1. Remember, Life is a dance, and when things flow, it is easy to be full of praise and love.  When things get to be too hard, though, we need to take time to evaluate what is wrong; what we need to change, rather than continuing to dance with a broken foot. The following are true stories:

    Get out of that Peterbilt, you moron; I’ll show you how to cut me off on the freeway when I put this jimmy bar through your forehead”.  John climbed up onto the cab of the Peterbilt, and raised the jimmy bar, ready to strike. He was filled with rage as he brought the jimmy bar down, but he did not break the windshield. He felt out of control, but he made a choice demonstrating he was still in control. He needed to learn how to handle his anger better. He joined the anger management workshop and as a participant shared his story.  Six months later, after sharing with other people, completing the workshop materials, and focusing more on God, he was more patient, which was better for other drivers, and also a blessing to his family.

    Bob’s story was similar but different. He had a poor relationship with his wife and adolescent son. His wife could get him ticked off just by asking him to go get her gas tank filled up  (“Why the f*** couldn’t the b*tch do it on the way home?”). And his adolescent son seemed to take pleasure in doing things that provoked Bob to say “What a f***ing Idiot!” “Why did you do that?” “Are you f***ing stupid or what?” with some more expletives added. He had a lot of trouble getting any praise for anything he did, he felt unappreciated, on the verge of divorce, and taken for granted. Six months later, he was able to praise his wife, was proud of his son, and said he did not know life could be so good. His first task was, when he would usually curse someone, to instead substitute a verbal blessing. If he felt like cursing his wife, instead, say something she would consider a blessing—you are beautiful, I love you, what would I do without you, etc.– even if it didn’t feel right to him, even if it felt made up. At first, it was a VERY difficult task. Saying f*** this and f*** that seemed so natural. He felt better after he ventilated and dumped his anger on everyone. Yet, he could see that if he really loved his family like he said he did, his language was a curse on his family and, since what he gave out was reflected back to him, he was shooting himself in the foot.  He had to answer the tough question “Why would you want someone you love to be humiliated, put down, have negative labels to live up to (like “idiot” or “b*tch”) and therefore not be able to return the love you say you want.  “How do you see things in your family in five years?” was a tough question. By looking at where things were going, and how he could become a blessing to his family, Bob was able to change his egocentric behavior and not only receive the love he wanted, but also be a positive force in his family at the same time. This did not happen overnight. It took him several months before it felt natural. But, six months later, he considered his family to be a big blessing, and they felt the same about him.

    Sometimes people spend their whole life in angry relationships. Some of the participants used language like in the following video, though they sometimes attended church. They came to the meeting with a “Christian” label, which only means they know they are human with shortcomings but are forgiven. It does not mean they feel they are perfect. Far from it. The following video is not for young ears, and is used because it demonstrates how anger is often shown in our daily lives.  This is more common than one might think.

    Joe was a young man whose father was a police officer. He felt like killing his younger brother because “that SOB jacked me out of $60”.  He had an explosive temper and was not allowed in the house.  His father came to a couple of the sessions and talked about stress at home and stress on the job. There were frequent arguments at home; Joe felt isolated and misunderstood.  Joe was able to see that focusing on anything in the past could cost him his future, which was worth a lot more than $60. He could even wind up in jail, which could cost him even more money. He wanted to “be strong enough in my mind to not need pills”.  He participated in group sessions and learned to be assertive without being aggressive. He received positive feedback from the group who held him accountable for any rash actions. He was able to become a better big brother.

