Posts Tagged ‘Anger’

Getting Real

How do we end this relationship damaging game?

1. Decide that being “real” with others is more productive than being “nice.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not. I’m talking about making a change in a basic value that many of us have held our entire lives. Many of us believe that “niceness” is what people really want from us.

Now, it is true that almost everyone enjoys being around people who are pleasant. But, as Proverbs 28:23 puts it:

In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23 [NLT]

In other words, people would prefer the truth. In other words, “it might be hard, I might even get mad, but please for the sake of our relationship, tell me how I’m doing with you. That’s the only way I can ever improve.”

2. Attempt to handle conflict in a biblical manner.

What is the biblical mandate for dealing with conflict? Jesus said “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 [NIV]

In other words, don’t wait for the other person to take the initiative in resolving things. And get this – resolving things is even more important that worshiping God. If you come to church and there is someone here that you are out of whack with … deal with them first, then deal with God. Pretty radical, but that’s what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus also said there is a sequence for dealing with conflict:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along [that’s when you get to ask them to pray – AFTER you go on your own first, not before], so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 [NIV]

3. Get comfortable saying these three phrases:

“I’m angry.”

But don’t stop there, because one of the traps of the Hide and Seek game is assuming that you can read the minds of other people. So, you need to get comfortable saying …

“Can you help me understand?”

I’m angry, but I want to hear your side of the deal, too. Maybe there is something I am missing.

“I forgive you.”

I’m talking about real and true forgiveness, not merely saying “it’s OK” when it’s not.

Real and true forgiveness is always painful. Real forgiveness requires confronting another person with the fact that they did you wrong, that it hurt you and that you didn’t like it … but that you have accepted the pain and are choosing to let it go. It costs you something – pain – but it gains you something – peace of mind and the opportunity for a renewed relationship.

4. Be a God pleaser before being a man pleaser.

No matter how nice you are you will never please everyone all of the time. With God, you don’t even have to try to be nice to win his approval. In fact, he offers forgiveness to us before we attempt to be nice. While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.

I’ve covered a lot of stuff over the past three days. Let me end with a couple of cautions.  If you are a hider, don’t get down about it. Everybody struggles with game playing in relationships. Just own it and pick one or two things off of this list and start to work on them.

Second, if this is not you, don’t beat somebody else over the head with this information. They already know it’s them and they are very vulnerable right now. What you need to do is to remind them that with God’s help they will be able to grow and change, and to encourage whatever progress that you see in them.

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There are several strategic moves when playing relational “Hide and Seek” that will help covertly hide your negative feelings. As you read through this list, you might want to check off the ones that are characteristic of the way you do relationships.

1. Deny your feelings of anger and frustration.

With this move, you just don’t let on when you are hurt. You say something like, “It’s ok” when it isn’t … or “it doesn’t matter” when it does … or “it’s not that big of a deal” when it really is. You turn the anger and frustration inward instead of expressing it at the person who deserves it.

2. Tell yourself, “In time things will work out on their own.”

Don’t take any action to resolve the conflict on your own because, who knows, it might only make things worse.

3. Have a lot of imaginary conversations.

Instead of going to the person and having it out for real, just do it in your head. You say what you really want to say, and then you mentally have them respond how you think they should. But whenever you see them for real, just keep smiling like everything is fine.

4. Expect others to read your mind.

Drop little hints and clues that might suggest that you are not happy and hope that others will somehow figure it out. Don’t sit down with them and come right out and say what is on your mind. That could be too risky.

5. Gossip instead of confronting.

All of that pent up anger and emotion has to go somewhere and since we’re too afraid or too lazy to take it to the person directly, other people are the natural outlet. And if we’re “religious” it’s really easy to do this by saying, “I have a prayer request about a problem I’m having with so-and-so. Let me tell you the situation so you’ll be able to pray more intelligently …”

By the way, there is a time when it is appropriate to say something like that but only under certain circumstances.

Those are some of the strategic moves in relational Hide and Seek. But how do you “win”?

– you meet your need for approval through deception.

You act like everything is OK, you don’t rock the boat, and you avoid the hard issues because you want everyone to be happy with you.

Well, that’s the game and it can get ugly.  But there is hope for those of us who struggle with this relational pattern. There is hope for those of us who lie in bed at night and realize that most of our relational stress comes because we pretend in order to meet our need for approval.

