Anger frightens us. We’ve seen it way out of control, and we’ve seen it do a lot of damage. When our first “gods” (our father and/or mother) got angry, we cowered back. We were afraid, and we vowed we would never do that to our family.
Men get mixed signals about yelling in anger. Why is yelling so wrong when it produces results? I know in my gut it’s wrong, but the family sure springs into action! Where do I draw the line so I don’t ruin my family?
Women receive other mixed signals. Don’t you raise your voice, Young Lady! Anger is not Christian, not ladylike, not safe. Anger is not okay. They remember the fear they experienced when their parent(s) yelled, and they are deathly afraid of doing the same thing. Instead, they internalize their anger.
But anger was not designed to scare people we love into submission, and fear was not designed to control people. Anger and fear were meant to help protect us in a dangerous situation.
Imagine that you witness a teenager run and grab a woman’s purse. Then he pushes her down. Then he begins to punch her. You can’t believe it. Your rising anger signals that this is wrong and something must be done. Adrenaline kicks in, preparing you for fight or flight, because one or the other may be necessary. This physical reaction is a God’s gift to prepare us for right action.
When the gas gauge alerts you to your empty tank, you don’t smash it, or cover it with black tape—you stop for gas. Anger likewise alerts us—to take right action to deal with the situation underneath.
Trauma, abuse, unrelenting stress—can bring lingering effects that just won’t shake (post-traumatic stress disorder), which requires competent help. But simply taking action can aid healing. Speaking up to the boss, fighting back against an attacker, taking a new life direction, or even role-playing that fight-back long after the event—all these actions can make the difference in recovery.
YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY FOR THAT
It’s not right, it’s not justifiable, and it’s not fair, but when you tell the truth to someone who is trying to avoid it, you are likely to get slammed. Not only do you have to gut up the courage to speak, you have to endure an angry response. In essence, you pay twice. Most of us believe, in the bottom of our hearts, that if we speak the truth carefully, in love, without getting our ego involved, from the very heart of Christ, our spouse will respond well. Sometimes they will… but not always.
I’ve witnessed child to parent, spouse to spouse, employee to boss, all being unjustly annihilated for what they said. I’ve personally spent hours working out exactly what to say to someone, in prayer and humility, and then been blown out of the water after the first sentence. Doubly difficult when you are supple to the Lord, because you immediately wonder if it was something in you, an attitude you brought, that set it off. Sometimes it is—that’s what makes this so confusing! You back up and lament the tiny speck in your eye, while the person with the log has successfully kept you at arm’s length. No wonder people hesitate to speak up! [Victims at a trial are often traumatized all over again in accusations from the defense attorney. I don’t blame them for counting the cost before going to court, even in clear cases of violent crime, rape or molestation.]
Anger and counter-attack are so darn popular because they work! No one will attack again for a while. If Dad shuts Mom down for speaking up, he’s gotten himself a free ride—and as a bonus, he taught the kids not to challenge him! He has successfully avoided confrontation yet again.
Remember this: they are angry at you because they’re angry at Christ first. [John 15:18] Instead of being defeated, let every shutdown send you to Jesus: for comfort, to adjust anything in you, to raise your eyes from man to God, to keep you dependent solely on Him, to remind you to pray for your “enemy.”
And let Jesus tell you what action steps to take at the right time. Remember, if God prompts you to say something, your obligation is to Him, not man. Just say it and let it go, and let the Holy Spirit have it.