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I’ve been angry a lot lately.
Not angry about anything big. Just losing my temper at little things. Snapping at people for no real reason.
I’m not usually short-tempered. So, I started praying about it, asking God to help me to stay calm. I felt like a bit of fraud doing this because my most popular blog post is one about how to pray when you’re angry,and here I am speaking too quickly, doing things I regret.
While I was praying about my anger issues, I remembered a quote I wrote down from one of Shauna Niequist’s books. In Bread and Wine, she says, “When something makes you cry, it means something. If we pay attention to our tears, they’ll show us something about ourselves.”
As I read over this again, I wondered if the same wasn’t true for anger. This idea could be transformed: “When something makes you angry, it means something. If we pay attention to our anger, it’ll show us something about ourselves.”
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I became curious about whether my anger was telling me something about my heart.
The next time I felt angry, I was speaking to a colleague. They challenged the way I did something and I snapped at them, closing down the conversation.
A few hours later I remembered: my anger might mean something. I stopped and thought back to the situation. What feeling had made me react angrily? I realized I was angry because I was feeling insecure.
In that instance, it was my fear of being wrong and looking stupid that had caused me to lash out. All this time I’d thought I had an anger issue, when really I had a problem with insecurity.
The next time a colleague pointed out something I could improve on, instead of snapping, I asked them to explain what they meant. I decided to be vulnerable and ask for help instead of pushing them away. Still, sometimes I don’t catch myself fast enough. I’ll say something angrily, then have to apologize and request them to help me improve in that area. This has not been easy.
But my anger problems don’t end there. I find I also lose my temper over things that have nothing to do with feeling insecure. I mutter under my breath at cars in traffic or am rude to shop assistants. I’m not feeling insecure in those moments, so what is causing the anger?
I’ve discovered many of those times, I’m not angry with the person or the situation, I’m just tired.My emotional tank is empty. Instead of practicing ways to keep my tank full, I allow it to become low and as a result found myself struggling to cope with life and my temper.
Another mask for my anger: boundary issues. For instance, I have a colleague who consistently asks me to take on more of their work, despite the fact I have repeatedly said no and clearly don’t have capacity to help. No matter what I do, or how much my boss backs me up, this colleague keeps finding ways to pass their work on to me. Every time this happens I feel angry.
Years ago, I read a book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend called Boundaries. In the book, they explain that when our boundaries are crossed, we feel angry. They define a boundary as “a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.”
Unlike my other bursts of anger, the anger I feel when my colleague ignores my boundaries is healthy. It tells me that I need to protect what I am responsible for or be taken advantage of. While yelling and screaming in response to the infringement of these boundaries is not a right reaction, speaking firmly, standing my ground and refusing to be pushed into doing work that is not mineis a correct response.
Realizing that my anger is telling me something has been a game-changer. I used to be scared of my anger, I felt like it was in control of me. Now, I’m realizing my anger signals my heart needs attention.
Proverbs 4:23. says, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” I’m discovering that sometimes anger is a tool with which I can check where my heart is at. I’m also learning all anger isn’t bad. If I notice what it is telling me, I can become the kind of person who brings life into a situation rather than hurt and destruction.
Why Am I So Angry?
Angry at God
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Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.