Hey guys, we have a problem.
It’s a problem we like to blame on circumstances, our childhood, or relationships.
Sure these all play a part but, let’s be honest with ourselves, this is our problem, and we need to deal with it.
What is it?
Well, we’re angry. To quote my six-year-old son, “Why you so angry, bro?”
It’s a question I have to ask myself often. I’ve written a chapter on it in my book, and I am teaching a series on it at my church. Does this mean I have my own in check?
Nope. You can ask my wife and kids.
There are times, which thankfully, are becoming less and less frequent every year, where I let my anger take control. One time I was playing soccer in the community rec league and one of my teammates started barking about a play I made. I got so angry that I went back at him right there in the middle of the field for everybody to hear.
Meanwhile, there was a group of women from my church sitting on the bench with my wife watching it unfold. As I came to the sidelines, one of the ladies said, “You got awfully heated there, pastor.”
Anger is an ever-present part of my life. If you’re a guy, it’s probably part of yours too.
So what do we do about it?
Just like any addiction, the first step is admitting it. It is time we stop pretending that if this, that, or the other thing were different, we wouldn’t be angry. If you are honest, even if everyone else were perfect, you’d still be angry. Why? Because it is not about everyone else, this is about you. This is about how you feel, and more importantly, how you express it.
First, let’s state that anger isn’t inherently wrong. It is an emotion, and we cannot control how we feel. We feel what we feel. What we can control is how we express it.
The Association for Psychological Science states that “Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. But excessive anger can cause problems.”
Unfortunately, what I see guys, is a lot of problems. We have an angry generation of men who yell while on the soccer pitch, scream at their wife and kids, give in to wild road rage, and all too often give in to their violent passions.
As I have thought about it in my own life and observed in the lives of others, I believe it all boils down to one thing: control.
By this, I don’t necessarily mean you are a controlling person—micromanaging every aspect of someone else’s life (although it could be true). What I mean is that we get angry when we feel that we are not in control. It is like when the car in front of us doesn’t drive the way we want or need, or our kids don’t listen to us, or you can’t figure out how to put that Ikea bookcase together (seriously, the Swedish origami is Satanic), it causes an emotion of anger and we react. We need to feel as though we have not lost control.
Here’s the thing, we haven’t lost it, because we never really had it in the first place.
There is very little that we are in control of. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the bonehead driver who cut us off. We can’t control our sickness. We certainly can’t yell loud enough at the TV during the Superbowl that it would magically make them hand the ball to Lynch (yes, I know I’m living in the past).
You can’t control your spouse or kids. Yes, you think you can. You can manipulate, make their lives a living hell, and strip them of their personhood, but I don’t think most men want to do that. Heck, we can’t even control how we feel.
There is only one thing we can control.
The one thing we control is how we respond to those feelings.
Whether it is joy, sadness, desire, or anger, we can control how we respond. Does it take practice? It sure does.
Here are three things that have helped me:
1. Take a breath.
It is amazing how our lives change when we choose to take a breath instead of instantly reacting. We make better decisions and cause less collateral damage. If we take this moment, usually we realize whatever is happening isn’t even that big of a deal.
2. Am I thinking clearly?
Asking ourselves this question can go a long way. Sometimes it’s our emotions that are getting in the way, other times we just need a sandwich. (Don’t we all deserve a sandwich? Yum.) They say if you ever get in an argument with your spouse (or anyone, for that matter) ask yourself, are you hungry or tired? If the answer is yes to either of these, then you need to either eat or sleep before you engage in the conversation again.
3. Can I fix this?
Asking this last question will revolutionize your life. I know it has for me. If the answer is yes, then do something. If the answer is no, don’t worry about it.
Remember, you can only control you.
If we want to make this world a better place, then men, we need to first start with the only sure thing that we can control, and that is ourselves. When we choose to deal with our anger in healthy ways, the ripple effect will be felt in every interaction we have.