What To Do When You Are Overcome With Anger

overcome with anger

*written by my husband, Evan*

There I was, standing in the street, screaming at the other car, demanding the other driver get out of his car. . . . I only wanted to share the love of Jesus with him, I promise!

Actually, in all seriousness, I wanted to knock his teeth out for committing that egregious, despicable, heinous act.

He cut me off.

I mean, how dare he?! Who does he think he is?

I clearly had the right of way, and he just took it! I had to slam on my brakes just to avoid hitting him! I was right and I was more than willing to inform him, shouting at the top of my lungs, and saying some things that I will not repeat here.

As I returned to the car, parked in the middle of the street (thankfully on a side road), I climbed inside and found my wife crying and trying to console my kids who were very confused and scared.

Instantly, I realized that I had screwed up. Screwed up, like, A LOT.

overcome with anger

My pride screamed at me to keep acting as though I had been justified in my actions.

I was just defending our family! I had every right to yell at him, he cut me off and almost caused an accident! Yeah, I showed that guy what’s up, he just drove off, obviously terrified of me.

All these thoughts were crammed into my mind by my pride, trying desperately to keep me from admitting that I had been wrong, but one look at my wife told me all that I needed to know about how wrong I was. You see, this wasn’t the first time that I had gotten out of my car in a “road-rage” type of situation and after the last episode, I swore to her that I would NEVER do that again.

Yet, here I was, driving off after a car once again, making a complete fool of myself, dreading the impending conversation that we would have after I finally was able to admit how wrong i had been.

Who can relate? You get mad, blow up, apologize and swear to never do it again, and then do it all over again 30 minutes later. I know that it’s been a struggle for since, oh i don’t know, probably the day I was born. I’ve always had a hot temper, short fuse, or whatever you choose to call it. I can go from perfectly calm to raging, fighting mad in about half the time it takes for me to fall asleep (which is about 5 seconds).

Sometimes it comes out of nowhere! One second, I’m sitting there playing with the kids and the next I’m shouting at one of them for hitting me especially hard on the head with a truck. We’re getting ready for church, you know, the place where you go to learn about the love of Jesus, and once I realize that we are going to be late, I speak harshly to my wife and begin yelling at the kids to get in the car . . . because getting angry and yelling is the BEST way to prepare your family’s heart for church.

There have been more times than I wish to remember that I said things in anger that I would give the world to have back. Many nights, I cried myself to sleep because of how I spoke to one of my kids or to my wife during the day.

How could you say those things? You must be the worst dad/husband ever! I would apologize to my children and, like kids do, they quickly forgave me and hugged me as tightly as their little arms could. Kids are so resilient and so willing to forgive. Even my wife was willing to forgive, no matter how often I would come to her with a mouth full of crow, telling her how sorry I was.

Yet, even after dealing with all of these emotions and promising my kids and my wife and myself that I would not yell like that again, I would STILL end up losing it, sometimes even that same day! It was like an endless cycle that I was doomed to repeat everyday for the rest of my existence.

I don’t remember the exact day or the exact event that caused me to decide in my heart that I desperately needed to change, but a decision was made. I was going to find a way to stop losing it on my kids and my wife. I called my dad and told him about what was going on and how I was in dire need of some advice.

You see, my dad is a rehabilitated anger addict, who has dealt with the same problems as me. Suffice to say, this apple didn’t fall very far from that tree. But unlike me, my dad has learned how, through many years of experience, counseling and prayer, to head off his angry eruptions and how to develop his actions into a response instead of a reaction. And that’s exactly what he told me and to this day, it is the single best piece of anger management advice i have ever received.

He told me, “Evan, you have to learn how to RESPOND instead of REACT. A response is a calculated action taken after the facts and circumstances have been weighed. A reaction is an immediate, off the cuff, reflexive, uncalculated action taken before any thought can be put into a situation, before any of the facts can be considered.”

He challenged me to remember back to all the times I had gotten angry in the last month (I told him my memory wasn’t THAT good) and consider how many of them had been over situations that were petty, insignificant events that wouldn’t affect me in two days, let alone two years.

