When I was a little girl and there were thunder and
lightning storms, my family used to turn off all the
lights and sit in front of our wall of glass doors
and windows and watch the lightning illuminate the
mountains. It was beautiful. Our dog, on the other
hand, would shake with fear, whimper, and try to hide.
We would hold her, comfort her, and pray for her.
She didn't see the beauty in the lightning.
Lightning happens when a charge of electrons builds
up in the clouds, creating an imbalance of negative
electric charges in the atmosphere. These negative
charges naturally try to equalize themselves with
positive charges. They eventually overcome the resistance
in the air and zap, making the flash that we see,
which heats up the air very rapidly. When the lightning
is gone, the air cools quickly, creating a shock wave,
which we hear as thunder.
Anger is like lightning and thunder. Negative emotions
may build up in us. At times, they seem to outweigh
our positive feelings to such an extent that we explode,
strike, and send those negative charges through the
atmosphere. Anger changes and intensifies the environment.
We overheat. When we are angry, we are imbalanced,
irrational, out of control. Anger can wound the spirit,
kill relationships, and generally wreak havoc.
I was talking with a student who was sent to the
office because he got angry at a teacher who, he felt,
refused to listen to him and his side of the story.
The student felt trapped, so he exploded. Even though
he knew that he had not expressed himself in the best
way, he felt he had expressed himself in the only
way he could at the moment. He was trying to regain
a sense of balance or control in his life.
How many of us get angry because we don't feel listened
to, appreciated, or understood? And how often have
we been on the other end -- not listening, not appreciating,
and not trying to understand, thus indirectly adding
fuel to the fire? It's interesting that most of the
references to anger in the Bible deal with anger being
"kindled." When we "kindle" a
fire, it burns and destroys.
How can we help ourselves and others put out this
fire of anger?
Certainly NOT by venting our anger or acting in anger!
If we keep expressing or fueling our anger, we will
stay angry. But we also should not bottle up our feelings
until we explode. That's what happens with lightning.
Rather, we must realize that it's okay to feel. There
will probably be times when we do feel angry, upset,
hurt. But it is NOT okay to let our anger destroy
us or others, or overtake our ability to think calmly
and make positive, worthwhile decisions.
We need to find effective ways to handle our feelings,
to find our balance, so that we can express ourselves
in the best possible way, regardless of the situation.
The most important concept to realize is that while
anger causes many problems, anger itself is not the
problem; it is only a symptom of a larger problem,
a problem we want solved and don't know how to solve.
Once we realize this, we must search for the solutions.
- requires a great deal of humility and maturity;
- forces us to stop blaming others for being the
cause of our anger;
- makes us examine ourselves and start learning
why we are reacting to situations and people with
As we examine ourselves it is extremely helpful to
- Why am I angry?
- Is what I'm angry about really worth all my emotional
energy? Is it worth losing my control and equilibrium?
- Is this "problem" worth sacrificing
my self-respect? Do I really want to play the fool?
- Am I making the problem bigger than it really
- Do I really want to give someone else the power
over my thoughts and feelings?
- In twenty, fifty, one hundred years, will this
issue be significant?
Except for cases of abuse, these questions usually
help us see that we're getting angry about something
that's not that important. Or sometimes we realize
that we're the problem: we've had a bad day, and we're
taking it out on our friends. Asking and answering
these questions helps us put things in perspective
and restore balance to our lives. We realize that
our reaction, our anger, is disproportionate to the
event that we believe caused our reaction.
If we truly feel that there is a real problem, then
we need to ask ourselves:
- What is the real problem, since anger is not the
- How can I best solve the problem?
- Does the best solution to the problem include
another person? Should we discuss the issues?
- Or, is the best solution to the problem for me
to work it out alone with God -- to work on my own
relationship with God?
The best place to find answers is always God. The
most important step we can take in freeing ourselves
from the sudden grip of anger is to work on our own
relationship with God. In so doing, God will tell
us if we need to discuss the problem with another,
when to discuss it, what to say, and how to listen
to another. In our discussion, we must not kindle
any anger. Therefore, we need to:
- make sure that we do not accuse others by using
the word "you
(verbally pointing the finger);
- make "I" statements -- "I feel
- watch our tone of voice; if our tone of voice
is tense and angry, others will not want to listen
to us, and we will have failed before we've even
worked towards a solution;
- listen openly to others and appreciate their point
In the heat of the moment, remaining calm, asking
ourselves important questions, and speaking in a peaceful
tone of voice is often hard to do. But we must make
a concerted effort to provide ourselves with the best
possible conditions in which to solve the problem.
Anger strips us of our ability to think and act clearly,
making honest and genuine communication impossible.
Therefore, our goal should be to respond rather
- Responding means that we are in control, able
to think clearly about what to say or do.
- Reacting means that we are out of control, acting
before we think.
If we can put our trust wholeheartedly in the Father's
hands, then we will find that we will be able to respond
with love. Responding with love eliminates anger we
feel and helps us defend ourselves against anger others
The Bible tells us: