Hannah, a hairdresser, confided in me about her desire to overcome her intense anger, especially when her clients were late to their appointments. She asked me,
“Kathy, how can I control my frustration? Even my grown kids tell me I’m angry towards them, saying I micro-manage their lives.”
I asked her about her childhood and she replied, “After my dad left us, my mom worked. By the time I was six years old, I had to get myself off to school and home from school. Anxious about losing the key to our house, I created routines for almost everything. That way I wouldn’t get locked out and feel helpless.”
After hearing her story, I shared with Hannah my theory about her anger.
“Hannah, when you developed those routines to safeguard yourself, you believed the lies that no one cared about you and that you were on her own. You bought into the accusations that Satan had thrown at you—like God didn’t care and He wasn’t available to help you.”
Hannah looked a little surprised but I continued, “You learned to control every part of your life and then the lives of others, otherwise, life was too dangerous. Even as a Christian who claims you trust God, your actions reveal your distrust. And your family and your clients experience the result.”
Hannah’s eyes widened and she exclaimed, “It makes sense. In effect, I’m trying to make sure I don’t lose the key that will keep me safe. I’m really acting like God won’t take good care of me. And I get angry when my tight grip is threatened. I sure don’t want to be like that. What can I do?”
I suggested Hannah pray to ask God to forgive her, then surrender to Him even when her “routines” were threatened. Then she could learn to trust Him instead of losing her cool. I assured Hannah this wouldn’t be a one-time surrender but a process of growth. After she prayed, she wiped away tears, saying she felt like she had released a huge burden.
Just like Hannah, you and I can discover the heart issues of our anger. Then we can learn to be patient and gracious towards others.
As you work on any anger issues in yourself or have an opportunity to help others, look for the underlying sources of anger when:
Our goals feel threatened.
We might believe our goals are the best — or only — way to get something done. But our plans may only be our way to control life and people so that we feel safe or successful.
Our personhood is belittled.
We may feel like a little girl again being berated by a stern parent or teacher. Our anger is our way to defend our image — it puts attention on the faults of others and not ourselves.
Our abilities are disrespected.
We may feel like we’re not being given the credit we deserve. We’ve possibly depended upon acknowledgment of our skills or talents to make us feel good about ourselves instead of allowing God to define our worth and value.
In each of these cases, we need to ask God to forgive us for the ways we’re seeking our own way through anger and then surrender it to Him.
The day after Hannah and I talked, I received a text from her while she was at work: “You’re gonna laugh! Everyone is coming late for their appointments and the Lord is empowering me to be gracious and relaxed. Now I know I’m not on my own. He is here to help me and I don’t need to control everything. He’s in control!”
Over 40 years ago God delivered Kathy Collard Miller from being an abusive mother.
Award-winning author and speaker, Kathy Collard Miller and husband Larry are lay counselors and give “soul care” counseling to individuals and couples. Their goal is to help Christians deal with the underlying causes of their ungodly reactions. Their book, Never Ever Be the Same, shares the principles they work within the hearts of those who come.