For many of us, this season of quarantine has opened the door for more time at home spent with family. And that’s a good thing, right? But for some people, more time with family equals more time dealing with conflict and anger. If we don’t deal with conflict and anger in healthy ways, our disagreements will deal destructively with us.
I’ll never forget a time when I was a senior in high school—and in full rebellion—that my dad and I had a disagreement which escalated into a full-blown argument, which continued to escalate until I almost came to blows with my dad. (I had been lifting weights for a couple of years at that point, and I figured I could take him. That’s how bad it got.) Fortunately, things calmed down, but the brokenness in that relationship took a long time to heal.
Fast forward. About seven years ago I told my, then, fifteen-year-old daughter to do something, and she pushed back, which in my mind was being a bit disrespectful. We exchanged words, things began to escalate, and I lost my cool and said those parenting words that we tend to say in moments of conflict with our kids that never really work, “Yes, you will do this, because I’m the dad, and I said so!” Which means—I’m bigger and stronger than you, and I can make you do this if I have to! That anger I had with my dad back when I was seventeen was being repeated when I was the dad and my daughter was fifteen. Not cool!
Most of us have been there, done that. We’ve either been on the receiving end of someone else’s anger boiling over, or we’ve been the one boiling over. Here are five ways we can reverse the rush of anger.
- Request help from God IMMEDIATELY. Anger will either escalate or dissipate with no hesitation. To get ahead of the escalation, we have to escalate our prayers and turn to the One who calms the heart and soothes the soul. Paul wrote, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, ESV).
- Exit volatile situations. Leave the room. Take a walk. Exit the situation, so that you (and the other person) has time for the first thing—request help from God immediately. Five times in the New Testament we are instructed to flee from passions that hold us back from following God (1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 11:25).
- Get over it. Not to sound harsh, but when you give it over to God, get over it. Don’t live in the past. Step into the future. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).
- Note the root cause.What’s really going on inside your heart and mind? Why are you reacting the way you are? Not until you root out the cause will you root away your anger (Luke 6:45).
- Act as the master, not as the slave. We have the power of the resurrected Christ indwelling us through His Spirit. Thus, we can choose to surrender our anger to Him, and let Him rule our hearts. Peter reminds us, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19b, ESV).
How wonderful it is when relationships are healed, hearts are set free, and anger is present no more. I hope you find that healing today.