Strategies for Managing Anger in Relationships
As we look at relationships today we have to ask: what has gone wrong? From Columbine to child abuse to divorce, we watch as rage, betrayal, seduction and selfishness destroy lives and relationships. Marriages are falling apart, unhappy and conflictual. Families are abusive, strained, distant. Friendships are superficial, fragile and lack accountability. Business relationships are characterized by distrust, tension, competition and jealousy.
While relationships can seem formidable and difficult we still desire to be connected and enjoy great relationships – even in the workplace! What does it take to relate with others in a meaningful way? How can we personally overcome -anger- that enemy which causes so much relationship distress!
“All of us have experienced anger. Some of us have cringed under the rage in our families, struggled with it in our souls, felt it toward our friends, co-workers and loved ones. Some of us have shocked others with volcanoes of anger. The evidence abounds that we live in a mad, mad, mad world. Statistics report:
- 23% of Americans openly express their anger.
- 39% say they hold it in or hide it.
- 23% say they walk away.
- 23% confess to having hit someone.
- 17% admit they have destroyed someone’s property out of anger.”
(Resource: What’s Good About Anger? by Lynette Hoy and Ted Griffin)
Scriptural insights: While anger is potentially harmful, the Bible contains examples of how God was able to accomplish His purpose through angry people.
Nehemiah writes about his angry reaction to social injustice in Nehemiah 5:6-7. He took positive action to confront oppressive officials in Israel and reverse injustice. Paul provides instructions regarding anger in Ephesians 4:25-6 “In your anger, do not sin.. do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
Practical strategies for handling anger:
When a co-worker says harshly: “You didn’t let me know you were going to lunch early and I ended up taking all the calls!” or
When your boss states indignantly: “You didn’t finish the contract and now, we’ve missed the deadline!”
Rather than lashing out in anger, defensiveness or concealing it, you can pray for Christ to help you respond with a gentle answer, and assertiveness such as:
…”I am sorry that you had so many calls while I was gone. I did mention to you that I would be going to lunch early this morning. Any ideas on how we can avoid this situation in the future?”
…”Say more about the contract deadline please? I understood the deadline was tomorrow.”
When you are able to control your anger, it may help defuse the other person’s anger and promote respectful dialogue. Take a risk this week and ask God to turn your anger into a gentle assertiveness. Learning strategies to overcome anger – a prime relationship enemy – will get you further down the road to success in all your relationships.
© copyright 2003 Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC