Posts tagged Anger

Marriage Monday: Mad Men

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madmenRecently, I was sitting on the couch doing some reading while the rest of my family slept, when my phone chirped. It was a message from a good friend that asked, “Why do so many men struggle with anger?” While many women battle with anger, it seems that men as a whole are more susceptible when it comes to letting anger get the best of them. This is mostly because majority of men have a much lower emotional intelligence than do women. Again, there are plenty of men that have high levels of emotional intelligence, but in general, most men lack an adequate understanding of emotions and the expression thereof.

Anytime I discuss anger, I always like to give the reminder that there is nothing wrong with anger. It is just like any other emotion. God created anger, and it serves a beneficial purpose. It keeps us from getting walked on by others, it helps us stand up for injustice when we see it, and it lets us know where boundaries are too weak. Jesus got angry. There is nothing wrong with anger. It is the way that anger often gets expressed, or not expressed, that is the problem.

Anger becomes a problem when it becomes aggressive. When we try to harm others, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally, anger has become a problem. The anger has moved from being an emotion and has become an intent to wound someone else. Aggression isn’t always expressed outwardly. Many men (and women too) think “Well, I am not slamming doors, yelling, or hitting my spouse so I must not have an anger problem.” But this assumption isn’t true. We are all also familiar with the term passive-aggressive. This is where the intent to wound someone is still there, but it is done by flying under the radar. It is where the silent treatment is given to punish or manipulate the other person. The passive-aggressive person might also withhold or stop meeting the other persons needs intentionally. It can also simply be sneaky meanness. I once new a guy that scrubbed the toilet with his wife’s toothbrush because he was so mad at her and she never knew (don’t worry honey, I would never).

Anger is also a problem when a man is passive. This means he never speaks up and talks about when he gets angry. He wants to avoid conflict, so he just says, “No, big deal. It isn’t worth bringing up.” Sure, some things are worth letting go, but some issues must be dealt with. The passive man eventually gets bitter because he never speaks up and the same problems reoccur.

So why do so many men struggle with not handling anger correctly? Because many men don’t understand why they are angry in the first place. You see, anger is called a secondary emotion. This means that majority of the time; there is an emotion behind the anger. The real emotion stays hidden and the anger gets expressed.

The emotion behind the anger could be anything. A man might feel disappointed, lonely, rejected, embarrassed, hurt, fearful, or any of the other dozens of emotions, but instead of identifying and dealing with the underlying issue anger gets expressed, and often with gusto.

Women often tend to fare better at identifying emotions because they are socialized with a better understanding of emotion and taught that it is healthy to express emotions. Many men, though this trend seems to be changing some with newer generations, are taught to suppress emotion because “guys have to be tough and don’t need to talk about all that stuff.” This later comes at a great price to many men because they don’t know how to identify, much less communicate, what is wrong in their lives. In creates problems in their marriages because when anger becomes aggressive it creates a rift in the relationship, and when men are passive they become bitter and a rift is also created. Either way, distance results in the relationship.

So the first thing men must learn to do is ask, “What is the emotion behind the anger. What is it that is making me mad?” “Am I feeling disrespected, taken advantage of, hurt, lonely? Just exactly what am I feeling?” Simply being mad, and communicating that we are mad does not do anything to fix the underlying problem.

Next, once the underlying emotion behind the anger is identified, it must be communicated and dealt with. Here, another struggle arises for us guys. Many men, even though they might know what the problem is, refuse to discuss the underlying emotion because doing so comes with a certain price, being vulnerable. It is much easier to be mad and act mad than it is to say “When you talk to me that way it makes me feel small”, “When you said that it really hurt my feelings” or “When you invest time in so many areas with little left for me I feel lonely.” Having conversations about our emotional hurts, insecurities, vulnerabilities and problems is not comfortable, but unless we do, the problem will keep occurring, our anger will continue to be expressed poorly and in a damaging way, and our spouse will wonder “Why is he so mad all the time?”

So, to all of us “Mad Men” what is at the core? What emotions are we allowing our anger to hide? We must work to identify them, label them, and then discuss them. Let’s not wait until our wives and kids begin to ask, “Why is he so mad all the time.” Anger can be destructive, but it doesn’t have to be. It is healthy when used as directed.

Identify. Label. Discuss. Change. Heal. Live.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Love Is Not Provoked

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Love Is Not ProvokedThere two types of people in this world: those that walk on egg shells around their spouse, and those that do not. Where do these phrases come from anyway? Have you ever tried walking on egg shells? It is a great way to spread Salmonella. Who needs that? I get the idea, egg shells are easily broken so one has to tread lightly. I think if a person actually tried to walk on egg shells without breaking one it would be an exercise in futility. The tiniest bit of weight and they will shatter…..well….like eggshells. It is the same living with a person that is easily angered, the slightest amount of pressure and out comes a heaping helping of hatred.

