Anger is a very powerful emotion and can be a very destructive one. If we let it, it can completely take control of our judgment, leading us down a path we should not follow. Is there such a thing as righteous anger or does anger altogether cause our downfall? Take a moment and think about times that you felt anger. Can you pinpoint what became of that moment? It is easy to feel defensive, insulted, betrayed, or disrespected, which in turn triggers our fight, flight, or freeze reactions and often leads to anger. Reacting in anger can cause us to make poor choices, yet we need to remember that we always have two options: Choosing the natural man, or choosing a God-like response. Here is the difference and a few things you can do to better manage angry responses:
The Natural Man Choice
When our fears are triggered, our natural instinct is to react, giving our self-control over to our anger. But do we really want to live at the mercy of our own anger? To change our natural instincts, we first need to understand our own fears. Do we fear failure, losing a child, losing respect, or losing something very meaningful in our lives? Most often when we are angry, we fear either failure or loss.
Anger can be very corrosive mentally and physically. It releases a flood of cortisol and adrenaline, causing our muscles to tense and our heart rate to increase. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline can destroy the judgment area of neurons in the brain and our short-term memory. They can also weaken our immune system.
So why do we allow this emotion to be part of our life? In reality, we should not make room for any anger, but that is a tall order. So, let’s start small and progress from there. Here are some steps to help you turn anger into love:
1. The first step toward turning anger to love is to ask yourself in the moment if you’re angry, sad, feeling rejected, or some other emotion. (See "Slow to Anger" by Elder Gordon T. Watts.) Pause and identify what you are actually feeling.
2. Once the actual emotion is identified, search for what triggered your reaction. Was it a tone of voice? Poor timing? A situation that made you feel attacked? If you know what kind of situations tend to bring your anger to the surface, you can be better prepared to manage that emotion.
3. Think about what actually happened and what you can learn from it. Often we become angry and defensive because we are afraid that we are the problem and it is easier to blame than make the effort to change. None of us intend to be irritating or hurtful and, yes, we all make mistakes. Yet acting in anger is only a permanent mistake if we don’t learn from it and improve our habits.
4. Assess how to change triggers that anger you. There is no reason you should let a situation or circumstance have power over you. Many times, we just need to make ourselves aware of what is going on inside of us so that we can find ways to let our anger go and replace it with understanding, patience, or love.
5. Don’t blame others for your feelings. Naturally, it is easier for us to believe that we didn’t start the fight and to blame others for our pain, however, in truth we always have the power to choose our reaction. Remember that your feelings are a choice. For a great example of living this principle, see the story of Pahoran and Captain Moroni in Alma chapters 60-61.
6. Have compassion for yourself and for others. All of us have hard days and frustrating moments or are struggling to make our lives happy. We all are of great value to our Heavenly Father, including the person pushing our anger triggers. Just understanding that concept can help us calm our angry emotions.
7. Remember that anger can often be lessened if we are communicating effectively. Here are a few tips for improving your communication, even if you are struggling with anger.
- If dealing with someone who is angry, state that you see they are struggling.
- If you are angry, tell the person you’re talking to that you are struggling.
- Invite the person who is angry to share their feelings or thoughts if they are able or willing.
- Ask the person who is angry what you can do to help. Showing concern to others who are angry will help them calm their fight or flight response.
-Ask if you can share your ideas, but do not give unsolicited advice. Think about how much angrier it makes you when you receive unwanted advice.
- Consider setting up a later time to finish your conversation if one or both of you are too angry to talk together calmly.
8. Don’t forget that anger brings a lot of energy with it. Use that energy to do something good, such as a hobby, house cleaning, exercising, or fixing something that is broken. When you are physically busy, your mind has time to find solutions and answers. Here is a download to help when you feel lost in anger.
9. View your experiences as a lesson. Pick one trigger situation at a time and change your view or habit around that trigger. See Proverbs 16:32 for ideas and help with that.
As children of God, why do we have to suffer the overpowering emotion of anger? One answer might be that anger highlights our weakness, allowing us to become strong. It is the emotion that can teach us the most about living a Christlike life, because when we learn to use anger to grow and love stronger, then we can master most other things in our life. The hardest situations in life can be the ones we learn the most from if we let ourselves learn from it.
Find another article on anger here.
If you or someone you know has a hard time with anger issues, please seek help.
Click here for a free download to measure your anger and to help you turn that to love, plus a communication worksheet.