We don’t need a study to prove that numerous people struggle with anger management. Yet, what is even worse than uncontrolled anger is anger that is displaced. Like a bullet fired with bad aim, displaced anger targets the wrong entity because the person who has been triggered fails to acknowledge their aggression issues. And whenever we fail to admit we are angry and the true reason why we feel that way, the end result will always be harm.
As common as displaced anger has become, it is often never seen or recognized as such. The following are a few examples that come from the real lives I have had the honor of serving and learning from. (Their names have been changed to respect their privacy.)
Larry is a middle-aged man who wants absolutely nothing to do with God. As a child, Larry experienced both religion and abuse at the hands of his adoptive parents (pastor and first lady).
Bad Aim: God
Good Aim: Rejection and mistreatment by his “family”
During her morning commute, Yolanda received a terrifying phone call from a doctor. Her beloved husband has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Instead of going home or taking time to process her feelings, she attempts to go into work as normal. Soon after her arrival, she misreads a report and blows up on her colleague, “You never do anything right!”
Bad Aim: Colleague
Good Aim: Disappointment and fear due to the doctor’s report
Andrea is a woman in her mid-30s with infertility issues. Every time she sees a teen mom, she simmers inside, “She doesn’t deserve to be a mother! I did it the right way and waited until I was married.”
Bad Aim: A young, unwed mother
Good Aim: Grief over not being able to bear children
Andrew, a homeless, 25-year-old man with substance abuse issues gets another chance to live a decent life. A financially wealthy bachelor takes Andrew in, helps him find work at a nearby grocery store, and even buys him a bicycle to get there. One evening, jealousy gets the best of Andrew and he blows up on his gracious roommate, “You walk around here with no cares in the world. You don’t even know what it feels like to be poor. Man, you make me sick!”
Bad Aim: Gracious roommate
Good Aim: Shame in himself for making wrong life choices
Unfortunately, in each situation an innocent person was attacked. Whether between lovers, parent and child, roommates, or co-workers, displaced anger has enough firepower to destroy any relationship. However, attacks do not only involve people. It can include systems as well.
Qualon is only 5 years old, and he already hates the police. At the age of 4, law enforcement removed Qualon from an unsafe living environment and now foster care is his new home.
Bad Aim: Police
Good Aim: Heartbroken, lonely, and frustrated about being separated from his family
Tony is a 36-year-old man who has just been served child support papers, “That #@$&% just want my money, and the system always trying to hold us back!” In addition to picking fights with his ex-girlfriend, Tony decides to spend even less time with his children.
Bad Aim: Ex-girlfriend, the government, his children
Good Aim: Embarrassment due to not being a proper provider
Giving excuses, blaming others, and behaving aggressively to distract from one’s own failures, fears, and flaws has created more casualties than firearms alone. If we are to enjoy healthy homes, work places, and communities, each person must choose to be courageous when it counts the most, which is when you are in the wrong. Instead of lashing out at innocent bystanders, one must learn to harness their anger and use it as fuel to be constructive not destructive. If any of the real life examples previously shared made you feel uncomfortable, uncertain, or defensive, lean in and keep reading. There is a way to put anger in its place before it makes a fool out of you:
Be Mindful of your mind, body, and emotions when life is not going your way. If your thoughts are hostile, if your body is tense, and if you feel overwhelmed or stressed, these are all signs that you need to slow down and take a pause. (For tips on what to do during your time of pause, click here.)
Be Rational. Once you are centered, you can now face life rationally. Acknowledge that you are upset and admit the real reason why you feel that way. (For a list of the different forms of anger, click here.) Next, analyze the dilemma and the part you played.
Be Courageous. After your emotions are stabilized and your mind is settled, it is time to express yourself and engage with others in a healthy way. Take full responsibility for your actions and decisions. Speak open and honestly to all, but only share your intimate feelings with those who care. Remember, focusing on the past will not prove fruitful. Keep the conversation relevant, solution-oriented, and forward in context.
Although diplomacy does not guarantee unity, it is possible to govern yourself and how you respond to others. Take time to self-reflect. How has unresolved anger ripped through your inner peace and relationships? To anyone you have harmed with your words, actions, or attitude, ask for forgiveness (without excuses); and regardless if it is granted, forgive yourself and anyone who has harmed you.
Now that you have learned how to put anger in its place, keep it there with these 7 Anger Management Tips:
1. Remove or keep at a distance anyone who is not emotionally safe for your heart. (Don’t know what it means to be emotionally safe? Click here.)
2. Take an emotional inventory on a daily basis and strive to release whatever is irritating you before the day ends.
3. Post and/or memorize inspirational quotes and encouraging Bible verses about anger. Here are 2 of my favorites:
“You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger …” -- James 1:19 (NASB)
“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!” -- Unknown
4. Minimize the amount of worry in your heart and grumbling in your speech by focusing on what is within your control.
5. Get accustomed to saying, “I was wrong,” and be proactive in getting support to overcome your anger issues.
6. Add a mentor or an accountability partner to your inner circle -- an understanding person who walks the walk and talks the talk (the truth).
7. Practice healthy de-stressing techniques not just when you are under pressure, but on the regular.
We have all been created to enjoy healthy relationships with God, ourselves, and others; but when we do not appropriately handle the anger within, we wound one another. Just as violent behavior is taught, so is respect. Instead of pointing the finger, may we each look into the mirror and make peace our lifelong pursuit and posture.