So what is it like in your marriage? Is there one or both of you that is doing their best to avoid cracking egg shells? Maybe it is time we pull back and examine our marriage in this area, because a great number of relationships deal with too much anger being present or it is expressed in inappropriate ways. Let’s take an honest look at our lives. Asking your spouse if you have an anger problem really doesn’t work. They might not answer honestly, because they are walking on egg shells, remember? The truth is, however, egg shells have no business in a healthy relationship. Sure, we will all get mad at our spouse sometimes and vice versa. We are human. We make mistakes. We act insensitively at times. We leave our socks out over and over after we have been repeatedly reminded not too. Couples are going to get mad at each other sometime; it simply goes with the territory. But, if anger is like the third member of your family, maybe it is time to address the issue.

The apostle Paul reminds us what it means to love our spouse. Remember, love is patient and kind. It does not envy, nor is it boastful or conceited. It never acts improperly, it is not selfish. Love is not easily provoked. That is to say, love is not touchy or edgy. Love means that your spouse doesn’t have to worry every day whether you will come home happy or hating the world.

I know it is tempting to push back and say, “I am not an angry person. I don’t have an anger problem.” I hope that is true, but I have come to learn that more people deal with anger that one might think. Anger is so insidious. Often, everyone knows that a person has an anger problem but the person with the problem. Every month I teach a class on anger management. It is amusing, because at the beginning of the class everyone introduces themselves and tells why they are in the class. Just about every person adds the caveat, “I don’t have an anger problem.” By the end of the class, about 90% of the people there change that. For the first time they realize they do have a problem with anger, that is why they have been made to take the class!  The other 10% walk out the door happily in denial. They go home and their spouse is back to the egg shells.

A lot of people will label anger as something bad or sinful. Yet, there is nothing wrong with anger. Anger is a God created emotion. It is what we do with anger that makes it sinful. Sometimes we have the right to be angry, but we have to handle that anger correctly. People that are edgy, touchy, snippy, or outright explosive are not dealing with their anger appropriately.

Anger is what is called a secondary emotion. It usually masks other emotions that a person does not feel safe expressing. For example, it is entirely easier to bombard someone with anger than it is to admit feeling disappointed, hurt, lonely, or scared. So often, couples will assault the other person verbally with a barrage of anger in order to avoid discussing their real issue, whether consciously or unconsciously. For the person that is easily provoked, it is important to pull back the layers and ask, “What is really at the root of my anger?” This will not solve the problem, but it allows the real problem to actually be worked on.

Love is not easily provoked. In fact, love is patient, remember? If we find that we are constantly angry or our spouse continually reminds us that we are short and touchy, then maybe it is time to look deep. Maybe it is time to dig down and find out where the anger is coming from. Maybe it is time to have a difficult conversation. A household without broken eggshells is a much happier place to live.

[Anger] devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness. –John Piper

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Stamp Collecting

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I can vaguely remember as a kid, people collecting green stamps. Does anyone remember those? When you shopped at certain supermarkets (or grocery stores, who actually says supermarkets anyway) or specific retailers, you would get these green stamps (aptly named because they were green and they were stamps). They would also give you these books to collect the stamps in, and you could bring them in to the green stamp center and trade them for a various assortment of goodies. The more stamps you collected, the more elaborate the item you could go home with. Some people would save their stamps for years and go home with televisions.

Nowadays, people still use the same gimmick, but the payoff is greatly reduced. Now, collecting stamps might get you a free ice cream at marble slab on your 8th visit or a free sweet tea from Mcalister’s Deli on your 10th trip. But hey, free is still free. So you might as well collect your stamps and cash them in.

While collecting stamps is great when you get free swag (I just love to say swaaag), it isn’t so great in marriage. What is that you say? You have been missing out? Your spouse doesn’t give you stamps to redeem for a free car wash, massage, or a night of dish duty? That isn’t the kind of stamp collecting I am referring to.

Stamp collecting occurs in marriage when our spouse messes up, and instead of letting them know, we put a “stamp” in our book. The next time they fall short, BAM, there goes another stamp in the book. We keep collecting stamp after stamp every time they don’t meet our expectations, let us down, or hurt our feelings.

Then one day, they make a mistake and we cash in every “stamp” we have been accumulating and unleash a fiery wrath down upon their head. Bewildered, they wonder why drinking out of the milk carton or putting the toilet paper on the roll backward is such a huge deal. They have no idea that we have been collecting stamps over the last weeks, months, or years.

Stamp collecting is a bad idea. If our spouses are doing something that bothers us then we must tell them. There is no way for them to fix it unless they are made aware of the situation.  Our spouses will lose every time if we expect them to read our minds.

When we collect stamps it also leaves room for bitterness to take root in our hearts. We stay upset with our spouse for things that are not likely to be fixed. Let’s do ourselves and our spouses a favor and have conversations as they are needed.

Keep collecting stamps and enjoy the free sweet teas and ice creams, but in your marriage just deal with things as they arise.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. –Ephesians 4:26

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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