Robin D. Webb
Anger is a human emotion that can be triggered by many things such as stress, family problems, financial strain, frustration, depression, etc., and it may be either righteous or sinful. While everyone experiences it from time to time, it is a cause for concern if you indulge in sinful anger which can interfere with your work, personal relationships, peace of mind, and especially your relationship with God.
Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. – Ephesians 4:26, ESV
Depending on the cause of your anger, it can be classified as righteous or sinful.
Righteous anger. Righteous anger is anger that is for an appropriate cause, corresponds to the intensity of the cause, is self-controlled, and brings glory to God. It involves pausing to think before you react, and directing your anger into actions that improve the situation or prevent it from happening again.
Sinful anger. Sinful anger is any anger that is not for an appropriate cause, is out of proportion to the cause, is out of control, and does not bring glory to God. It is impulsive and expressed by aggressive actions such as lashing out at others, storming out of the room, slamming doors, breaking or throwing things, and saying or doing things that lead to a confrontation or even violence. Sinful anger can damage relationships, and lead to bitterness which can harm your health.
Common types of anger issues
Assertive anger. Assertive anger is a type of anger that acts as a catalyst for positive change without causing distress or destruction or violating other people’s rights or boundaries. However, it may still fit the category of sinful anger as noted above.
Aggressive anger. Aggressive anger, also known as behavioral anger, is a physical, often hostile, reaction to angry feelings that in its extreme can become violent.
Passive-aggressive anger. Passive-aggressive anger is an avoidant type of anger where you try to avoid confrontation, and tend to deny what you are feeling inside. Instead of expressing your anger in a healthy way, you vent it in subtle, indirect ways such as being sarcastic, sulking, making snide remarks, procrastinating, or giving the other person the silent treatment.
Judgmental anger. Judgmental anger is usually a reaction to a perceived injustice or someone else’s shortcomings.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Oppositional Defiant Disorder most commonly affects school-age children. Symptoms include angry outbursts, irritability, disobedience, and being argumentative and defiant.
Volatile anger. Volatile anger expresses itself as a sudden and unpredictable reaction to an annoyance that seems to come out of nowhere. You tend to be easily upset by the least thing, and those around you may feel as though they are walking on eggshells for fear of triggering an outburst.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). Intermittent Explosive Disorder is an extreme form of volatile anger. You are likely to feel irritable and angry most of the time and to overreact to situations with impulsive, aggressive behavior which seems out of proportion to the situation, and which may occur suddenly and without warning.
Chronic anger. Chronic anger is an ongoing, long-lasting resentment of other people. You are unable to let go of it and let it eat you up inside, which can lead to health issues such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
Retaliatory anger. Retaliatory anger seeks revenge and expresses itself as an angry and deliberate act intended to harm the other person who you feel has wronged you.
Self-abusive anger. Self-abusive anger is triggered by internalized feelings of guilt, shame, or low self-esteem. You may lash out at those around you to mask these feelings while feeling the need to punish yourself through negative self-talk, substance abuse, disordered eating, or self-harm such as cutting yourself.
Anger management strategies
Although you may not initially be able to control how you feel or change the circumstance or people who provoke you to anger, you can learn how to control the way you react to them. The following are some strategies that can help you manage your anger and express it in a healthy, non-aggressive way.
Become familiar with your anger. Get to know what triggers your anger and recognize the warning signs, such as the physical symptoms in your body that tell you it is building up – your heart starting to beat faster, tightness in your chest, muscles tensing, knots in your stomach, or your jaw clenching, etc.
Recognize the thoughts that add fuel to the fire so that you can take steps to calm down before it gets out of hand. Knowing what sets you off gives you a chance to figure out how to react differently the next time your anger gets triggered.
Reframe negative thoughts that fuel your anger. Find new ways of thinking about the things that make you angry. Examine the evidence that what you are thinking is true, and whether you may perhaps be overgeneralizing or jumping to conclusions. How can you change your perspective and look at the situation more positively or realistically?
Calm down or get away from the situation. Taking a few slow, deep breaths or slowly counting to ten before you speak when you feel your anger rising can help reduce its intensity. If possible, remove yourself from the situation to give yourself time to calm down and regain self-control. If you feel the need to let your frustration out physically, consider taking a brisk walk, or hitting a pillow or punching bag to let off steam.
Think before reacting. Take a moment to think about what has angered you before responding and impulsively saying or doing something that you may later regret. Ask yourself why you really are angry and whether it is just a matter of hurt pride. How important is it in the grand scheme of things?
Smile. Smiling triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals, in your brain and can trick it into thinking you are happy even if you are not. It may feel fake to smile when you’re feeling angry but do it anyway. Your brain doesn’t know the difference and acting as if you are happy can change your mood.
Identify potential solutions. Instead of focusing on the problem, think of what you can do to resolve it.
Express your anger in a non-confrontational way. Expressing your anger calmly, with the right words, and in a non-confrontational way, can help you stay in charge of your angry feelings instead of letting them control you. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements, and describe to the other person why you are feeling angry rather than accuse him or her. Interjecting a little humor as well can help lighten the mood and de-escalate the situation.
Be willing to forgive and let go. Part of resolving conflict lies in releasing the desire to punish the person you feel has done you wrong. Holding onto a grudge will only make the anger worse and won’t accomplish anything. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree, and move on.
Exercise. Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, or dancing can help reduce stress and get rid of some of the angry energy before it turns to aggression.
Seek professional help if needed. A trained mental health professional can help you explore and identify the real issues behind your anger, as well as provide ways to help you manage it in a healthy way.
Christian counseling for anger issues
Christian counseling involves a combination of Biblical principles and clinical intervention. If you are struggling with anger issues and are having trouble handling the process on your own, please give us a call today. We would be happy to answer your questions or set up an appointment to discuss how we can help you manage the challenges you are facing and walk you through the healing process.
Health Navigator Editorial Team (February 26, 2018). Anger management. Health Navigator, healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/a/anger-management/.
Vanessa Caceres (June 5, 2020). 10 Powerful Ways to Overcome Anger or a Bad Mood. US News Health, health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/powerful-ways-to-overcome-anger-or-a-bad-mood/.
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