There is hope for those of us who want to end the game, but first, we must admit the truth about ourselves, that we are masters of it and then turn from it. We must ask God to give us courage to say what needs to be said and we must lessen the value we place on what people think of us. Only when we do that, are there some things we can start to do differently in our interactions with those around us.

Tomorrow I will wrap this up with a few strategy moves to end this pattern that is in reality, no game at all.  We are talking about real people with real lives.  Many time these are some of the closest relationships in our lives.

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One of the few kid games my brothers and I could play that did not end in bloodshed was the game Hide and Seek.  Should your memory be a bit rusty, let me give you a brief refresher course.  Hide-and-seek or hide-and-go-seek is a game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player (designated as being “it”) counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching the number, the player who is “it” tries to find the other players (thank you, Wikipedia).

In the kids’ version of Hide and Seek, the goal is to hide your physical body so that no one can find you. But in the relational version of the game, the goal is to hide not your body, but your emotions – in particular, the negative ones – that arise in the course of routine interactions with the people around you

There’s a high price to pay for that choice. It’s no fun to stay hidden forever. But in the relational version, not only is it not fun, it’s not safe. And not only is it not fun and not safe, it’s downright destructive.

All of that buried anger and unspoken pain is like a time bomb just waiting to go off, and in the end, more often than not, it does. It can wind up destroying relationships and has been known to cost lives.

God has been dealing with me about this so I’ve been taking a closer look at the details of this game called “Hide and Seek.”

Equipment required:

To play the game you only need one major piece of equipment: basic belief that conflict is bad or just too dangerous.

You have to be convinced that the world is going to end if someone gets mad at you because you expressed your displeasure over something they did. You need to believe that people would rather you run away from them than confront them. You need to believe that pushing through the junk that comes from revealing how you feel just isn’t worth the effort, that it’s easier to just hide those feelings and pretend that everything is OK.

Now, let me be very clear, I’m not saying that every bad feeling we have about another person needs to be brought out into the open. After all, Proverbs 19:11 says that … A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 [NIV]

But the issue is – can the offense truly be overlooked and are we truly being patient? To overlook something means that you don’t bring it up to the person because you have chosen to let it go; because you have decided that it will not be an issue in your relationship. There is a world of difference between doing that out of patience and clamming up because you simply want to avoid conflict out of fear or laziness.

Tomorrow I want to look at strategies for playing the game.

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Finally turning the corner from the healing land of denial, I entered an emotion that was all too familiar to me…ANGER.  Now I know anger is not always bad, in fact anger is not completely condemned in the Bible.  Jesus displayed anger.  The Bible assumes that we will experience anger, but the admonition is to not let our anger lead to sin. A very simplified way to describe the “sin” type of anger is anger that leads to destructive behavior stemming from bad attitudes.

In working with people who struggle with anger I have seen the tendency to deal with anger in a couple of ways: 

  • Rage
  • Repression

While there may be times when these can be healthy, they can also be harmful.  RAGE many times can lead to violent outbursts that can be hurtful and even harmful to those around you.  Anger tends to hit a lot of people who are not the ones you are actually angry at.  For instance some have been known to take the anger of divorce out on the kids.  There are also those self-destructive urges such as drinking, drugs, and sex.   REPRESSION is turning that anger inward and can cause health issues.

There are a couple of healthy ways to vent anger.  Let me suggest REDIRECTION.  Redirect your energy into healthy activities: Serving others, gardening, writing, soft punching bags, etc.  I remember one angry outburst I had where I so wanted to punch something (Ok, in reality I wanted to punch someone!).  There just happened to be a brief case in front of me so I wisely (sarcasm) kicked it shattering my big toe and thereby spending the morning in the ER.  Perhaps I should have stuck with gardening or writing.

Let me end this by suggesting another option… RECONCILIATION. First of all, reconciliation does not always mean you get back with your ex.  While that would be a good thing, let’s assume you’ve already been down that road and came to a dead end.  Sometimes reconciliation can be a redefining of the relationship.  You work to create a healthy post-divorce relationship with your ex.  This will include things such as forgiveness, boundaries to keep the relationship civil and if there are children, teaming up to fulfill the important task of child rearing. 

