I recently read some very interesting material in a book entitled “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. He addresses a subject that touches us all. We read about things like road rage,and if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably must admit we’ve had moments when our anger grew hotter than we would like. We have probably said things when angry that we regretted and later apologized for.
Self-control is possible
People appreciate a person whose self-control enables him to calmly withstand the ups and downs of life rather than a person who is a slave to excess emotions and passions. Goleman quotes a scholar named DeBois who translates the Greek word “sophrosyne” as “care and intelligence in conducting one’s life; a tempered balance and wisdom.” Goleman goes on to say, “The goal is balance, not emotional suppression – every feeling has its value and significance. A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself.”
We are often surprised by the emotions that assail us. Our mind seems to have a “mind of its own” sometimes. It is in the conscious control of this “other mind” that we can have an impact. It is OK to be angry – it is not OK to kill because of that anger. This “other mind” of ours is able to downplay and almost erase the overreaction we have made. We “forget” the outpouring of curses from our mouths and excuse them by feeling justified at being angry. We hide behind the justification rather than admit that we are wrong in our reactions.
Another way our “other mind” tricks us is by supplying us with an ever-growing set of “good reasons” for our anger. The longer we ruminate about what has made us angry, the more fuel we add to the fire. “Brooding fuels anger’s flow,” says Goleman.
The effects of anger can be devastating
The Bible has much to say about the control of anger and the avoidance of extreme emotions. A fool’s anger results in shame, embarrassment, strife, contention, self-destruction, cruelty, downfall of empires and so on (Proverbs 29:8, 9, 22; Hosea 7:16). We are told to avoid such people (Proverbs 22:24). This is good advice – for our own safety.
One who refuses to control his or her emotions and anger usually leads a very lonely life. What it takes is will power, along with a great deal of prayer, meditation and bible study. Sometimes it may even require fasting. Just as we may have learned to let loose our anger, we can also learn to contain and properly control it. If we do not learn the lessons of self-control, we will be the losers.
Explosions of anger can hurt other people. A father or mother who is prone to losing their temper may eventually resort to violence towards children. There may be a genuine problem that needs attention and a solution, but uncontrolled anger does more damage than good. Children are also hurt by the bad example, and families suffer.
Paul wrote, “Be angry, and do not sin (Ephesians 4:26).” Anger in itself can be an healthy emotion if used in a Godly fashion. God has given us emotions to make our lives better, but He also expects us to control those emotions and develop character by doing so. One of the ways we can control our emotions is by learning to use our minds to make decisions. We choose how to react to the trials and troubles of life. Excess emotion cuts into the reasoning and thinking process and interferes with the interactions we have with others.
Strategies to gain control
One key to self-control is to take control quickly. Escalating provocations can result in an outburst that may be controlled by taking a timeout, counting to ten, going for a walk, or “sleeping on it.” Often after a frustrating day in a hurried world, we just need peace and quiet at home. Be sure to make time for that when necessary. Identifying problems and having a problem-solving mindset will also help.
We often hear people say, “I just can’t help myself” when they have exploded in anger or allowed some other emotion to become excessive. Those words are excuses not to change. I once told an abusive husband that if his wife were a 300-pound gorilla who pounded him every time he yelled at her, he would learn to quit yelling after the first pounding!
The results of outbursts of anger are often not clear to us until it is too late. Once the anger comes out, the damage has already been done. I have spoken to people who have lost their mates, friends or jobs due to a lack of self-control. They have been willing to do almost anything to get back that which was lost – except really and truly change. Yet, all of us can change and, as a matter of fact, as life goes on we do change. Change is in our power; it takes character and honesty - the honesty to face up to a personal fault and to seek God's help in correcting that fault. Anger management classes can also help. They are conducted with the understanding that we can control that rage.
I have found that the more we excuse our behaviors, the less likely we are to take the needed action to correct them. Habits are formed. We might even think of them as “addictions”, often because our mind accepts an addiction better than the concept of habit when we are trying to excuse a behavior. Saying we have an addiction is tantamount to saying, “I cannot help it.” Habits can be broken, but it does take hard work, diligent effort, self-discipline, humility and honesty. Those are the very qualities we love in people, what we respect, and deep within ourselves, how we would like to be.
Facing our anger, admitting its power, thinking about ways to stop it, praying for God to help and seeing ourselves as people in control of anger and other emotions is the image we need to develop in our minds to replace the weak image of a person who is helpless. You are not helpless. God must be a part of the transformation, then you can control your anger – just do it!
To learn more about controlling your emotions through a relationship with the Creator of those emotions, request a copy of our free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.