How to Deal with Anger

I don’t know what it is, but every time I get behind the steering wheel of a car the worst part of human nature comes to the surface more easily. Is it the same for you? Just yesterday I had an incident driving home from church. Another driver almost hit me because of his own selfishness and bullying, and then yelled at me as if it was my fault (with the obligatory comments about women drivers). If I had thought about it fast enough I would have answered him, “I feel sorry for your wife!” (who was sitting next to him). It’s better I didn’t because he probably would have gotten out of the car and punched me! I must admit, to my shame, that I did make it clear to him I thought he was crazy. As I drove away and tried to calm down I knew I had a choice: feed my anger or let it go. With difficulty I chose the second option. Towards that end I didn’t mention the incident to anyone.

Anger is a natural reaction to injustice, mistreatment, and wrongs of every kind. Books have been written on the subject, and don’t worry, I’m not going to do so here. I just want to share my own short observation and conclusion on the matter: humans can’t handle anger adequately and therefore should get rid of it as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean we should pretend  it doesn’t exist or try to ignore our emotions. On the contrary, it’s important and healthy to acknowledge our anger…. and then kiss it goodbye.

Let me use my admittedly very minor car encounter as an illustration. The other driver’s selfish and arrogant behavior made me angry. Was I justified? Certainly. But God has made it clear as to the course of action we should take: don’t vent, and let go. I was half-successful with the first part (not due to any great self-control, but only because I didn’t think fast enough), but was more obedient with the second part.

Now I know it’s very difficult to follow God’s desire in this matter. In fact, it often goes against every cell in our being. I have as much difficulty as anyone (just ask my mom!). But there are two truths that help me. First of all, I remind myself that God will deal with the injustice or wrong that has happened. It won’t be ignored. He has made it clear that He is the one who will repay. And secondly, I tell myself that it’s for my own good. Anger acts like a poison that destroys the soul. I could have fed that anger yesterday, and it would have ruined my evening. Would that driver have been any worse off? No. But I would have let the anger gnaw at me, sucking any joy from my life. It’s not worth it!

I’m sure we all know some angry people. Are they happy? No. They make life difficult for themselves and for everyone around them. Yesterday’s driver can be counted in that group, and I even feel compassion for him. Who wants to live like that? I don’t. God doesn’t want us to, either. That’s why He’s made it clear what we should do. I’ll repeat it again: don’t vent, and let go.

May I interrupt you for a second?

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