25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians Chapter 4: 25-32
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
“Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.”
I have a new appreciation for what it is to be angry. Last week I went to a marvelous dinner in downtown Minneapolis. I parked in a rush and decided to figure out payment for my car when I got back so as to not be later for my dinner. This rush decision resulted in Blue Belle getting towed to a sketchy wrecker lot- costing me some hassle and worry but mostly a lot of money. Thank goodness my cousin Maggie was willing to come pick me up and help me deal with the hassle of retrieving my car!
First I was stunned by the situation, and then I became very angry. Angry at the expense, angry at the person who decided to tow my car, angry at myself for not paying the 8 dollars right away… I really do not experience anger very often in my life. During the evening I was more angry than I can remember being in a long time- just boiling over in frustration and indignation. The anger spread to other situations in my life, anger at situations, God and just about anything I looked at.
My anger carried through the next day and I decided before I had to deal with it powerfully as it was affecting my happiness and productivity. For me (I think this is a Minnesota tendency) I was dancing between either calling the lot and blowing up at them or just masking my upset and not saying anything about it at all. I googled “how to deal with anger” and discovered a lot of results on ‘don’t act rashly’ and ‘breathe deeply’ and count to 100. These helped to focus me a bit, but ultimately they did not make my anger disappear.
Then I read this article which really helped my process a lot of what I was feeling: Not so ironically the message is written through a Christian lens:
There are several important parts in this article worth highlighting. One phrase I had heard reiterated earlier in the week jumped out at me: “Don’t get Bitter, Get Better.” Bitterness is dangerous, because it poisons everything once you assume it. Focusing on moving past anger to something else- and using the anger energy to improve yourself is a much better outlet.
Also note- the article does not list anger as an evil or bad thing. Rather a natural emotion that arises in tough situations in our lives. Even God is expressed as being angry in the bible. I remember being told by a psychologist once that: “Anger is an important part of healing. Anger symbolizes a certain amount of self-respect and worth. Also, when handled properly anger can lead to freedom from bad situations.”
This article also notes the importance of A) exercising self-control but also B) not just masking your anger and pretending it is not there. Rather, it is essential to actually dealing with the root of your anger.
When I hear dealing with the root of anger, I think of a lesson I learned from Landmark earlier in the week about how to effectively deal with being upset. The claim was that if you wanted to get over something you are upset about, you just needed to A) recognize that you are upset and then B) name and deal with the following three components around what you are upset about:
Thwarted Intention and/or
Unfulfilled Expectation and/or
So to mirror this formula to the above situation, this is how it would shake out.
Step One: I am indignant and angry that the parking lot people towed my car!
Thwarted Intention: Driving home after dinner
Unfulfilled Expectation: My car being in the lot when I returned. Not paying more than 8 dollars for parking.
Undelivered Communication: The lot manager was inconsiderate when towing my car
I think then there is a third step after all of this for true healing- highlighted in the article above. Here is the quote in mind:
“Overcome evil and anger by praying for those who hurt and abuse you. Forgive them and be a blessing to them. It may not be easy at first, but when you make the decision and stick with it, God will take care of the rest.”
I Believe this prayer part is super important- because it A- first acknowledges rather than ignores the party you are upset with and then B- channels your energy into a constructive response to the other party and C- involves and ultimately turns the entire situation over to God. So to apply this to my situation:
Final Step: I pray for the parking lot people- that they are filled with compassion for others and are able to provide secure reliable parking spaces for Minneapolis cars in the future.
This whole exercise turned out to be an important one for me- because later in the day after I completed processing my anger- I spilled tomato soup all over my white dress shirt and dress pants at work. If I had any residual anger from the events previous, I think that would have been a breaking point for me (probably would have resulted in something ridiculous like me yelling at the soup can). Luckily, although not thrilled with my new shirt color I was able to peacefully laugh it off, and discount it as a small daily misfortune.
The sun will not go down on my anger today.