                This article is the result of giving several workshops on anger to help people with problems handling anger at work and home. It is written for your education when you are not angry, and as a path to guide you when you are. The stories included are real stories, though the names have been changed. You may even find your story in these pages though you did not attend. Most of the participants had anger issues in either their relationship with their marital partner, their kids or co-workers.  The problems involved spiritual and physical, emotional and/or mental health issues. The participants often attended with a “Christian” label, but they still had real life issues. Road rage was common, but not a main topic of discussion. The same people with road rage also had plenty of other issues at work and at home, often around the need to control. These issues revolved around arguments, disrespect, and disobedience.  Anger can be good, as when society may be angry at a pedophile’s actions, but for most of us, being angry is an unpleasant and too ubiquitous problem which we may experience daily. Many of us have experienced air rage or road rage. Demands of Society increase pressures on us as it becomes more technical, moves at an ever increasing pace, and insists we be more productive and better as lovers and parents, in effect, more perfect.  We have become a society of easily frustrated people who often forget the simple courtesies of saying “Please” and “Thank you”. We often treat strangers better than the persons we profess to love. In most relationships, it’s all too easy to take each other for granted. If we want to keep the relationship healthy, it’s important to treat each other well. When you need to go past someone, saying "excuse me" is still much better than saying "move out of my way."  It is amazing how poorly some people treat persons they profess to love.

    Sometimes anger results from a simple misunderstanding. I recently read something in an educational journal called “The Reader’s Digest”:

                A traveler, between flights in an airport, went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies.  Then, she sat down and began reading a newspaper.  Gradually, she became aware of a rustling noise from behind her newspaper.  She was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to her cookies.  Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took a cookie herself.  A minute or two passed and then came more rustling.

                He was helping himself to another cookie.  By this time, they had come to the end of the package.  She was so angry; she did not dare allow herself to say anything.  Then, as if to add insult to injury, the man broke the final cookie in two, pushed half across to her, ate the other half, and left.

                She was still fuming sometime later, when her flight was announced. The woman opened her bag to get her ticket, and to her shocking embarrassment, there in her purse were her package of unopened cookies. Whoops! Imagine the shock when she realized the cookies being eaten were not her own.

    Not a word had been spoken. The assumption could have been catastrophic if it involved a major decision or life event. Many times people do not communicate about

    “small” matters which result in disastrous consequences with tragic results. Frequently, these small matters involve money, religion, or sex, and the disastrous consequence is a divorce or broken relationship which also shatters the lives of their children or friends.

    I held these workshops at my church and, though I expected good results, I was surprised at the tremendous change several persons made in a short period of time meeting weekly, using these principles, and providing each other feedback.

    Change happens slowly for most of us, and not at all for some of us. We must engender the attitude that change is needed, and have a genuine desire to grow for any change to occur.

    It is also very helpful to be part of a mastermind support group—a group of people who want to help each other for their mutual benefit.  Then, you know they care about your well being and are giving you good feedback.  They want you to resolve the problem so you can get on with life and focus on being more productive.  They will hold you accountable, since the mastermind group only functions if the participants are open and honest.  Then, we will see progress over a period of weeks or months. The resistance to change, to do something unfamiliar or different, is so great that most people with serious deficiencies in relationships—”social skills”, or who want to “know themselves better” spend their lives in a quagmire of self pity, lust, gossip, envy, jealousy, and feeling angry instead of working through problems so they could love themselves and their neighbor better. So, do not underestimate the resistance to change. It is encouraged that persons who wish to pursue change seriously do so at least with a partner or group to whom they can be accountable. It is too easy to fool ourselves or make excuses to ourselves and never really do anything to make our lives and the lives of those persons around us better. We lie to ourselves and, in our actions, to other people. But if they can read our non-verbal language, we give away how we really feel. This article is to initiate and encourage the growth process. There are no “Full Grown Adults”, just kids in various stages of growth in adult bodies. God loves each of us as we are but wants us to keep growing. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23) but wants to see them (us?) come to a knowledge of our shortcomings and a knowledge of Him. He wants to have a relationship with us, not just to treat us like “sinners” to be judged and avoided, but as children (HIS children) to be loved. An experiential, not intellectual, knowledge of God is needed.

                What questions do you have about anger? Do you feel angry but do not have any idea what is behind it, what is causing it? Do you wonder if anger is just a normal expression of the human condition and nothing to be alarmed about? Do angry people at times become explosive, carry guns and shoot other people? Are we so desensitized that such anger seems normal? Do angry people often yell and scream at their kids, and then feel guilty because their “love”, which the kid needs, was temporarily abandoned? These questions and many others will be addressed in future articles. Stay tuned.

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