In our home, we have gas logs in our fireplace. To operate the gas logs, one has to turn the key that allows the natural gas to flow to the logs. Then, once the gas is turned on one has to push in on the igniter button that causes the gas to flow to the logs, igniting the fire. Anger is like the fire, but something has to be pushed and turned to ignite it. What pushes your button to ignite your anger?
Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 NIV). Obviously, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get angry. How do we deal with anger appropriately? How do we prevent anger from exploding, affecting our relationships, or imploding, doing serious damage internally?
Let me offer the following strategies when your buttons are pushed:
- Understand why you get angry.
Realize what buttons people have to push to ignite our fire. Anger is simply a symptom of our buttons being pushed. It isn’t our real problem. It says that something much deeper is wrong. The better we understand ourselves, the better we’ll be able to control our anger. Think about it, if we hit our thumb with a hammer, we’re going to get angry. If we get hurt emotionally, we’ll get angry as well. For example, “The divorce is far from over for the former spouses who are angrily ever after. In a study of people who have been divorced, one out of three people, slightly more than one-third of men and women after 10 years, still feel ‘intense feelings of anger’ associated with the former marriage.” Why? Divorce hurts. The deeper our pain, the deeper our anger. When we deal with our hurt—our buttons, we’ll deal with our anger.
2. Look to God not others for your self-worth.
We have a tendency to look to others, jobs, achievements, children, and a thousand other things to define our self-worth. These are our buttons. If things are going well in these areas, we feel good. If things are going bad, we feel awful.
A sense of self-worth is essential to controlling anger. Insecure people are easily angered. Confident people are not. When we have a sense of self-worth, we can handle hurt, frustration, and insecurity much easier. The more insecure we are, the more we depend on the opinions of others to feel good about ourselves. If we’re insecure and someone says something bad about us, anger will follow because our self-worth is dependent upon the approval of others. If we want to overcome anger, we can’t get uptight when people criticize us. How do we get that kind of self-confidence? Solomon wrote, “Reverence for the Lord gives confidence and security to a man” (Proverbs 14:26 GNB). To overcome anger, believe what God says about us. Believe that he has a plan and purpose for our lives. Like Joseph, God can use the misfortunes and setbacks to accomplish a greater good. When we remember that, we won’t blow up when someone criticizes us.
3. Stop and think before reacting or responding.
When our buttons are being pushed, step back. Often, when we’re angry, our mouth is moving before we’ve thought about what we’re saying. Proverbs 16:23 (GNB) says, “Intelligent people think before they speak.” Because angry words come so easily, thinking is a key to anger management. We need to put our mind in gear before we engage our mouth. When angry, we need to delay our response. Thomas Jefferson once said, “If you’re angry, count to 10. If you’re very angry, count to 100.” And during that time, we want to ask ourselves: Is this something worth flaming up over? Is this something worth screaming and yelling about? Is this something worth getting all worked up about? Is this something worth venting about? Remember that once we vent, it’s like the eruption of a volcano—we may feel better but look at all the damage we have left in our wake.
4. Learn to relax.
Temper and tension always go together. Some people are wound so tightly that anything ticks them off. It’s week after week of tension, and they’re wondering why they’re yelling at their loved ones when they get home. Be aware when tension is building up. If we can notice tension building, we can relieve that tension in a healthy way. When stressed and ready to blow our top, run, shoot baskets, hit a racquetball—get the body moving. Sometimes we just take things too seriously. I am constantly reminding myself: “Take God very seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.”
5. Continually ask God for help.
Most importantly, we need God’s help to overcome anger. The first four fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 are love, joy, peace, and patience. We need those if we’re going to overcome anger. When the world puts pressure on us and we feel squeezed, what’s inside is going to come out. When we’re filled with the Spirit of God, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control will come out.
So, the next time your buttons are pushed, consider these strategies and act upon them. You will be glad you did.
Did you know that if we practiced love our relationships would be stronger, our jobs would be more meaningful, and our ailments would be fewer? Earlier this year I wrote an encouraging book on love called Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love. The book gets its title from perhaps the greatest statement ever made on love in 1 Corinthians 13. This book provides a guide to love, and, if practiced, it will make us well and whole. Click here to claim your copy.