Anger. It seeps in where we often least expect it. Peer groups, music, social media, driving behaviors, gossip; all just a few examples of where doors can be open to anger. For me, this has always been a tricky emotion. On one hand it’s often natural and sometimes even useful. But on the flip side, it often goes too far. Whether it's conscious or unconscious, it blinds us and causes us to step away from where we should be.
The anger of the past
So many times we harbor feelings and allow them to misguide our thoughts, actions and words. It’s common practice to harm newcomers in our lives, to take vengeance on someone we barely know because someone else harmed us in our past. The newcomer sets a trigger point, doing something that reminds us of past encounters with others. Suddenly, old scars start burning. Holes get poked in the walls that contain our negative feelings. They leak out and sometimes flood us and our environment.
As a culture we’re not fixing things correctly. We’re acting more like the angry child who flails around hoping we will eventually hit our target. We’re not open to information about how bad behavior started and how to destroy it. Instead, we go for the quickest way to lash out, destroying each other.
As I said in How the Enemy Works:
"All life, when it grows properly, grows from the inside out. Newborn humans can only function well at their core (heart, lungs, flailing bodies)."
We’re often neglecting the mechanisms inside of our own selves. How often do we ask “What can I improve within myself, that can help improve this situation for everyone?”, or, “What exactly am I holding on to that I haven’t dealt with?” People usually act like consequences come from what everyone else is doing instead of what they are not paying attention to. And yet we have the clear wisdom from Christ himself:
What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.
Matthew 15:11, NIV
So we end up with harbored, negative feelings that eat away at our mental and even physical health. They eat away at our ability for fellowship and our ability to see clearly through life and death. Most importantly, they have the power to defile our very own selves.
The wrong ways of handling anger
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 4:26-27, NIV
There are entire groups of people, small and large, who build standard operating procedures out of anger. Supremacists, communities, even groups that were started with good intentions; they can all end up being overrun by anger, and the hate that grows into it when such anger is left unchecked; driven on by group mentality. It even gets passed down from generation to generation. And I can’t help but wish I could say to everyone in every hate group, “that anger doesn’t belong to you”. Why, because, as I said in Pay not Attention to the Enemy, Only the Task at Hand:
The anger of the Devil is resold the same way. It's always made by the same being for the same purpose. But it's rebranded by many different people who pass it on. The sales pitch is given differently to each person or group. One group may think they're destroying someone for one reason, while another group thinks it's for another reason. Like the camera I have (that is rebranded repeatedly), the anger may be used by different people in different ways, but in the end it's the same device.
Make no mistake; EVERYONE who engages in vengeful, hateful behavior believes they have a good reason to do so. From crimes of passion, to the cleansing of our communities of those who ‘don’t belong’; the details may differ, but the actions and beliefs are all in the same ballpark. And yet Christ’s law remains as Christ’s law. Condemnation is condemnation. Lack of forgiveness is lack of forgiveness. And no matter how we justify it, every bit of damage any of us do effects everyone; even those who believe they’ve somehow compartmentalized their version of such damage.
How anger and hate really work
If you look at it from the outside, it’s a giant web and it goes a lot like this:
Person A did something wrong. Now person B has to make them pay for it.
Person C comes along and sees Person B’s wrong doing, then jumps in to punish person B.
Person D arrives and sees Person A and C as completely wrong, but understands Person B’s actions, then punishes Persons A and C, and starts a group to support Person B.
Next comes the rest of the alphabet people and a giant mess ensues.
Each person chooses who fits their world and who doesn’t. Each person believes their version of anger and hate is right while everyone else’s is wrong.
Confusing? Possibly, but to those involved it doesn’t matter. Seeing our situations as if we were on the outside is a skill that doesn’t come naturally. Those who believe in self inflicted justice don’t stand back to see how stuck in that web they really are. Justification replaces logic and the system of destruction thrives without challenge.
Now combine that illogical approach toward social healing, with the anger that never goes away. You get something else I mentioned in Pay not Attention to the Enemy, Only the Task at Hand:
None of it makes any useful sense. None of it benefits anyone. It’s a race that no one ever wins. And the glue that holds it all together is deception, the kind the Devil uses every day.
As young children anger just pours out of us. Don’t get our way or have some sort of unwanted consequence; then we kick, flail and scream. But as we get older we start worrying about man’s law. Almost none of us like to go out in public, lay down in the middle of a busy intersection, kick our legs around and scream “mine!”
Very few adult humans will covet something, like someone’s purse or car; then run up, grab it from the next person and yell “my turn!” Why? We don’t want handcuffs, a strip search and a steady diet of rotten bologna for any length of time. So what do people often do? We check our anger and control it. I don’t mean for the purpose of doing what’s right. I mean for the purpose of not getting caught.
