How to C.A.L.M. Your Anger

Jonathan Daugherty

Anger is a huge underlying issue for men struggling with sexually addictive behaviors. But most men don’t recognize it as a problem because they have learned that anger is the “acceptable” emotion for a man to express. Therefore, even as acting out behaviors might decrease in recovery, the bedrock of anger remains.

In order to resolve anger well you must know where it originates.

For most sex addicts the anger that eventually expresses itself in adulthood is often a compilation of numerous “little” disappointments along life’s journey. Most of these disappointments occurred in childhood, and not many of us had the emotional maturity to respond well to such feelings. Therefore, adulthood expressions of anger are constructed through years of mismanaged disappointment. I don’t blame men for not handling their disappointments well in childhood. Most of us were never taught how to manage feelings of disappointment.

These disappointments range in “size” from smaller ones such as Mom forgetting to give you a promised ice cream cone, to larger ones like Dad telling you he is ashamed of you and wished you had never been born.

Whatever the disappointment, when it goes unresolved it adds a thin layer, or film, of pain over the heart. Over time, and as more and more layers of pain are added, your heart grows heavier and harder. Eventually, you end up a grown man with a heart like stone. And anyone or anything that attempts to penetrate its exterior is met with harsh, cold anger.

What is most interesting about this type of anger is that it may appear like you are strong and tough. In reality, however, you are very insecure and afraid. But you have learned to use anger to “scare off” everyone so you don’t have to peer into the cold darkness of your own heart. But if freedom, peace, and purity are to ever be enjoyed, you must break through your frozen heart.

If you can relate to a life of mismanaged disappointment that has turned into anger that puzzles you, there is hope to be free. It isn’t an easy path to peace and security, but a life of joy and contentment is possible. The following are four steps that will help you overcome your anger and become a CALM man of peace, joy, and contentment.

C.A.L.M.

 

1. Confirm the true object of your anger.

Most of the stuff that gets us mad isn’t what we are really mad about. Those are just the ‘triggers’ that set in motion the wheels of angry behavior. We might falsely accuse our wives or some out-of-control motorist for our anger when, in fact, it often goes much deeper than those external circumstances. This is why it is important to identify what has truly ignited this flame of anger. Until you get to the root you can’t kill the tree.

For example, let’s say your wife comes to you and says, ‘Honey, I’ve noticed you have been distant from me and the kids this week. Is everything ok with purity?’ Such a question might stir some feelings of anger and you might fire back in a defensive manner. You may falsely assume that your wife is the object of your anger. Nope. You are. She simply pressed a button that hit a nerve and you launched the retaliation missile.

Most of the time (if you are honest with yourself) you will find that the true object of your anger is yourself or some origin of disappointment in your past. The bad news about such self-directed anger is that it can create numerous unhealthy thoughts of shame that eat you up from the inside out. The good news about this, however, is that if you are the object of most of your anger, you can do something about the object!

2. Address the “nerve” of disappointment this trigger presses on.

Once you confirm the object of your anger (usually yourself or a wound from your past) it then becomes important to address whatever ‘nerve’ of disappointment the triggers are pressing on. For instance, in the example above your wife’s comment might have pressed on long held feelings of inadequacy that began in childhood from never being able to measure up to Dad’s impossible standards. Or maybe the trigger pressed on the nerve of an overbearing mother who never let you take risks and was always in your face about something.

The real healing from anger begins when we get to the emotional ‘nerves’ in our heart. These are the points at which most of our anger was born. As you learn what these nerves are you are better prepared for addressing them with the healing power of the truth.

3. Look to God’s promises for the specific need you have for security.

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). And it is the truth that ultimately sets us free (John 8:32). To address the nerves of disappointment that trigger our anger we must bring the Word of God to bear upon them. We touch the layers of pain encasing our hearts with the truth and, over time, we are healed from years of anger and bitterness.

Here is how this works. You get to the nerve of disappointment. Let’s say it is never measuring up to Dad’s strict standards. Then you search God’s Word for the truth about your security in Him. And you find amazing passages like John 10:28-29 and Hebrews 6:16-20. As you implant these truths in your mind they begin to melt your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, soft and pliable in the hands of God.

4. Meet with others to grow in connectedness.

Anger ultimately isolates us from relationships. We grow distant and cold toward those who love us. When we combat the pattern of anger with the truth we must complete the transformation by connecting with others. To truly break the bonds of anger requires relationship. And in relationship we have the ideal ‘practice field’ for engaging in new responses based on truth rather than the old method of lashing out in anger.

To continue in anger causes us to live lonely, isolated lives filled with pain and dissatisfaction. To address our anger and move toward honesty and relationship creates a new foundation for long-term peace, purity, and deep satisfaction.

So, be CALM!

See also:  Every Man’s Battle.

Sexual Purity And The Gospel

Lance David

I have a confession to make. I don’t understand the gospel. That’s not to say I don’t know the nuts and bolts of it. However, I’m embarrassed to say, the gospel rarely captures my heart. Let me explain.

The other day, my wife made a confession to me. Our three-year-old daughter had slammed the front door on the fingers of our one-year-old daughter (and this slamming thing has been a problem without a good solution for a while now). In frustration and fear my wife shouted, ‘You stupid kid.’ Of course she wasn’t proud of this and had hoped it would blow over, thinking it was probably the first time that the little squirt had heard that word. However, the next day, the question came, ‘Mommy, what does stupid mean?’

Have you ever wished you could take something back? My wife never wanted anyone in the world to call our precious daughter stupid- and she had done it! To solidify that this was not merely going to blow over, the next day my wife and I both heard our three-year-old say to our one-year-old, ‘You stupid baby.’

