Anger is a valuable emotion but many people feel it is a negative that must be purged from their lives. Anger is intended to be a signal that an injustice has taken place either to yourself or to others. The Bible actually commands us to “Be angry, but don’t sin in your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26) Anger is not the same as revenge or bitterness. We are instructed to be careful that our anger does not turn into bitterness. How do we do that? By identifying the source of the anger and then expressing it appropriately.
There are only 3 ways to express anger:
- Turn it inward on ourselves and it will manifest itself in depression or aches and pains in our body.
- Turn it outward and blame others for everything that happens to us.
- Turn it upward and express our anger with God-given biblical principles. Confront the offender and set boundaries to protect ourselves from future recurrences.
Unexpressed anger reveals itself in psychosomatic ailments, depression and relentless shame and guilt. Anger is like fire. When fire is used to warm our homes or cook our food, it is useful and makes our existence better. When fire is out of control, it destroys forests and homes and claims lives. When anger is contained and used appropriately, it motivates us to right wrongs.
Anger is the first natural response to being hurt, but in abusive homes it is not safe for the victim to express anger. Consequently it is usually suppressed, especially with female victims, until it is not longer felt. This does not mean it goes away. Unresolved anger inevitably causes us inner turmoil.
Because we have been trained to no longer feel our emotions, we can more easily identify with someone else’s pain and feel anger for someone else. When others take advantage of you, either by abuse or demanding too much, it is normal and healthy to get angry. The same happens with neglect. When you are overlooked at the office, or not given the attention you needed as a child, the long term effects can lead to repressed anger or denial. Denial that you were treated unfairly comes at a great expense. To perpetuate that lie, you must believe you aren’t worthy of acknowledgment.
This excerpt from the Shelter From The Storm workbook explains:
“The effects of child sexual abuse can lead to chronic anxiety, eating disorders, dissociative disorder, depression, promiscuity, alcoholism, and a host of other problems. If you had not been abused, your life would have been different. You might have been more confident, less angry, and more stable in your personal behavior. But the reality with which you must deal is that you were deeply hurt, and you do have a great deal of anger. You may need to express appropriately your anger again and again until you have been released from the rage within. Allow yourself to feel the loss that you have experienced due to your abuse.”
Is It Okay To Be Angry With God?
My answer is a resounding YES. The truth is if you ARE angry with God, it is because you see him as a co-perpetrator. After all, He knew the abuse was going on and He stood by and did nothing. Right? Let me clarify my response. It IS okay to be angry with God but it is not okay to stay angry with the One who can bring healing to your life. God is big enough to handle your anger. He made you and understands you. He’s the only one who really does.
Maya Angelou says in her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, “Of all the needs a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.”
I refer again to the Shelter From the Storm workbook:
Many survivors wonder where God was when they were being abused. As we’ve said before, no easy answer exists, but God gives us wisdom on all questions. Some struggle with the question, “Why does evil exist?” Others have cried out to God from the time of the abuse to the present. Some speak of seeing Jesus or of some miracle that seemed to have taken place during their abuse, while others simply have had a hope of something good about life. It seems that many were unable to let go of this hope, no matter what was done to them or what they did themselves. They never stopped hoping for something good to happen to them.
God was at work in this belief, hope and desire. Even though we may not have been aware of it, God was there. He was there when you were being abused. God was there in your loneliness. He was there in your pain. God was the One who gave you this hope.”
Anger is an energy force inside the body. It needs to be released. That is why we raise our voice or clench our fists or kick the door or …God forbid… smack the kids. It releases energy. Pay attention to the first warning signs in your body. Does your heart beat faster, the hair stand up on your neck, hands get sweaty, knees feel weak, body shake, face turn red, veins throb, start to cry? There are early physiological warning signs. That’s the time to pay attention and begin to manage the strong emotion rising inside you before it become a torrent you cannot control.
Take a walk, jump up and down, scream into a pillow, punch a pillow, rip up old magazines, shoot some hoops, throw rocks into the creek. Get creative with ways to release your anger. Don’t hurt others or break things, but GET IT OUT.
A little grammar lesson: The prefix “dis” means the opposite of. For example:
- Organized or disorganized
- trust or distrust
- honest or dishonest
- oriented or disoriented
- content or discontent
Other states of “dis” where there is an incongruence between beliefs or values and actions include : Disturbed, disillusioned, discombobulated, dissent, disgrace, distant, distain, dismember, disguise, disparity, disruption and dissonance.. (Melissa Bradley: The Three Stages of Healing)
Your body is designed to be pain free and functioning normally. It should be in a state of “ease”. When there is stress and tension in the body it is then in a state of dis-ease. When stress is not released and stored in the body long-term, it becomes “disease”. The three most common conditions in an overstressed body seems to be migraines, ulcers, and fibromyalgia. That is why the Bible says, “When I remained silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (New International Version)
You should never lose your anger over injustice, but instead learn to use your anger constructively. Confront the offender gently but firmly, write a letter to your congressman, picket, take the offender to court if necessary. Find your voice and confront injustice wherever you find it, but don’t allow anger to rob you of your health and happiness.
Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not necessary to get angry over every little offence. There are enough real problems in the world to demand your attention. Learn to disregard the issues that shouldn’t be your priority.