Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of June Hunt's book, Keeping Your Cool When Your Anger is Hot: Practical Steps to Temper Fiery Emotions, (Harvest House Publishers, 2009).
If you direct the fiery emotion of anger in the right way, it can motivate you to accomplish something good. But if you let it burn out of control, its flames will damage your life and relationships with others.
So it's crucial to keep your cool when your anger is hot. Here's how:
Recognize your responsibility. Admit that the way you're managing anger is causing problems in your life. Tell the truth to yourself, other people in your life, and God. Let the people you've hurt through your anger know that you plan to make better choices from now on.
Repent. Agree with God that you've been dealing with your anger in sinful ways. Commit to turn away from your wrong attitudes and actions, and ask God to give you forgiveness and grace.
Find what fuels your anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that's triggered when something is wrong and needs your attention. So identify where your anger is coming from. Is the source hurt, injustice, fear, or frustration? Then you'll know what problems you need to solve. Pursue healing for whatever sources of anger God reveals to you (such as childhood wounds or a spouse's betrayal).
Seek help. Join some other people who can provide support, encouragement, and accountability as you learn how to manage anger in healthier ways. Don't isolate yourself; realize that you need others to help you throughout the change process.
Diffuse defensive anger. Hand your hurts over to God instead of holding onto them, so you won't have the pressure of defensive anger making you feel explosive. Choose your battles carefully, asking yourself: "Am I in the right?", "What benefit will come from fighting this battle?", "Even if I succeed, will it do more harm than good?", and "How would Jesus respond to this situation?". Recognize that a life of angry defensiveness can't drive out pain and fear; only God's healing grace can do that. So let God take the responsibility for your defense.
Let go of attempts to control. When something doesn't go your way, don't react with destructive anger. Instead, pray about the situation and trust God to work it out according to His will, which is best. Change whatever situations you can and release those you can't change to God. Let go of the heavy, unnecessary burden of trying to control your life. When you choose to trust God, you'll experience peace that will end your angry turmoil.
Douse self-inflicted flames. Deal with any unhealthy attitudes that may be causing you to get angry at yourself. Get rid of attitudes like shame, perfectionism, and condemnation. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you. Then make decisions based on the real confidence you have in Christ.
Stop fuming at the Father. When you're struggling with pain and don't understand why God has allowed it in your life, you may feel angry at God. While that anger is misdirected (since God always has your best interests in mind and grieves along with you when you're hurt), God invites you to express it to Him, since He wants a close, open, and honest relationship with you. Pour out your heart to God. Cling to His promise that all of your suffering has a good purpose. Remember who God is, and that His character will never change, so you can always count on Him to love and help you.
Resolve your anger. Figure out who you're really angry with or what you're really angry about, and why. Rather than just reacting according to however you feel, stop to think about how to respond appropriately. Pray for God to give you His perspective on the situation so you can think clearly and accurately about it. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and help to accomplish God's will, not yours. Admit your inner needs (such as for love, significance, and security), and rather than getting angry about other people's failures to meet those needs, turn to God to get them met. When confronting people who have made you angry, do so in love and with the goal of solving problems through positive, respectful, and constructive conversations. Call a timeout to conversations that become too heated and talk again once you've all calmed down. Try to think in advance of appropriate, productive responses for dealing with your emotions when they get too hot, so you'll be prepared for the next time you encounter a situation that makes you feel angry. Approach God with a humble heart, asking Him to change your hurtful behavior when dealing with anger, and to strengthen your character to help you become more like Jesus.
Forgive. If your anger is caused by bitterness over people who have hurt or offended you, choose to forgive them with God's help to free yourself from destructive anger. Replace your anger with trust in God's love, work to restore the relationships when possible, and rejoice that God will bring something good out of what you've suffered in the past when you're faithful to forgive.
Deal wisely with hot-tempered people. Set boundaries to protect yourself from being burned by the flames of other people's out-of-control anger. Stay calm when around someone in a rage; don't allow someone else's anger to ignite your own. Leave immediately if you feel threatened. If you must deal with an unhealthy angry person on a regular basis (such as your spouse or boss), seek support from friends, family members, your pastor, a counselor, and even the police if necessary to protect yourself against physical violence.
Fight for what's right. Channel the anger you feel about injustice into positive change whenever you can. Ask God to help you identify your goal (concentrating on what you actually can achieve, rather than changes that are beyond your power). Pray for God to empower you to fulfill His purposes in the situation. Use your anger as motivation to fight for justice - God's will - to be done.
January 14, 2010
Adapted from Keeping Your Cool When Your Anger is Hot: Practical Steps to Temper Fiery Emotions, copyright 2009 by June Hunt. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
June Hunt is the founder of Hope for the Heart, a worldwide biblical counseling ministry that provides numerous resources for people seeking help. She hosts a live, two-hour call-in counseling program called Hope in the Night, and is the author of Counseling through Your Bible Handbook and How to Handle Your Emotions.