As i thought about it, I couldn’t think of one time that I had gotten mad over anything that was worth getting mad about. A spilled cup of juice, screaming kids, being late to church, someone flipping me off on the road, Lydia not answering her phone the first time i called, etc. NOTHING was worth getting mad about. Juice cleans up and even if it doesn’t, is it worth scarring your kids for life over a stain on the floor? Church will still be there if you are fifteen minutes late and people will always flip you off on the road, even if you have done nothing to them.

After giving me this revelation, my dad proceeded to give me some steps to follow in order to help me RESPOND rather than REACT:

What is it about the situation that is making you so upset?

Ask yourself, “what about this situation is making me so upset?” Look at the situation abstractly and try to figure out what is causing you to begin to feel those old familiar feelings of rage sneaking up on you. Is it the immediate event that has set you off or is it something you have been dealing with all day long?

Sometimes we can be reacting to something that we dealt with earlier in the day and not even realize it. So, its paramount to figure out what is causing your blood to boil.

Is it really worth getting mad over?

After you identify the root cause, ask yourself, “Is this really worth getting mad over?” Is it going to affect you in the future in, say, a week? Two weeks? A month?

Is this situation worth ruining the relationship with your kids/wife/friends/coworkers/boss over?

overcome with anger

There are times that it is perfectly okay and understandable to be angry, but does it require you to yell and scream and blow your top? There are healthy ways to deal with justified anger, but it is not ever productive or healthy to blow up at someone.

The other way to pose this question is: Is the short term situation worth ruining the long term relationship?

That relationship can be with anyone, not just family. We have to choose our battles in this life and sometimes, it’s just not worth it. This is also where you ask need to ask yourself, “Is pride causing me to feel this way?” If the answer to that question is yes, then the answer to the first question is most likely “NO, it’s not worth it.” Remember, pride will lie to you and tell you that you are in the right and that you are justified in your feelings.

Pride is a dirty, lying scoundrel, bent on your destruction. Unfortunately, it is also the main reason for people getting angry.

How SHOULD I respond to this situation?

Now you have identified the reason for your anger and you have weighed the facts of the situation. It’s time to develop a RESPONSE.

“How SHOULD I respond to this situation?”

If your anger has been caused by some petty disagreement, some colored-on furniture, or some insignificant misunderstanding and it’s not going to affect you in a week, why would you yell and scream about it?

By taking the time to process the whole situation and not just the single upsetting event, you are not only taking a broader view of the problem, but you are also giving yourself time to cool off. The amount of time we put between the initiating event and our response is directly proportional to the QUALITY of our repsonse.

In some situations, I have to walk away and completely separate myself from the situation in order to be able to develop a healthy response. In others, I am able to stay and simply think for a minute or two, develop my response and deliver it with tact and control. The way that will work best for you can only be discovered by you and often depends on the specific situation.

This is not the end-all-be-all answer to anger problems. Some problems go much deeper than just “anger management” issues and need to be dealt with accordingly.

Like I said earlier on, my dad didn’t do it on his own. He went to years of counseling and has turned his life around because of it. I even attended anger management counseling when I was 15 years old, because my parents saw that I was on the same road that my dad had been on. And in some cases, including my own, you may need some medicine to help regulate your emotions. If you think that you may need medicine to help you, DO NOT think that you are weak. Talk to a doctor sooner rather than later. If you had a heart condition or high blood pressure, you would take meds to help your body out, so why would you not if your mind was sick?

I cannot tell you how much the medicine that I take has helped me. My only regret is that I didn’t start taking it earlier, as it would have saved me and my family a lot of heartache. Your relationships with your wife, your kids, your parents, your coworkers and everyday people are more important than your pride. I still struggle with anger and I do not always follow all of the steps i mentioned and yes, pride does still best me sometimes. But, overall, my life and the life of my family has vastly improved since that day i spoke to my father.

So please, if you are dealing with the cycle of anger that I have dealt with for years, seek help if necessary and try these steps in your daily life. They are a huge help to me and I sincerely hope they help you as well.

By the way, don’t ever get out of your car during a road rage incident! It’s a great way to get into a fight with someone who is a lot stronger than you or to just get shot. IT’S NOT WORTH IT!

This post was written by my husband, Evan. Want to read more written by him? Check out the articles below!

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