Are You Full of Buried Anger?

If you knock over a vase, you can only spill what’s already in it; if you dig in the ground, you can only find what’s already there. And if something “makes” you blow up with a fury that surprises even you, it’s because the anger was already inside you, whether you knew it or not.

Self-control is a virtue; it’s even numbered among the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:23. Still, the word “control” hints at a darker side. Things controlled are not things banished: they are things reined in, things subdued and pinned down, often things awaiting the opportunity to escape. Many who take pride in having perfect control of themselves think they are free of negative feelings, when in fact they have a seething mass of anger hidden behind a thinner door than they suspect.

You may be one of those people if much of the following description applies to you:

  • You’re in constant motion, yet always feeling behind.
  • You plan every day’s schedule down to the quarter-hour, and you feel your body stiffening as soon as someone or something interferes with the plan.
  • You bristle with defensiveness whenever anyone says anything that could be remotely conceived as criticism.
  • Your instant reaction to a family member’s shouting or acting out in public is “What will people think of me/us?”
  • You never suspected you had high blood pressure until your doctor informs you during a routine checkup.
  • Your weight is higher, or your sleep less sound, than can easily be explained by physical habits alone.
  • You’ve ever had a tantrum triggered by some tiny provocation.
  • When you hear the phrase “Count your blessings,” it takes you at least 30 seconds to think of #1.

“A proud man is seldom a grateful man,” said Henry Ward Beecher, “for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Probably the top cause of buried anger is the pride that says, “I work hard–as hard as I possibly can–to make things go right [even to cultivate a flawless godly character in myself], and I’ve earned the entitlement to have them go right. And when circumstances and people and God don’t cooperate, they’re so unreasonable to expect the impossible of me!!!”

Such an attitude misses the point; we’re mistaking our own demands of ourselves for God’s demands. It’s easy for our merely human, pride-infected minds to take such Scriptural phrases as “without ceasing” and “in everything” and “be perfect” as meaning that God tolerates no deviations from that norm–and if that were true, He would indeed be expecting the impossible of us. And it’s understandable that our finite minds struggle to reconcile such phrases with the other parts of Scripture that assure us of God’s grace and patience, and of His yearning to bless us irrespective of whether we “deserve” it. It just doesn’t feel logical.

The truth is, love–even merely human love–is illogical. Many who don’t understand how God could want us to be our best and yet accept our inevitable flaws and slow growth, have received a flash of enlightenment when reminded of their own feelings toward their own children. We don’t look at those we truly care for and adjust that affection each day according to their performance. We care for them because of something between us and in us that goes deeper than any circumstance. How much more with God’s perfect love!

The best way to root buried anger up and out, is to displace it with thankfulness for God’s grace and blessings.

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3 Comments

  1. Jo Swank

     /  August 7, 2015

    Wow! More good insights, Kathy! Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Thank you, Katherine! Precious thoughts, as always. I’ve found this passage especially deep:
    “Probably the top cause of buried anger is the pride that says, “I work hard–as hard as I possibly can–to make things go right [even to cultivate a flawless godly character in myself], and I’ve earned the entitlement to have them go right. And when circumstances and people and God don’t cooperate, they’re so unreasonable to expect the impossible of me!!!””

    Reply
  3. Thank you both!

    Reply

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