Editors Note: This article is written by BCC Counselor Jerrod Tillotson as part of our series on “Helping Teens.” In this series, our counselors are unpacking how we can all care for teens who are facing different types of trouble.
It can be difficult to know how to express strong emotions appropriately, especially when the strong emotion happens to be anger. In many instances, it seems that it can be more acceptable to be depressed than angry.
But this is something we all experience. Anger is difficult to define, as it can vary in severity from mild irritability to a violent fury.
If you’re a teen in conflict, how do you deal with anger and conflict? Do you tend to explode on others or do you implode, quietly seething, ruminating, eventually burying it away?
Neither are helpful. In Ephesians 4:26a (NIV) Paul says “In your anger do not sin.” Anger is not prohibited, but it is to be restrained from getting out of control and lashing out against another.
One of the first things you can do when you’re angry is obvious – admit that you are angry! So what now?
A Christian counselor wrote a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling angry, or after a time you were angry. You could even think of a situation now as you read them:
- What is my situation?
- How do I react?
- What are my motives?
- What are the consequences?
- What is true?
- How do I turn to God for help?
- How could I respond constructively in this situation?
- What are the consequences of faith and obedience?
The goal here is to begin to evaluate your anger, not to justify it one way or another, but to think through it.
You’re slowing the process down before you rush off and say or do something rash, or become internally overwhelmed and squelch it only to leave it unresolved, perhaps using some unhealthy way of coping to bury it.
To begin to resolve it, after self-evaluating, go to the source of the problem, the person you are angry with, in a non-confrontational manner when you’ve cooled off.
Do not take your anger out on someone else unrelated, like a sibling or some ‘easy target.’ Often we take out our anger on those closest to us, and it’s not right.
We want to approach the person honestly and openly and in an appropriate way. We do this by addressing the primary complaint with controlled behavior, thinking logically and constructively, and seeking resolution.
Use ‘I-Statements’ such as “I feel frustrated” or “I felt angry and put down by what you said” rather than beginning with the more accusatory “you.”
Easier said than done, but learning to control your anger takes time; to hone it is akin to developing a skill.
Here are a few ways to learn control and prevent uncontrolled anger:
It’s hard to read too much of God’s Word and not come away changed. I encourage you to go to Scripture itself, learn and apply what you read.
Continually learning to put off sinful ways of anger, renewing the mind in knowledge in the image of Christ, and putting on the new self, growing in gentleness, kindness, patience, and love are some of the many things we can learn and apply (Col. 3:8-17).
Learn Humility, Confession, and Forgiveness
Growing in humility will allow us to see our anger as well as own up to wrongful ways we may be expressing it. From this we can confess to God and others our anger and apologize for the aggressive or passive-aggressive manner we may have behaved.
This leads to forgiveness before God (1 John 1:9), and it can lead to a much more productive conversation with the person(s) we are angry with, hopefully leading to reconciliation. Much, much more needs to be said here to flush it out, but that’s for another time.
Read and Reflect!
There’s a lot written on anger, and there are great books that help us deal with it biblically in our lives more than a brief article can. Robert Jones’ Uprooting Anger and the late David Powlison’s book Good and Angry are both excellent resources and places to start. Be proactive!