#BreakingTheCycle: The Defense of Anger
"Anger is a secondary emotion."
I still remember one of my professors from grad school saying that statement in class one day. I also remember rolling my eyes just slightly, while contorting my face greatly to silently express my disagreement. There was nothing subtle about my facial expressions in that moment (or a lot of moments, if I'm honest). Because you mean to tell me, I had lived my entire life to this point believing there were things I was (rightfully) mad about, but it had all been a secondary reaction?!?! Nope, wasn't buying it!
My professor was not interested in my silent temper tantrum protest I was throwing in my head (his mind-reading skills must have been off that day, darn it). But he went on some more about this topic a little while longer. Then he said something that jolted me and made me unfold my arms. He stated:
If only for a split second, you felt something right before you felt angry. Maybe it was hurt, embarrassment, betrayal or something else, but the truth is you felt it.
Now that's definitely a paraphrase because it's been almost seven years since that course, but it's pretty close to verbatim; because you just don't forget something that changed your thinking so quickly. Even revisiting that story right now, all I can say to myself is, he was so right. And he is still so right.
If you're reading this and you're still on the fence about this whole line of thinking, that's cool (just keep reading though).
There's something about hearing that anger is a "secondary emotion" that's jarring because it almost sounds like it means we shouldn't/can't be upset about things that may have happened to us (or at least that's what I heard). But that's not it. This means, we may be angry, there was just another emotion before that. So why is it easier to cop to being mad, but not those other feelings??? *insert inquisitive emoji face*
I have a theory: Protection. Hear me out. And not just protection from others, protection from ourselves.
As a general rule of thumb, most of us don't bother visibly (or not so visibly) angry people. Either because we think it's dangerous or we don't want to be bothered, but we don't typically volunteer to be in someone else's direct line of anger. So, if we're mad, then that at least puts up a block to us possibly being hurt, scared or abandoned again.
The other part of that is we're also protecting ourselves from ourselves. How can I protect myself from myself Melinda, I'm always with myself?! Happy you asked that question! Not only is it easier to tell someone else we're angry instead of all those other vulnerable emoting words, it's also easier to tell ourselves the same thing. It's far more difficult to sit alone with ourselves and own that we were scared when our mothers didn't protect us, hurt when our fathers abandoned us and embarrassed that we still cared all these years later. So, we go with anger. Because who wants to go through and process all the rest of that stuff anyway???
Well, if we're really invested in healing, changing and just having some sense of peace in our lives, the answer to that question is us. We have to be the "who" that is ready to tackle that stuff.
If you're still with me, yay! If you already tuned me out, at least read the next part to see that God said this first; I'm just re-gifting.
“And don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT
See, I told you. And here a few things that we give the devil a foothold to when we choose anger over healing...
-To place us in isolation by us not letting people get close to us out of fear for the "what if"
-To keep us from full purpose because it's difficult to run a race with the weight of anger
-To keep us riddled with anxiety because we spend so much time trying to predict the moves of others (including God; which is a whole 'nother struggle)
And that list keeps going.
But the question for us today is, are we willing to let the acceptance of anger as a mainstay in our lives rob us of the freedom and joy we could be experiencing?
Chat with God
In what three areas of your life do you hold the most anger?
Why do you choose to keep that anger in those areas?
What is your one sentence prayer to God in this situation?
Please invite a friend to this series who you think would like to join this journey!
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