Caring for a loved one can sometimes bring out the worst side of anger in us. Here are 5 practical tips that will help you to deal with your anger in a way that is honoring to God.
We all get angry at times. It’s part of life.
Sometimes it’s the small things that set us off, like getting behind a super slow driver when you are in a big hurry, or a waiter making a mistake on your dinner order, or long lines at the post office.
Sometimes it’s the big things, like when you experience cruelty, betrayal, injustice, selfishness or deceit.
Caring for our loved ones can bring out the best in us, but it also can bring out the worst. Anger is a normal response to stress, trauma and grief. God cares about what makes you angry, and He cares about how you express your anger. With God’s help, you can learn how to deal with your feelings and walk in His peace.
Before covering some practical tips on how to deal with your anger, I’d like to start by sharing a story written by Quin Shever and Ruthanne Garlock from their book, A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare.
Several years ago I accompanied my husband, John Garlock, on a ministry trip to Guatemala. One day our host took us to the ancient city of Antiqua to visit an historical museum. This region had once been inhabited by the Mayan Indians, but the Spanish conquered the area in the early 1500’s. A huge mural in the museum depicts the conflict.
The Mayan Indians – who fought with bow and arrow – were known to be brave, fierce warriors. But the Spanish soldiers had a distinct advantage because they wore armor, and they had horses and guns. Horses were unknown in the Western Hemisphere at that time. So when the Indians saw one of these swift-footed beings with an armored soldier attacked, they thought it all one creature.
They aimed at the horse, not realizing that the real enemy was the soldier astride the horse. Their arrows felled the horses in great numbers, but the armored soldiers jumped from their mounts and shot the Indians with their muskets. The Mayans were massacred by the hundreds, and the Spanish easily seized control of the entire region.
“What a great illustration for spiritual warfare!” I exclaimed to my husband as we looked at the wall-to-wall painting. “The Indians were defeated because they failed to recognize the real enemy riding on the horse’s back – and that’s exactly what happens to countless Christians. They shoot at one another instead of fighting the devil.”
Well, then,” John responded, “when another person confronts us with meanness and malice, we’d better remind ourselves, “He’s not the enemy, he’s only the horse!” Perhaps a laughable analogy, but graphic nevertheless.
The Bible says, “ Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness].” Ephesians 4: 26,27 (Amplified Bible)
The word “sin” is defined as “missing the mark,” which is an archer’s term used to describe any shot that does not hit a perfect bullseye. “Shooting clean” means to shoot a perfect score.
So how do we deal with our anger and not sin or miss the bullseye? How do we shoot clean?
1. Establish safety rules before you start shooting.
Take the time, when you are both calm, to talk about what it is going to take to make you both feel safe. A couple of examples could include: timeouts in which both of you will step back and not engage until you both calm down; setting clear boundaries with unambiguous consequences.
2. Identify your target.
Remember your “enemy” is not the person, so don’t shoot them! Instead, shoot at what is riding them.
3.”Aim small, miss small”
Instead of just shooting in the general direction of the target, you will have better accuracy if you pick a small detail on the target and aim for that instead. Focus on one issue at a time.
4. Beware of tunnel vision.
• Remember that person is not ALL bad. Look for the good.
• Remember to look around. Are their innocent bystanders nearby? Are your children getting hit by stray arrows?
5. Don’t forget who the real target is.
The real target is the Devil; he is the rider. John 10:10 says that he is the thief who “comes to steal, kill and destroy.” He wants to obliterate your relationships and breakup your home. Aim at him!
Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” When you are angry, aim carefully and choose your words wisely.