I am blessed to lead the mom’s ministry at our church. While prepping to lead our discussion on anger, I came across dozens of articles full of great advice. I read about calming down techniques; things like taking deep breaths, talking to a good friend, or stepping away from the situation.
Nearly everything I read was something I would say – something I’d write in a post. I’ve probably given that type of advice to friends. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that the typical advice we follow when it comes to our anger never really addresses the heart of the issue. Calming down, getting into nature, stepping back are all ok things – but if that’s where it stops, we never do the real work.
If we want to truly rid ourselves of anger, we need to get to the heart of the matter. We need to stop settling for short-term solutions, and deal with the bigger issues. We have to stop putting band-aids on bullet holes, and instead rip out the bullets so we can truly start to heal.
For the past few months, I’ve been working to identify and reflect on my anger triggers. If we can figure out what triggers an anger response, we can begin to do the deeper work of discovering why it triggers us.
If your child dumps out a box of Cheerios and you find yourself getting angry – ask yourself, “Is this REALLY about the Cheerios – or is this a symptom of something deeper?”
We’ve all used the expression, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” As I was thinking about it, I couldn’t help but consider how very rarely our anger is really about the “straw.” Instead, it’s about the hundreds of pounds of baggage we’ve been hauling around. We use short-term techniques and remove the straw, but never bother to unload the emotional baggage we’re carrying.
Let me give you a few examples from my own life to help you as you begin to reflect on your own issues:
Messes tend to be a trigger for me. I hate it when things aren’t perfectly put away. Through reflection, I’ve figured out that my need always have a clean home, stems from the deeper issue of feeling like I have something to prove. Feeling like my worth is tied to what I do/how clean my house is/what I achieve, etc. causes me to over-react to things like spills, crumbs, and over-flowing hampers.
It’s good for me to learn how to calmly pick up the Cheerios or practice removing myself from the situation before blowing up. But, it’s better for me to start to work on the root issue of self-worth.
I’m also learning to notice and evaluate patterns in my anger. I tend to be much more susceptible to anger when I’m feeling stressed. As I’ve started to dig deeper, I’m recognizing that I create much of my own stress by making things urgent that aren’t, and wearing “busy” like a badge of honor.
It’s good for me to go take a walk or step away from my devices when I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It’s better for me to break the cycle of being busy for busy’s sake.
Here are some questions for you to reflect on:
- Do you see any patterns regarding when you’re more susceptible to anger?
- What do your triggers have in common?
- What underlying sin issue or root issue could be causing your triggers?
When we figure out what our anger is a symptom of, we can begin to do the real work – the healing work. Yes, let’s continue to remove the “straw”, calm down, and take a break when we feel ourselves get angry. But, let’s not stop there. Let’s dive in, dig deep, and start to unpack our emotional baggage.
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