Anger is everywhere. Spouses are angry at each other. Employees are angry at bosses. Teens are angry at parents (and vice versa). Citizens are angry at their government. Television news routinely shows angry demonstrators shouting their wrath or the weeping mother of a teen gunned down in an angry quarrel. Spend some time around a major airport when bad weather has canceled flights, and you will observe anger in action.
Many of us are angry at ourselves. Sometimes we are angry and think we “shouldn’t feel that way.” Or we observe our children expressing anger inappropriately and wonder how to teach them to deal with their anger.
Clearly, many of us have issues with anger. In addition, Christians are often confused about this powerful and complex emotion. For those who follow Christ, is there ever an appropriate expression of anger? What does the Bible say? Can anger ever be a good thing?
If, in searching for answers to these questions, you go online and type “anger” into a search engine, you will find an overwhelming amount of information. Yet most of what has been written does not deal with two fundamental questions: What is the origin of anger, and what is the purpose of anger? Why do men and women experience the emotion of anger? Understanding the origin of anger is essential to understanding the purpose of anger, and understanding the purpose of anger is essential to learning how to process anger in a constructive manner.
The few books and articles that do raise the question of origins tend to see anger as a survival technique in humans’ early evolutionary development. Anger is “nature’s way” of preparing humans to respond in times of danger. As one who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of anthropology, I believe this view is woefully inadequate. In the first place, it ignores the Christian worldview; and secondly, even if one accepts a naturalistic worldview, it does not adequately explain the psychological aspects of anger.
Much of the confusion among Christians about the emotion of anger flows from a misunderstanding of the origin of anger. Christian literature on anger has tended to focus on controlling it—without an adequate understanding of the source of anger. But I am convinced that our efforts at controlling anger will be much more effective if we have a clearer understanding of the source of anger.
I have counseled couples and families for many years now. I have worked with hundreds of families dealing with multiple family problems. In almost all cases, these families or couples have struggled with processing anger. When adults know how to deal with their own anger in healthy, positive ways, they not only create a more secure environment for the family; they also have greater potential for teaching their children how to process anger. Equally important, they are able to build a productive work environment, engaging effectively with their coworkers. When adults have not learned to process their anger, marital and family turmoil usually results, sometimes spilling over at work or other settings.
Where do we go to learn to process anger? For many of us, the answer is the counselor’s office. Unfortunately, most people do not go for counseling until their mismanagement of anger has gotten them into serious trouble. Thousands of others who are already in serious trouble never go for counseling at all.
Perhaps you cannot (because of time, money, or fear) step into the counselor’s office. I believe that much of what is learned in the counseling office could be learned in the living room if adults had adequate information. This book is an attempt to put into readable form the insights and techniques that have helped hundreds of couples and single adults discover a better way to process anger. The names of all clients have been changed, but their situations and conversations are real. At times, you may recognize issues and responses similar to your own. All of us can learn much about processing our anger more effectively.
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with anger, I hope this volume will help you gain a fresh—and Christian—perspective on anger. I also hope that as you gain this new perspective, you will be equipped to understand and deal with your anger or that of someone close to you. Additionally, my hope is that this book will provide interested individuals with a tool that will stimulate group discussion and workshops on the topic of anger. In fact, this must happen if we are going to turn the tide on the epidemic of verbal and physical abuse that characterizes our generation.
When we bring our anger under the lordship of Christ—when we learn from a holy God about the origin and purpose of anger—we can heal our relationships. Most important, we can accomplish God’s good purposes.
Introduction: Our Angry World
1. Where Does Anger Come From?
2. When Anger Can Do Good
3. When You’re Angry for Good Reason
4. When Anger Is Wrong
5. How to Handle “Bad” Anger
6. Explosions and Implosions
7. The Anger That Lasts for Years
8. What about Forgiveness?
9. When You Are Angry at Your Spouse
10. Helping Children Handle Anger
11. When You Are Angry at God
12. “I’m Angry at Myself’
13. Confronting an Angry Person