Coaching Corner: The Holy Side of Anger
- Thursday, July 10, 2008
I'm amazed how often I have to get angry on my client's behalf.
They'll be sitting there telling me about how their boss has been steamrolling right over them emotionally and professionally for the past year, and they'll sound just as calm as a saint as they recount one injustice after another. Yes, they're frustrated, they admit that much. But they don't want to "lose control" or get too riled up about it. Maybe it's just an opportunity for them to learn patience, anyway.
Do you see how nuts that is?
Or how about this: A client confesses to me that he's been looking at porn on the internet almost nightly for the past five years. He's beaten up inside over the shame of it (he hasn't told his wife of course), and he pummels his soul regularly for how he is undermining his deeper values for integrity and unencumbered intimacy with his wife. And I say, "For as much damage as porn is doing to your soul, you don't seem very angry about it." And he says no, I guess I'm not. I'm sad. I'm ashamed. But I don't see what good it would do to get angry.
What good it would do? Are you kidding me? Anger, rightly unleashed, can do a world of good.
A lot of people have this sense that anger is kind of the ugly duckling of the emotional family. Anger is immature, right? It’s unpleasant to be around. Mature, pleasant people don't get angry, or at least they don't show it, because showing anger would be, well, childish. But just step back from that for a minute and notice how odd it is to think of anger in that way. We don't think of "happy" as being either mature or immature, do we? We don't think of "sad" as a mature or immature way to feel. The same applies to nervous, calm, somber, excited, or giddy. All of these are simply feelings. They don't have an inherent moral quality. Of course, how you choose to express your feelings can be moral or immoral, mature or immature. But the feelings themselves are neutral. More importantly, they're part of being human. And that certainly includes the human feeling of anger.
Healthy anger actually serves a critically important function in our lives. Anger is designed to separate you from people or situations that are harmful. Anger is designed to correct injustice. And there are circumstances and situations in your life where, if you don't let yourself get angry—and I mean really angry—the circumstance will never change. You need the anger to inspire you to stop tolerating the circumstance and catalyze you into action.
Anger awakens you to remember you have a choice. You can change things. It doesn't have to remain the way it is. As John Eldredge frames it, God has given you the "dignity of causation." You are a change maker. A catalyst. When you bring force to bear, things move. They change. You leave a mark than endures. You draw a line that cannot be crossed.
Here's what I tell my clients, so I'll tell you to You should be angry more. Angry at those areas of struggle in your life that have stuck around for far too long and now seem entrenched and intractable. Angry at those areas where you are not yet free, and you've been lulled into believing deep down that it's never going to change. That's just the way it's always going to be. Really? Your God is not big enough to reach that issue, huh? Hack away at a tree long enough, even with a dull axe, and it will eventually fall.
Anger will not let you stay in your comfort zone. It compels you to act, engage, say no to that which does not belong, and yes to the change that must occur for the sake of life and your wholeness as a child of God. Anger inspires force. So let yourself get angry. As Scripture says, "Be angry, and do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26). Your anger, unleashed with wisdom and out of passion for true life, brings out in you the best kind of dangerous.
Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally certified through the Coaches Training Institute, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life—to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at ascentcoachinggroup.com.
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