Category: Anger

Caring Enough to Listen

Patience does not mean that we do nothing when others are upset with us. I’ve known people who will sit stone-faced and listen to the ranting and raving of their spouse and then get up and walk out of the room with no comment. This is not patience it is isolation. It is self-centeredness.

Patience is caring enough to listen empathetically with a view to understanding what is going on inside the other person. Such listening requires time and is itself an expression of love. Patience might mean remaining calm when what the other person is saying is hurtful. Patience says, “I care enough that no matter what you say or how you say it, I will listen and try to understand.

People Are Not Machines

In Western culture, we are not trained to be patient. We get irritated just waiting for the computer to boot up. We are also impatient with people who don’t operate on our time table. Or waitresses who bring us the wrong order. And yet, patience is one of the traits of love. To be loving is to be patient. In a nutshell: patience is accepting the imperfections of others.

Patience begins by recognizing that people are not machines. They have thoughts, feelings, and they make decisions. Those decisions do not always please us, but we must give them the same freedom that God gives them. To condemn your son for not going to college will not have a positive effect on his life. Step back, and give him freedom to be human.

Resolution

When you are angry with your spouse, it’s not enough to get rid of your anger. You must find a resolution to the situation that stimulated the anger. All of us sometimes say and do things that are not loving. These failures stimulate hurt and anger. Anger doesn’t simply melt away with time and hurt does not evaporate. They exist to motivate us to seek understanding and resolution.

In the back of my book on Anger I have a little card that can be torn out and posted on the refrigerator. It reads, “I’m feeling angry right now. But don’t worry, I’m not going to attack you. But I do need your help. Is this a good time to talk.” So, when you’re angry, you take the card and read it to your spouse. Now, you are on the road to resolution.

Make or Break

How you handle anger can make or break your marriage. When you are angry, don’t assume that you have all the information, or that you know what the person meant by what they said. Far better, to ask for clarification. You might say, “I may be missing something, but it seems to me that you didn’t keep your promise.” Now they have an opportunity to explain, or to apologize.

Getting additional information is always a sign of wisdom. Don’t jump to conclusions or believe the worst. It only takes a few minutes to get the facts. So, ask questions before jumping to judgments. “I need your help in understanding this,” is always a good way to begin.

Fighting Back

When you are angry with someone it means that, in your mind, they have wronged you. When someone has wronged you, the emotion of anger pushes you to fight back. But fighting back almost always makes the situation worse. One fundamental principle in anger management is to make a covenant with yourself, that you will not attack another person when you are angry.

Verbal and physical explosions are not appropriate responses to anger. So, let’s ask God to help us to ‘take a break’ or ‘take a walk’ when we feel angry. You are less likely to explode if you talk to God about your anger as you walk around the block. Jesus is our example: He did not rail against those who railed against Him.

A Plan

Do you have a plan for handling anger in your marriage? Let’s begin by admitting that all of us experience anger. Your spouse treats you unfairly, or they fail to do something that you expected them to do, so you feel angry. In a healthy marriage, the couple has an agreement: that when you feel angry, I want you to tell me. I can’t help you with your anger until I know what you are angry about.

And yet, this is a new idea for many people. One wife said, “You mean I’m supposed to tell my husband that I am angry that he washed his car and did not wash mine.” That’s right I said, unless you want to have a dirty car the rest of your life. Sharing your anger is the only way to process your anger in a positive way.

Admitting You Have It

I don’t ever remember getting angry until I got married. Maybe I have a faulty memory, but one thing is certain: six months after the wedding, I found myself angry with my wife. Why? Because she did not live up to my expectations. Incidentally, she was angry with me for the same reason.

In those days, if you had asked me, “Are you angry?” I would have said, “No, I’m just disappointed. I’m hurt.” I had been taught all my life that anger was sinful. I didn’t want to sin, so I gave my anger a different name. The first step in learning to process anger is to admit: “I’m feeling angry.” You can’t deal with it until you are honest enough to admit that you have it.

Past Failure

A husband recently said to me, “Why can’t we just forget the past and focus on the present and the future?” I’m empathetic with this husband, but it doesn’t work that way. We must deal with past failures before we can ‘put them behind us’. Otherwise, it keeps popping back up. The first step in dealing with past failures is to identify them.

Where have we failed each other? Most of us can identify our spouse’s failures more readily than we can identify our own. However, Jesus taught that we should first – get the beam out of our own eye. So why not ask God to bring to your mind all of the times when you have hurt your spouse. Write them down. We cannot deal with past failures until we identify them.

 

Love is Gentle

When a couple comes to the point of separation, it is usually with many negative emotions. The temptation is to express these emotions in harsh words and brutal attacks. Nothing pleases Satan more than to see two Christians fighting each other. God’s way is love in the midst of hurt. Christ loved us even when we were killing him.

The scriptures say, ‘love is not rude’. The opposite of rudeness is courtesy. The word means to be ‘friendly minded’ – to treat your spouse as a friend. There is nothing to be gained by arguing and screaming. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). Certainly you need to discuss issues, but not in the attack mode.

Kindness Expressed

In my book, Hope for the Separated, I’m bold to suggest that you should be kind to the spouse who has walked out on you. I know it doesn’t seem natural, but we are called to love our enemies, and love is kind. The word ‘kind’ means ‘to be useful or beneficial’. What can you say or do that would be useful or beneficial to your spouse?

If you are a husband who has left, there are scores of things around the house that you could do for your wife, if she is willing. If your wife has left you, you may still be able to do some things that are ‘beneficial’ to her. What is to be gained by not helping her? You can be God’s agent of love. Love, expressed in kindness, is often the first step toward reconciliation.

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