I’ve read that time heals but I have revised that.  I believe that God heals and time is one of the ways He heals.  Don’t rush the process. Enter the reconciliation process with care, emotional health, and wisdom.  I’ve written other blog post on anger that I can recommend.  Closing admonition: Anger, handle with care.

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Just because both parties are Christian does not mean that a relationship is safe from problems. I thought I would share a few very simple dating tips that may help you as you navigate your way as a Christian through the perilous waters of the dating relationship.

1. Talk through your problems. This means never saying goodbye when you are angry or have unsettled issues that you know you need to discuss.  Minor irritations can grow into sore spots much like a tiny splinter in your finger.

2. Remember to forget: To err is human but to forgive is divine. The truth is, every relationship will need massive doses of forgiveness if it is going to survive.  We all say and do stupid things from time to time.  Forgiving your date as the Scriptures say “can cover a multitude of sins.” 

3. Let your first response be trust. 1 Corinthians 13 says love believes all things. In a dating relationship this means trusting your partner when he or she says something to you. One small seed of distrust can kick your imagination into overdrive.  You will begin to filter every conversation through a filter of suspicion.

4. Don’t be afraid to express your true feeling and be vulnerable with your Christian date. Vulnerability encourages closeness.

5 Always be honest about everything.  Telling the truth is always the best plan especially when it comes to enjoying a long lasting dating relationship. One lie can destroy all the trust you have built up in a dating relationship.

6. Praying for and with each other.  This really does help couples and families stay together. Don’t under-estimate the power of prayer to heal relationship wounds. It is so hard to stay mad at someone when you are praying for them.

7. Get sound Christian counseling from a respected leader in your church on how you can improve your relationship.

Whether you are struggling in your present relationship, or you are simply looking forward to having a positive and enduring Christian dating experience in the future that may even lead to marriage, the above dating advice can go a long way toward helping you achieve those goals.

In fact these tips can go a long way in improving any relationship.  I know this is not an all inclusive list.  If you have others tips you would like to share on this topic, please drop your comment in the box below.  I reserve the right to publish the ones that I feel are helpful (after all, it is my blog).

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Posted: May 7, 2010 in Emotions

The second biblical response to anger is: LISTENING INSTEAD OF SPEAKING

James 1:19 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  I’ve found that I can actually control my reactions.  In fact, if you follow James’ advice and be quick to listen and slow to speak, being slow to angry is more often than not the outcome.  A lot of times we get angry because we’re too quick to speak.  We’re too slow to listen.  We don’t understand where the other person is coming from. We get our preconceived ideas and then we lash out.  The result is always bad.  Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.  I have a friend who always says that people are quick to jump to a concussion. 

Each Sunday I give out a fill in the blank sermon guide.  I won’t mention any names but there are some people who like to play the guess-what-goes-in-the-blanks-before-the pastor-tells-us game.  I actually had someone tell me one week that I got one wrong!  We do this sometimes when we are in a conversation with another person (you may do this with yourself if you talk to yourself a lot, I don’t know).  How you ask?  Mental gymnastics…jumping ahead to figure out what the other person is going to say so that we can move on to what we have to say.  What is the biblical name for this? PRIDE.  I really just think that what I have to say is more important that what you have to say.  

Listening isn’t always easy to do.  However, listening carefully and speaking after we have all the facts is one of the keys to helping us avoid “jumping to a concussion” and blowing up in anger.


Posted: May 6, 2010 in Emotions, Uncategorized

Ok, what are some biblical steps to take to deal with our anger.  The first step is this:  DON’T HANG OUT WITH ANGRY PEOPLE.  The Bible is serious about this.  Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Keep away from angry, short-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”  Did you know that anger is contagious?  If you get around angry people you will tend to become an angry person.  It’s modeled.  You learn the behavior from other people.  If you’re friends with gripers and complainers, you need to change your friends.  Their influence may endanger your soul. 

By the way, this applies to what you take in from the media as well.  Stop watching the wrong movies and shows.  The entertainment world says, “You got anger?  Pull a gun.  Blow up a building.  Stab a guy in the back.  Shout and swear and kick them!”  As a result we have people doing these copycat crimes.  Keep away from angry people and angry influences.  Unlearn that unhealthy behavior.  Be prepared to even change friends if need be.