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How to Respond When Someone Provokes Your Anger
A Bible-Inspired Illogical Response to Anger
Is it logical to expect to respond to something that incites your anger, in a way that will be pleasing to God? Remember, God’s logic is always the opposite of mankind’s logic. In other words, a spiritually guided response will be completely opposed to your physical or natural tendency. Although you might feel justified, when provoked, to respond-in-kind with an anger-inspired reaction, God says we should “be kind one to another.” Instead of allowing our wrath to rule us, God says we should be “tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”
In my Hub titled "How Should a Christian Handle Anger," I presented a fictional situation where a boss had given an employee an unfair and undeserved work performance review. I asked readers what they would do in such a situation. Most people, if faced with a similar scenario, would undoubtedly get angry. And so would I. And, even though I believe anger would be justified in this situation, I still believe it would be wrong to lash out at the supervisor in anger. What do I think should be done about the unfair review? Perhaps it would be good time to seek a professional intervention by capable and competent human resources officers. You know, the kind who know how to do their jobs well by protecting both the rights of employees and employers alike. The kind that know class action lawsuits are created at the hands of irresponsible and incompetent HR officers who serve only the motives of unscrupulous employers.
Still, an angry response is never the best route to take in situations like this, and it is always wrong to say or to do something that is a "knee-jerk" response to whatever it was that incited your anger. I believe when things like this happen, you have to find a way to force yourself to take a grown-up version of a “time out.” Why? Because you must be sure you have calmed down before you do anything, say anything, or write anything in anger that could come back to haunt or harm you in the future.
". . . Holding on to anger separates you from God, and being separated from God leaves you alone—spiritually, to fight your anger demons by yourself"
What To Do?
In the situation I described in the paragraphs above, it would probably be a good idea to calmly request a meeting with your supervisor so that you can both go over what may be the reasons for a negative job performance review. While it may appear to be a mean-spirited vendetta that caused your supervisor to do this, maybe you should not prejudge. Perhaps there are things you did not realize were part of your review that actually are. If you find this to be the case, perhaps you and your supervisor can agree on what things you need to do to receive a stronger review the next time around. If after speaking with your supervisor you still believe the review was unjustified, it might be a good and prudent idea to speak with the company’s human resources director to find out what recourse options exist at the company that are available to you.
The point I’m trying to make in Hub is that your initial response needs to be a controlled one, to anything that incites anger. Therefore, this Hub doesn’t have as much to do with what actions you should take, as it has to do with those you should not take. A lot of times, it’s not so much what we do that makes the difference, as it is what we don’t do. If you don’t allow your anger to boil over, you will more than likely figure out a calm way of dealing with any situation. There are always more options available, when dealing with intelligent and rational people, when we take control of our anger. Out of control anger, however, will not leave you with as many options.
Think about it. If you allow anger to spill out and into the lives of those around you, your co-workers who had nothing to do with creating it, you would be setting up a possible chain of reactions that can only make the situation worse. Using the previous example, if you go around badmouthing your boss to other people at your company or organization, you run the risk of setting more negative things into play. What you’ve said in anger could actually find its way back to your boss, and your relationship with him or her could become even more strained. The fact that you did not go to your boss with your concerns in the first place could even start a chain of events that might end up either getting you fired, or causing you to leave your job voluntarily and with no real plan for your financial well-being. It would be much better, therefore, to handle such a situation calmly, controlling your anger.
The bottom line is that anger is not God’s way to happy endings. The Bible confirms this in James 1:19-22, which says: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” These words from James leave little room for questioning why God warns us about the effects of acting in anger. The Bible is simply telling us that actions taken based on anger usually are negative ones. And since they are, they cannot be righteous, and are not pleasing to God.
The Bible teaches us to put angry feelings away and instead to adopt a spirit of meekness when we receive unfair, hurtful, or mean-spirited words or actions from others. In order to adopt a spirit of meekness, it is necessary to subdue the ego. Let go of any need you have to be right, as well as any need you have to be “the winner” of a skirmish. Let the other person win this small battle, because your goal should always be to win the spiritual war of self-control.
In this same chapter of James, verse 22 goes on to chide: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is not enough to know that God wants us to exhibit humility and meekness in the face of mean-spiritedness and unfair treatment, to live a happier and spiritually fulfilling life, we must put this knowledge into action—in the workplace, on the street, in the park, in the classroom—wherever we go. The God in us is only as real as the God we show to others.
Three Ways to Help Manage Anger
Look at the situation as one where God is offering you an opportunity for growth, through trial. When someone has done something mean-spirited or offensive in an effort to hurt you in some way, look at the situation as a chance for you to grow and develop spiritually. God allows things to happen, and you can get something good out of something bad, if your response is a godly one.
Vengeance belongs to God, and only to God. Learn how to let go of your anger, and let God handle the "payback." He always does, even if it doesn't appear to you that He will.
Always remember that even though God hates sin, He loves the sinner. Don't confuse a wrongful act with the person who perpetrated. He or she is a child of God, loved by God, just like you. Pray for him/her, and set a good example by demonstrating a godly response to the anger they have provoked within you.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD