Anger—What Is It?
“BY REPRESSING your God-given talent for anger, you’re killing yourself.” So warned an article quoted in the magazine Newsweek. For years, apparently, many psychologists have popularized the idea that unexpressed anger may cause such disorders as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.
The Bible, on the other hand, has admonished for millenniums: “Let anger alone and leave rage.” (Psalm 37:8) The Bible’s diagnosis is to the point: “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”—Ecclesiastes 7:9, King James Version.
Who is right, the secular experts or the Bible? What really is anger? Is venting anger good for us?
“Anger” is a general term describing a strong feeling or reaction of displeasure and antagonism. There are other words, too, that reveal the degree of anger or how it is expressed. Rage suggests a very intense anger. Fury can be destructive. Indignation may refer to anger for a righteous cause. And wrath often implies revenge or punishment.
Anger is usually specific: We are angry about something. But how we express anger or deal with it makes a big difference.
Interestingly, although some experts insist that the venting of anger is beneficial, recent psychological studies show that many people who allow themselves to express anger suffer from lower self-esteem, depression, guilt complex, escalated hostility, or anxiety. Moreover, “getting it off one’s chest,” or “blowing off steam,” perhaps accompanied by angry outbursts, screaming, crying, or even physical assault, usually creates more problems than it solves. The angry person gets angrier, and hurt feelings build up in others.—Proverbs 30:33; Genesis 49:6, 7.
When we shout and yell in anger, we often do not get the results we hope for because the other person is usually provoked to strike back. For example, suppose that while you are driving your car, another driver does something to annoy you. In response, you shout and honk your horn. Your outburst could easily provoke the object of your rage to retaliate. At times, tragedy has resulted from such a situation. For example, a man in Brooklyn, New York, was killed while arguing over a parking space on a street. The Bible highlights the problem when it says: “A man given to anger stirs up contention, and anyone disposed to rage has many a transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22) How wise to follow the counsel: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men”!—Romans 12:17, 18.
Hence, venting our anger does not help us socially. But is it good for us physically? A number of physicians have concluded that it is not. Studies have shown that persons who are prone to express anger have the highest levels of blood pressure. Some reported that anger produced cardiac sensations, headaches, nosebleed, dizziness, or inability to vocalize. On the other hand, the Giver of our life explains: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Proverbs 14:30) Jesus said: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’”—Matthew 5:9.
Causes of Anger
Some causes of anger are attacks on our self-esteem, personal criticism, insult, unfair treatment, and unjustified frustration. When people are angry, they are conveying an emphatic message: “You are threatening my happiness and security! You are hurting my pride! You are robbing me of my self-respect! You are taking advantage of me!”
Sometimes people use anger as a cover-up for something else. For example, a 14-year-old boy in New York City was constantly in an angry mood and always getting into fights. With the help of a doctor, the boy eventually admitted: “I would never say, okay, I need help, I want somebody to talk to . . . Your fear is that people are not going to like you.” So, what he really wanted was attention and affection.
A married couple in California engaged in angry outbursts every time the wife visited her girlfriend. The husband’s angry behavior triggered a similar reaction in the wife. At a counseling session, the husband eventually told her something he had never told anyone before. When his wife went away without him, even for a short while, deep inside he was afraid that she might leave him altogether because his father had abandoned him when he was young. When the wife understood the underlying reason for her husband’s anger—a fear of abandonment—it helped her to dispel her own anger at him and to reassure him of her love.
Thus, anger may be a symptom. In such cases, by identifying its underlying cause, we can learn to deal with it properly.
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A number of physicians have concluded that venting anger is unhealthy