Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Anger and Rage

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Ok, I have tried to start this post three times now.  I'm frustrated and really I'm afraid of who might read this post and get mad.  Well I'm tired of mincing words.

This past month has been one of the most emotionally exhausting months I've had in a long time.  I was deeply wounded and am still hurting from it, but from this incident I have learned so much.

For a long time I had anger issues.  I first discovered this about 10 years ago.  I grew up in a very angry household.  I was never beat, but I saw anger misused as rage, manipulation and isolation.  There was one incident in particular where I learned to use anger as a weapon and I won.  I won over the angry person in our house.  I discovered I had power over the most powerful person in my life, up till that point.  And I learned that I could use it to manipulate people too.  I became controlling.  Strangely enough, when I took up the rage, that person started to mellow.  The baton was passed, so to speak.  I had no idea how damaging rage can be.  For both the person recieving it and the person giving it.  Probably even moreso for the later.

More recently there was an incident of anger, not mine.  From this incident I have learned so much about my anger.  First of all, anger is not the problem.  Anger is an emotion.  It is what one does with anger that is the problem.  Yelling, screaming, throwing things, murder, beating, breaking things, hateful words, shaming words, insert your own here, are all examples of wrongful displays of anger.  In short, rage.  I had once believed, as so many do, that anger is a sin.  It is not.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, Eph 4:26.  
Notice this doesn't say 'don't be angry, or don't get angry'.  It says 'Be angry'.  Oh wow!  Be angry, go ahead and get angry!  It's permission!  But then, the caveat 'and do not sin.'  Maybe this is old news to you, but for me this was revolutionary.  Ok, so I knew that from a while ago, but I struggled in not sinning when I was angry.  I also struggled in not having angry as my primary emotion.  And it was.

And the second 'revolutionary' lesson that I knew but didn't really know how to act on it was that anger is a secondary emotion.  The first emotion is hurt.  It usually begins with some sort of wounding and we react with anger to protect ourselves.  I know I did.  And up until recently I would get hurt, or perceive a hurt and for a moment feel hurt and then I would get angry.  And I would react.  Someone would get yelled at, manipulated or berated in some fashion.  And I'd hang on to it.  But I'd never really deal with the root of the issue.  The hurt.  The pain.  It would stay there and fester.  The pain would grow and thus so would the anger.  The bigger the pain, the wounding, the bigger the anger and the bigger the rage.

Like I said, up until recently.

You see the incident I saw sparked an old memory of the first powerful, rage-filled person in my life.  And that hurt was happening all over again.  Like I said, I was deeply wounded by what happened most recently, but that wounding just dug deeper in an existing one.  The Lord worked and for some reason I did not get angry.  Instead I did what I had failed for so long to do.  I actually felt the hurt.  And, it hurt.  It sucked.  I bawled, hard, for the incident and all the other incidents that the first angry person had done.  And I realized that anger is indeed a choice.  It was hard to not go there.  But when I took the time to be vulnerable and feel the pain, anger isn't as much of a temptation.

Up until that point I had always told people that I was an angry person.  That was a mistake.  Yes, I dealt with anger issues, maybe that was a better way to put it, but to say that I was an angry person is like saying I'm a white woman.  I can't change that I'm white or a woman.  It predisposes me to the behavior.  I don't say that anymore.  I don't need to say that anymore.  I can securely say that I am not an angry person anymore.  Anger does not control me.  I am still tempted by it, sure and I still go there, but it is smaller than me now.  Before it loomed bigger than my world.  It was my world.  Now it is a part of my world that I am working to make even smaller, perhaps eliminate.  It dictated what and who I was going to be everyday.  Now I choose it.  Or don't.  But it's a choice.

I am no longer an angry person.  Instead I realize that I have a whole heap of hurt that I've covered up for years and I'm more prone to crying than I was before, but you know what?  Once I've cried about it and gotten it out, it doesn't hurt quite as much.  Anger prohibits healing.

Granted, I am sure there are very real situations where anger is used in a good way.  I won't argue with you there, but I have no good examples, save Jesus in the temple, of well used anger.  Most of it is sinful.  Seriously.  I am one of them.

I have learned so much.  I feel like I've grown ages in the past month.  But I hurt, my bloggy friends, I hurt.  And that's ok.  Because hurt you can heal from and move on, anger lasts.  Trust me, I know.  Old anger just breeds bitterness.  I promised myself I would not become a bitter pastors wife, a bitter mom, a bitter friend.  I've seen a lot of those.

A new journey!  And a beautiful one.


Kim said...

Good for you, Kathryn!!! I, too, have been having some anger issues, but I wasn't angry in the past, so I think most of it is being tired :( I do wonder what makes me so angry, though.

I'm so glad you posted that verse - I'm in a mom's group online and someone posted about 'disciplining' their child for anger and I just didn't get it and then threw out a bunch of 'anger = sin' stuff, and I could do nothing but say, 'I don't think so!'. Now I can back it up :D

It's amazing how well hurt can be masked by anger, hey? And it's so much easier to feel the real emotion - hurt - and to move on once the emotion is felt. If you only feel the anger, you can never move past it. This is definitely one of the reasons I don't want to discourage my kids from their feelings - so that they can recognize them as an emotion, feel it, and move through it, understanding that their emotions don't have power over them.

Thanks for a fantastic post.

Donna said...

Thank you, Kathryn! I know this was not an easy journey (and probably still isn't over), but thank you for sharing it.

TammyIsBlessed said...

I'm so glad you are healing finally. It's unfortunate that the healing process hurts so much. But in the end, it leads to regeneration and renewal. It will be worth it!

Shannon said...

You and I are so very similar. Thanks for sharing and I pray you find healing. ((Kathryn))