It was after this that my wife told me what had happened.

Now, I love my wife. She is such a good gift to me. She is not perfect, but is my perfect match. And, I love my daughter- the coolest three-year old in the whole world. And my wife felt really bad for what she had said. But I was struggling. My head said, ‘It’s not the end of the world for your daughter. She knows her mother loves her. This is a really good thing that your wife told you and she’s hurting.’ But I was starting to feel the anger well up inside me. Things like, ‘I’m a counselor, for crying out loud! People come see me because their parents said emotionally abusive things like this to them! How dare she say that to MY daughter!’

Now, my wife can read me very well and needless to say, my judgmental attitude did not go over well with her. The whole thing was rapidly going somewhere in a hand basket when God stepped in. Somewhere deep inside my wife’s heart she knew God was saying, ‘I’ve taken your punishment for you. And I’ve taken your judgmental husband’s punishment too. Neither of you need to suffer for your sin because I already have.’ And then my wife spoke to me, ‘It’s ok if you judge me, Jesus took my penalty. And he’s taken yours as well.’

The truly amazing thing is that she said this without any hint of defensiveness. It wasn’t one of those Christianized versions of ‘sticks and stones can break my bones.’ Instead she related a calming, strengthening, life-giving reality. The effect on me was marvelous. Instantly I knew she was right and that I could let go of my desire to get justice by being angry at and demanding punishment of my wife.

The truth of the matter is that I did not readily offer my wife grace because I so rarely accept God’s grace. Again, I am trusting Christ alone to save me from my SIN. It’s just that so often I don’t accept God’s grace to save me from my individual, practical, all-too-often-occurring sins. You know the ones like my judgmental heart, my arrogant spirit, my lustful eyes.

If I get convicted of those kind of things I usually think, ‘Okay. I slipped up again. That was bad, though not as bad as some people I know. I won’t do it again. I’ll try harder from now on. It won’t happen again.’ Or if the situation fits I try to handle my sin is by shifting the blame to someone else. ‘It did that because she deserved it.’

But Jesus’ offer is that I shift the blame to him. The really good news of the gospel is that God doesn’t whitewash my sin. He sees it for the filth that it is and he says, ‘You don’t have to suffer for it because I already have. Go ahead, walk in freedom.’

I think that for many of us on the path to sexual purity we forget our desperate need for the gospel to impact us in the rubber-meets-the-road ordinary arenas of life. What do you suppose would be the fruit in terms of sexual purity if our hearts were more and more captivated by the gospel? I pray that would be more and more of a reality for both you and me.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.

Behavior Change And Heart Change

Dave McWilliams

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

Change is very difficult for all of us. What about those of us who have gone through devastating situations, such as a hurricane or flooding, where we have lost a lot of what we own. Perhaps we have moved to a new location and changed jobs, and everything is now different. We can feel lost and left out in many ways. Things may never be the same again. Or we may have lost a friend who has been very close to us and supported us in many ways, and the pain is almost unbearable.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. As an example, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them within a few weeks, because it was too difficult to maintain the new behaviors and habits. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at one time. They are not an event, but a process or a journey. In the mean time, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. If we are an alcoholic, or a gambler, or we struggle with pornography, our behaviors should not be excused while working on building our character.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day (as in our time) people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘ don’t taste’, which really is nothing more than mere human effort to control our poor indulgences. But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions ‘lack any value in restraining our sensual indulgences’ (Col.2:23).

The best phase of our life to focus on restricting our poor behaviors is childhood. The duty of good parenting is to help us to recognize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The down side to this process is that no parent has it all together as to what is good and bad behavior. When we made poor choices, the way that they were managed had an effect on us, some positive, and others were destructive. The guilt that followed those destructive attempts to change our behavior will remain in our minds for many years until we are finally freed from them. While our minds are filled with the thoughts of guilt, we seldom have the clarity of thought to find direction in our lives. Feelings of loss and confusion block us from finding our way.

Real and lasting change comes from a different place than focusing on our behavior. Lasting change comes from change in our hearts as we take the focus off ourselves and onto the needs and concerns of others as well as our own. Behavior change is external and is often done to deceive others, or to avoid our pain, etc. Heart change does not deny our behaviors, but focuses on internal and character change. Heart change has a purpose in mind that is greater than our own needs and desires. We begin to become aware of how our actions and choices effect others and their well being, as well as our own.

There is another powerful factor that is involved with making changes from the heart, and that is coming to the realization that we cannot do it on our own.

Real heart change comes only through the power of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This is different than behavior change, which is done mostly in our own human efforts. When our human efforts fail, we continue to carry enormous guilt. The opposite result comes as we focus on change from the heart. This change will usually result in freedom within our thoughts, thus giving us the ability to think about life situations much more clearly. We also refer to the results of this type of change as bringing us inner peace.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. He sited several concepts of life that will help our hearts grow. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. God did not assign to us only one way to carry out any of these life principles. These principles are found as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion, otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart. It takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection, and usually trying to make it quickly to avoid pain. This is real stress and anxiety and worry over what others will think of us. It often leaves us angry and defensive with others, as they point out our flaws. Heart change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are in the moments that they are revealed. The pain is used to help us change and grow. But the growth process is done without a sense of urgency. Change becomes a journey that is at times slow but consistent. Our flaws and weaknesses are seen as opportunities to work with those flaws so that they become more acceptable to others. Thus, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person.

For help with sexual integrity, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you need help in other areas, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.