|photo credit: Betsy Barber|
So, I was just listening to an actually helpful podcast* on the subject of anger, and they pointed out that anger is a “secondary emotion”, i.e., it comes out of something more primary. That if someone’s snarling, you need to ask, why? What’s the fear, the hurt, the perceived threat underneath that?
I thought that was a great insight. When I'm angry, it's often because I want to strike out against something that I feel is threatening me.
And then the podcast folks went on to talk about how you deal with those underlying issues in a marriage relationship. How you bring them out, look at them together, figure them out. And I could totally follow that. In marriage, we’re committed. And we know each other. And – at least in my marriage – I feel like I can trust the good intentions of the other person.
But it got me wondering: how do you handle that in other relationships - in relationships that are less close, less committed? It's not like you want to open up your deep issues with every single person who ticks you off!
What do you do when you're mad with someone you don't trust? Who you're not willing to "get into it" with?
Part of the reason this bothers me, I think, is I'm such a "J" on the Meyers-Briggs scale: I want things in my life to be well-defined, clear-cut, decided.
So when I'm mad at someone, I feel like my only two options are: 1) Fix it, or 2) Ignore them completely.
But that's a bit silly. It's a childish sort of black-and-white thinking. In real life, there are people you can't change and you still don't want to ignore.**
Here's as far as I've gotten on the problem: I can't change them, so I need to change me.
Or at least, my stance. And my view. Not who I am, but how I approach things.
Here's the question I've been asking myself about people who make me feel growly: How can I approach them in peace?
It comes back to the Golden Rule. How would I like to be approached? In peace. Even if I'm the person who someone doesn't trust, who someone finds annoying and aggravating, I'd like to be approached in peace. With all the possibilities on the table - including the possibility that it will go well.
I guess what I'm saying is: if I'm not willing to "get into it" with someone, all that leaves is just plain old forgiveness. Letting it go. Leaving it to the Lord, who - praise Him - is willing to "get into it" with all of us.
Because He loves us that much.
But what do you think? I'm only beginning to ponder this, so this post is really an as-I-am-thinking-about-it sort of an entry, not an I-figured-it-out! sort of entry. Where are you at on how you deal with anger? And what works for you?
Peace of Christ to you,
*The interview was with Chip Ingram on Family Life Today.
**I'm not talking about boundaries here, or people you actually do need to protect yourself from. I'm assuming you're keeping appropriate boundaries, and avoiding situations that are actually dangerous - emotionally or otherwise. (That's a post for another day!)