The way my four adult children deal with what life throws at them is intriguing.
One of them tends to share her emotions with the entire world. Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but if she is angry or “ticked off”, or excited and joyful, we all know! The others often require a bit of prodding to prise out of them what is percolating inside.
One of the trickiest emotions to deal with, I think, is anger. Anger can manifest itself in so many ways. When we are angry it can exit our mouths as sarcasm, criticism or passive-aggression. Sometimes it sits menacingly below the surface, deep in our hearts, and then suddenly bursts out at the most inappropriate times. Some people present to the world a very calm demeanour, yet inside they are holding the anger so tightly that it harms their mental health.
How other people view our anger can also be complex. For example, if those around us agree with our reason for being angry, they will see as appropriate the way that anger is displayed. However, if our reason for anger is not justified by others, then we are judged and criticised.
Take, for example, our reactions to the COVID-19 restrictions. There have been plenty of displays of anger about lockdowns, about people not heeding the government’s advice, about the lack of people being inoculated and even the quantity of toilet paper shoppers purchase! These displays of anger pop up on social media feeds and television screens often inciting viewers to express their own anger about the issue.
Learning to deal with anger is critical for our wellbeing. So, it is heartening for me to know that even Jesus, in his humanity, showed a wide range of emotions. He wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35), and he showed his anger when he discovered the bad behaviour going on in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Jesus was not afraid to express his emotions.
So, what can we do about our anger? Obviously, if our anger is out of control, then professional help must be sought. Many people will find it helpful to share their feelings confidentially with someone they trust. As they say, a trouble shared is a trouble halved.
As Christians, we believe that prayer can be extraordinarily helpful when it comes to dealing with our emotions. If you are reading this article and you are struggling with anger, or any other difficult emotion, I invite you now to bring this to God in prayer.
As you begin to pray, trust that God cares deeply for you and makes no judgements about you. Expressing your anger, disappointment, grief or joy and thankfulness are all emotions that God can deal with.
Prayer for the journey
If you are looking for some words to pray when dealing with difficult emotions, I recommend that you print this prayer and keep it somewhere handy. That way, when you feel the anger starting to build, you can pull it out and allow yourself to bring your emotions to God.
Loving God, you know me so well.
Sometimes my life is an emotional rollercoaster.
Right now, I’m feeling so angry [or insert whatever emotion you are feeling].
Sadness, rage, confusion and frustration fill my heart.
My chest feels so tight as I try to keep the feelings contained.
I’m afraid that if my emotions burst out, everyone will see them.
I trust that you hear me and are near to me now in this difficult time.
Please, God, provide me with people I can trust to share my feelings.
When I express my emotions, may they be received with kindness, understanding, love and respect.
May I, in turn, reach out and show kindness to those whose emotions reflect anger, sadness, pain or confusion.
Jesus, I know that you also experienced anger and pain.
May I always know you are here, and that you understand my pain,
and that you do not pass judgement on me, but love me, as I make my way through life’s challenges.
Is anger good or bad?
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that anger is described as a “principal passion”, along with love and hatred, desire and fear, joy and sadness.
As such, anger is neither morally good nor evil. So, “feelings” of anger are natural and okay, but it is what we “do” with our anger that is the question.
If you are struggling with anger and it is getting out of control, we encourage you to seek guidance via a health professional and, as appropriate, seek spiritual guidance from a person you can trust and who is experienced in dealing with emotional wellbeing.
Words: Sharon Brewer