Be angry (occasionally)

Getting angry is okay as long as you get angry for the right reason with the right person to the right degree using the right words with the right tone of voice and appropriate language. Aristotle

Many people don’t know how to properly express their anger. They either stuff their anger or spew it. Said differently, some hide it, others hurl it. Said again, some people are like turtles (when conflicts arise, they pull into their shells), others are like skunks (when challenged, they spray nasty stuff).

Stuffers are often reluctant to even admit that they’re angry and have a hard time expressing their anger. Spewers are just the opposite; when they’re upset, they let you know, and it’s usually not pretty.

Aristotle’s statement (see above) teaches a wholesome approach to anger. When you’re angry, express it, don’t stuff it, but do so in a proper way—don’t spew.

Getting angry is okay…

Getting angry is often unavoidable and, at times, healthy and the right thing to do because it is our natural response to pain and hurt.

For the right reason…

Get angry over child trafficking; don’t get angry when your newspaper gets wet. Get angry when politicians lie; don’t get angry when your two-year-old knocks over his milk.

With the right person…

When you get angry about something that happens at work, don’t take it out on your spouse or children when you get home. It’s immature, unfair, and irresponsible to flail on someone who was uninvolved in the situation that made you angry.

To the right degree…

If your kid forgets to make his bed, don’t go ballistic. If he sneaks out at night and wrecks your car, go ballistic.

Using the right words…

Don’t curse—that’s obvious; don’t exaggerate—“You’re always late”; and don’t dispense shame—“You’ll never get it.”

With the right tone of voice and appropriate language…

Even right words can be inappropriate when spoken with an improper tone of voice, so be careful not only about what you say but how you say it.

Let me add two more suggestions to Aristotle’s list: (1) While it’s okay to periodically get angry, don’t be an angry person—one who is predisposed to being upset and vexed. If you have a reputation of being an angry person, your anger is out of control. (2) Sometimes we need to “drop an issue” because it’s just not important enough to stall the day. Carol Tavris says, “For some of the large indignities of life, the best remedy is direct action. For the small indignities, the best remedy is a Charlie Chaplin movie. The hard part is knowing the difference.”

Here’s some good advice on how to manage your anger.

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6 thoughts on “Be angry (occasionally)

  1. Good one, Don. With our couple clients (and individual clients too), Laura and I often deal with overcontrolled hostility and other members of the anger family of emotions. The root problem, most of the time, is longstanding unforgiveness. “Forgivelessness” is a common sin among Christian people, including pastors and other leaders.

    • Thanks, John, for taking the time to write. You’re right, forgiveness is a good antidote for anger when the anger is caused by an offense. I like your phrase “members of the anger family of emotions” – it is, indeed, a root issue.

  2. An approach that helps me is to do a simple cost/benefit analysis: What good will my reaction do, as opposed to the hurt or embarrassment it could bring to the other person or myself?

    Sounds simple, but it really works. Hard to do in the moment, but effective even when done “offline”.

    • Jerry, thanks for taking the time to write. Your suggestion is good, I had not thought of that. Performing a cost/benefit analysis is brilliant. Don