How to Control Anger and Find Peace
Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Charles Stanley’s new book, Surviving in an Angry World: Finding Your Way to Personal Peace, (Howard Publishing, 2010).
Everyone gets angry at times. But too many people let the powerful emotion of anger rage out of control, letting it damage or even destroy their relationships, jobs, and health. If your anger is running wild, you need God’s help to control it and find the peace that only He can give you. Here’s how to overcome anger and find peace:
Distinguish between bad and good ways to express anger. The feeling of anger itself isn’t necessarily good or bad; what matters is how you express that emotion. The Bible says that it’s fine to express your anger, as long as you’re careful not to sin when you do so. Bad ways to express anger include: Lashing out at others in a rage with angry words or actions before thinking about your response first, hurting others simply because you feel bad yourself even if they didn’t directly cause your bad feelings, holding grudges long after the situation that made you angry happened, and refusing to forgive others who hurt you or seeking to take revenge for what they did to you. When you express righteous indignation about an injustice, however, you may be expressing anger in a good way. Good ways to express anger include: focusing it toward solving a particular problem (such as trying to right a wrong) or meeting a particular need (like defending someone who is being mistreated), reigning it in so that you express it within appropriate boundaries, and letting go of it after it helps you meet positive goals. Ask God to help you avoiding hurting people with your anger and instead direct the anger you feel into positive words and actions.
Admit the anger you feel, and take it seriously. Don’t deny or suppress your anger. Be honest with God, yourself, and others that you feel angry. Don’t trivialize your anger.
Acknowledge that anger is a powerful emotion that you must deal with carefully so it won’t hurt you and others around you.
Determine the cause of your anger. Ask God to help you figure out what’s causing you to feel angry. Consider these common causes of anger: blame, shame, pride, insecurity, dreams that have been deferred or denied, lies, secrets, brain dysfunction (due to brain injury or illness, or side effects from medications), and drug or alcohol addiction.
Give up your “right” to express destructive anger. Even when you have a good reason to feel angry, you don’t have any right to express your anger in ways that hurt people. Keep in mind that you can’t teach other people to respect you by showing them how angry you are. The way to earn people’s respect is by responding to difficult situations faithfully, as God leads you. If you want to simply vent your angry feelings, vent them to God in prayer, because He can handle that without being hurt, and He can give you peace, as well.
Take time out before responding to whatever or whoever has made you angry. Rather than expressing your anger right away, put some distance between yourself and the situation or person bothering you and make time to think and pray about how best to respond. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control to respond well.
Redirect your energy. Ask God to help you redirect the energy from your negative feelings of anger into positive actions that are useful and productive, such as cleaning your house or exercising your body.
Plan how to respond to future anger triggers. Rehearse in your mind what you can say and do to respond wisely to difficult people or stressful situations you may encounter that can trigger anger in you. Then, when you’re faced with them, you’ll have a plan to follow.
Set emotional goals for your relationships. Talk with your family members and close friends about specific ways that you can strengthen your relationships with each of them. Set goals for how you can relate to them without resorting to destructive anger, such as by adjusting your expectations of each other to make sure they’re realistic. When your relationships do become damaged by anger, apologize to each other, pray together, identify constructive steps each person can take to rebuild the relationship, and move forward with those steps.
Ask God to cleanse your mind and spirit every day. Rather than letting anger take root in your soul, pray daily for God’s help to let go of your struggles and forgive others so you don’t carry over unhealthy attitudes into a new day. Also ask God to fill your mind with thoughts of His goodness toward you, which will give you peace.
Forgive. If you’re holding onto anger against someone who has hurt you, you can’t be in a right relationship with God, who calls you to forgive as He has forgiven you of your own sins. Don’t wait to obey God’s call until you feel like forgiving because you probably never will. Instead, decide to forgive despite your feelings, and as you trust God to help you the forgiveness process, your feelings will change along the way.
Surrender. If you’re angry at God because of something that He allowed to happen to you, be honest with Him about your anger but then let go of it quickly after you express it. Be careful not to harbor anger against God, because that will poison your soul, and because it’s never justified since God only allows what can help you grow into a stronger person. Be willing to place your trust in God – no matter what – since He loves you completely and knows what’s best for the life He has given you. Surrender every part of your life to God’s will.
Add peace to your personal space. Do whatever you can to make your life more peaceful, such as distancing yourself from violent people and situations, and making time regularly for silence and solitude in your life.
Resolve conflict wisely. Even with all the steps you take to deal with anger, you’ll still encounter plenty of conflicts that you must deal with wisely to create positive outcomes from them. When dealing with conflict, refuse to respond in anger to what other people say or do. Instead, listen quietly until they’re done expressing themselves. Then identify your part in the conflict and ask God to help you say what you need to say with kindness and respect. Learn from conflict and make whatever changes God leads you to make from what you’ve learned.