Thanks to so many of you (here and on Facebook) for your feedback on what makes you really angry. I don’t want to be too teacher-y, but I’d like to offer a few suggestions about what to do with our anger. I hope you’ll add your own thoughts or stories…
Pray it out. This was initially the only one I was going to offer. We see lots of disturbing prayers in Scripture, and while they may pose a problem for some people, there are some things we need to keep in mind. Simply put, it’s better to ask God to dash babies against rocks than to do it yourself (Psalm 137). By praying in this way, perhaps we protect ourselves from being more likely to do these things on our own (of course I also mean things much nicer than dashing babies against rocks). In the end, we are entrusting judgment to God who judges justly, which is exactly one way in which we are to be like Jesus (see 1 Peter 2). So when you’re angry, talk to God about it first.
Write it out. I’ve talked with numerous people over the last few weeks about this issue (we’re doing a thing on anger in our church) and many have said that what helped them was to journal their thoughts. This may seem elementary, but I’m still proud to recommend it, because I truly think it works for many people. I talked with one guy who is going through a divorce, and he said that in the last few months he’s written over 160 pages, single-spaced, with a small font! He said nothing has helped more than this. One thing he mentioned was he no longer feels the need to try and remember all the little ways he has been wronged – if he needs them, they’re on paper. (Not only does this free him from always meditating on things that will only make him angrier, it also lessens his need to remember them at all.) What you write will depend on your situation – whether you are rightly or wrongly angry, what you think can be done about it, etc.
Honorable mentions: Hug it out – cling in love to the person with whom you are angry. Work it out – devote your energy to more worthwhile tasks than thinking about how you’ve been wronged. Duke it out – in certain settings I am increasingly okay with us pummeling each other; not, mind you, in hatred, but in settings like backyard football, jockeying for position in the low post (basketball), or a group of guys acting like amateur boxing champs. This must be done in a friendly manner and with an understanding that such forms of aggressiveness can (if we let them) reinforce violent tendencies in more serious / lethal situations.
And eventually, especially for the extroverted types, Talk it out.
Whatever you do, don’t take it out on other people. I’ve seen some of the worst behavior – in marriages, on blogs, and everywhere in between – because people don’t seem to know what to do with their anger. And also, please don’t take it out on yourself. I’m not a big ‘self esteem’ guy, but anger turned inward does nothing for anyone (see above on depression). In the end, don’t “take it” out at all. Instead, write it out, pray it out, hug it out, work it out, maybe even duke it out, and then you’ll be better prepared to talk it out.