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The Gift of Anger
by Christine E. Buckingham, PhD, LCPC, LPC, NCC

We are all familiar with the phrases, “stuffing our feelings” and “stuffing our face.” There is a connection! Many of us never have experienced the gift of anger because we stuff our anger by stuffing our face. One minute you are feeling upset and the next thing you know, you are in front of the open refrigerator!

REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) was developed by Albert Ellis, a prominent psychotherapist and theorist of the 20th century. REBT is a method that teaches how to manage anger. He said that it is not what happens to us that makes us angry, it is the irrational beliefs we hold about what happens that make us angry. He taught that we need to examine our thoughts -- or how we talk to ourselves -- for any irrational beliefs we may hold. These irrational beliefs can be thoughts like, “I must always be happy, others must always love me, I must always get what I want, life must be fair, I must never hurt.”

Centuries before Albert Ellis, God taught David the formula. Psalm 4:4-5 (NKJV) says,

"Be angry and do not sin. Meditate within your heart in your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”

“Be Angry”
Own your angry feelings. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to allow yourself to feel the feelings and learn to identify it as anger. Learn where you feel anger -- what does your anger feel like? Do you feel it in your stomach? Do you feel hot and flushed? Do you feel panic?

“Do not sin”
Anger is a wonderful, energizing emotion. No other emotion can mobilize the self to action like anger! But God always gives us choice and He cautions us about our choice. We must learn that there are constructive ways to utilize the energy being angry provides. Trying to push the feelings down or deny them uses up this wonderful energy.

Consider that there is a better way to process the feeling and to empower yourself to act. God has given us control over our actions. He has given us power over what we believe. Our beliefs are learned, they don’t just happen. And therefore, we have some power over them.

“Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still.”
This is where the belief system is considered. Look within -- either quietly or within the context of a safe relationship, or maybe through writing in a journal -- at what you are telling yourself about the things that happen to you and provoke you to anger. Look at your “self-talk” to understand what you believe. What are you believing about what happened? Process this with someone who can bring some objectivity to your beliefs.

“Offer the sacrifice of righteousness”
God is God of reality. He wants us to live in truth and in reality. Righteousness -- a right response -- might require work on the irrational belief, or maybe it requires forgiveness, or maybe confrontation, or maybe even all three. He wants us to respond in righteousness and He recognizes that it is a sacrifice – it is bringing us in line with His character.

“And put your trust in the Lord”
We must let God be responsible for the outcome. We cannot control how others will respond to us. The good news is that God has promised that He, Himself, will be with us and comfort us.

In no way does taking responsibility for our emotions excuse the harm or offenses done to us by others. But this is a low-calorie, fat-free way to own and process our feelings!

Chris is a New Life Ministries network counselor who is a group facilitator for "Lose it for Life", who along with Steve Arterburn, Dr. Jill and several others hosts New Life's weekly "Lose it for Life" web chat. She also writes articles for New Life web site.

Call (301) 292-2778 or (301) 645-9200
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Christine Buckingham, LCPC, NCC, MA - Executive Director