So in comes the hidden actions, and the ones we can’t get in trouble by doing (with man’s law). You can’t get arrested by gossiping and smearing someone’s reputation. You won’t go to jail for slipping in a passive aggressive comment. And these days, if you can somehow attack someone without touching them, man’s law has no precedent for putting you away.
So we learn to reach into the cookie jar when no one is looking. People control themselves just enough so that the anger can come out, but not enough to get us into trouble. And because that's not an effective way of getting to the root of the problem; the anger stays, along with the passive aggressive outcries.
The effects of anger
The mental effects are pretty clear. Damage to relationships, depression and many other issues. The physical damage is often more hidden, but much more dangerous, especially when the anger is around consistently. It increases risk of many ill effects including obesity, low self-esteem, cancer, migraines, addiction, depression, heart attack, higher blood pressure, stroke, anxiety, insomnia, mental or brain fog, fatigue…
In other words, it’s baaaaaad for you to be, or especially to stay, angry.
How we get out
I don’t know of any way to completely eliminate anger from our lives. There will always be the occasional person or situation that makes us want to puff up and stomp around. And though it’s good to check any anger, prolonged emotion is what we want to work with most.
It’s not comfortable, but the truth is, we have to get to the root of that anger and destroy it. It starts with examination of ourselves, our pasts and our cultures. We have to pick apart the reasons why we hold on to the negative. We have to understand the consequences for carrying such feelings and then work out systems that solve what caused the anger; I mean systems that work the way Christ did; those that are completely inclusive and compassionate toward everyone. Because truly; what goes around comes around.
It’s tough to have empathy; to understand that everyone has valid reasons for what they do, especially when such reasons are hidden behind a tough exterior. In other words, when someone snickers and says something like “I did it for fun”, it’s easy to feel hatred. But the truth is, that person can’t explain what’s really behind their poor behavior because he/she doesn’t understand the wrongful ways they were mislead.
That’s one of the most effective places for the enemy to put a wall, right at the start of an uneasy emotion. As soon as we see the image of the person who did something awful, we start that standard judgement, and anger instantly comes with it.
So as long as one side does terrible things and doesn’t see the wrong of them, and the other side just condemns; no one will ever get to the logic and construction we need to intervene, understand, repackage and repair. Currently, we’re so far away from such a constructive, intelligent way of helping ourselves that there are entire groups of people who throw endless time, money and justification at flattening and throwing other people away.
Aside from practicing empathy and inclusiveness, there are also more immediate techniques we can use to fight anger. These include deep breathing, massaging your own palms and using tactile techniques. These are expanded in and article I’ve written on my photography portfolio, The Art of Calm.
I have one more recommendation... prayer. Ask for God to help you cut the roots of anger. Ask for help in changing your heart and gaining wisdom to understand and repair poor behavior. (FYI, He will never tell you to use violence, slander, vandalism or any kind of weapon to destroy others. God will only help you learn to make repairs with love and compassion.)
The enemy will constantly and consistently remind you of your pride and the (false) reasons why you should hold on to anger. But with prayer, practice and understanding; as the anger melts, so will the consequences for everyone. What’s left is a better version of you and a deeper connection to God and everyone else.
Links mentioned above
How the Enemy Works (article) - All life, when it grows properly, grows from the inside out. Newborn humans can only function well at their core (heart, lungs, flailing bodies).
Pay not Attention to the Enemy, Only the Task at Hand (article) - The anger of the Devil is resold the same way. It's always made by the same being for the same purpose. But it's rebranded by many different people who pass it on.
The Art of Calm. (article, by me, on my photography portfolio) - tips and tricks on how to bring instant calm in almost any situation.
Walls, (1/7) - Filling in the Blanks (and Series Intro) (article) - Series intro. We feel the need to understand our situation to move on, but often times that need backfires.
Walls (2/7) - Technology (article) - We can end a relationship during a TV commercial break, or eat a meal with others while almost never looking up from our phones.
Walls (3/7) - Self Talk (article) - If the influence was as innocent and ineffective as it seems, it would have died off before we ever knew it as everyday life.
Walls (5/7) - Deception (article) - If you can convince your opponent the real you doesn’t exist, you can stand right next to them with a smile on your face and hand on the controls and no one will say no.
Walls (6/7) - Money (article) - Is it bad to be wealthy? The question sounds simple enough, almost as if there should just be a “yes” or “no” answer. But in truth it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Walls (7/7) - The Investments That get us Out (article) - would you want to set up a fort every time you go #2? It takes an initial investment, but it works.
How the Enemy Works (article) - A general idea of how the enemy seeps into every-day life and how to deal with it.
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