can help heal our anger.
We should try to think of anger as a “signal” that something’s wrong, much like a maintenance light on your car’s dashboard. It isn’t telling you that you need a new car. It’s alerting that something is wrong that needs your attention. Your anger is not telling you that your life is ruined. It’s a signal that something’s not right and it requires your focus.
When we’re angry, it’s usually for one of three reasons:
We’re hurt, we’re frustrated, or we’re afraid. If someone says something hurtful about me, I can become angry. If I get frustrated after trying to unsuccessfully download some app for my phone, I can become angry. If I am afraid I may lose my job, I can become angry.
I know that counting to ten seems like an over-simplistic answer, but if you can at least give yourself a little time before reacting, here are three questions you need to ask yourself.
- Am I feeling hurt? If so, what am I hurt about?> Try to determine if the source of your anger is in response to something someone did or said to hurt you. This may not be what has you angry—in which case, you can rule it out. But if it is, you’ve now identified the source. Isn’t that better than taking it out on your innocent spouse?
- >Am I feeling frustrated? If so, what am I frustrated about? If you’re not hurt, you may be angry because you’re frustrated about something you feel is beyond your control. Take your time. Think carefully. Can you narrow down the source of your anger to some sort of frustration? And then, work toward a solution by considering your options.
- >Am I feeling afraid? If so, what am I afraid of?If you’re not hurt or frustrated, something else is lurking out there that has you afraid, which is manifesting itself in anger. Could this be what’s driving your temper?/li>
Here’s time bottom line that can transform your marriage, and other relationships.Instead of expressing your anger to resolve your pain, express your pain to resolve your anger.Click To Tweet
Adapted from Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future by Gil Mertz (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.