Is Anger Okay? {Managing Our Scary Emotions}

We’d been in inexplicable traffic for 40 minutes. No car accident or natural disaster visible for miles. Just count-the-rocks-on-the-freeway, creeping-3-miles-an-hour. . . traffic.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad if the middle school daughter I’d just picked up at school was in a good mood. She wasn’t. Instead, a constant stream of blame, complaints, and accusations flowed from the back seat like grump bombs.

I used coping skills: deep, steady breathing, ignoring her, praying (first, with compassion for her, then for God to give me strength to cope and not yell back!) I turned on music, set limits with her, looked at the sunset. Finally, I decided to get off the freeway and take an alternate route home.

Except that when I did that last one, I exited behind. . . her.

In bumper to bumper traffic, she’d kept 4 car lengths distance between her and the car in front of her. I didn’t care on the freeway, since we were all stuck anyway. But while crossing an intersection she stopped nearly in the middle, leaving me in the intersection so she could have her 4 car-lengths margin. We were vulnerable. Blocking traffic.

She crept forward. I crept forward.

She crept forward once more, now only 2 car lengths between her and the car in front of her. I scooted forward too, glad to be out of the intersection.

And then it happened: She locked eyes with me in her rear-view mirror, face flushed, screaming and wagging an angry finger at me. She rolled down her window, flipped me the middle finger, honked her horn, and yelled some more. Then she scooted up closer to the car in front of her and gestured STOP at me before I could follow.

I wanted to not be a Christian right then. To scream and yell and swear and flip her the bird and smash into her smug, needs-too-much-space-in-city-traffic bumper.

And then find the EJECT button and launch my moody, raging daughter into space. 

What is anger about, anyway?

The American Psychological Association says, “Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; . . .which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.”

Anger is like fire: necessary and useful as a signal, but it burns us when mishandled. {tweet this}

What gets us mad? Often one or more of the following, when we feel:

  • trapped
  • wrongly judged
  • embarrassed
  • helpless
  • used
  • abused
  • or when we see other people experiencing any of the above.

On the road that day, I felt all of those.

You’ve been there too. Moments when life’s challenges press down so hard we’re ready to explode.

Handling Anger So It Doesn’t Handle Us

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” – James 1:19-20

If you’re like me, reading that and automatically throwing hands in the air, thinking it’s impossible, you’re right. It is. When we try to overcome anger in our own strength. 

Apart from God’s help, John 15:5 says, we can do nothing. When anger flares and we’re swimming in adrenaline, we’re trapped like a car in rush hour. But when we so much as crack open the door for God’s help against our angst, we’re suddenly freed.

I know, because that’s what happened to me after the road rage moment! It wasn’t polished or pretty, but God heard my plea and recognized the tightness in my chest. He saw the stress rising, the anger swirling and ready to take me. I couldn’t see any way out.

But God. . .

In the form of a quiet hand stretched from the passenger seat, grabbing mine and squeezing tight. No words, no flashes of light. Traffic didn’t dissolve and I wasn’t suddenly wrapped in my favorite hoodie, sipping cocoa at home.

He saw me. He reached straight into the loaded gun of my anger in that moment and drained the gunpowder quietly away.

God sees you too. In that moment that leaves you ready to ignite. If only we’ll crack open the door and invite Him in.

What about you? What makes you mad? What helps you through it?


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  1. Kidstalk says

    Thanks Laurie…I’ve been wrestling with an “anger incident” since last week & I know I need to deal with it & seek forgiveness from the victim I exploded on. The Holy Spirit has nudged me further with this post! God bless you:)