Anger is such an important part of health!
Yes - health.
Without the full spectrum of full human emotions - we are not physically healthy. Our Creator designed our emotional and physical experience to be connected to one another.
So - what happens when we repress? What happens when we grow up in homes and environments where the family pushes back or stifles our valid and honest emotional expression?
Emotional Dysregulation, Chronic Illness, High-Functioning Depression & Anxiety Symptoms, and Dysfunctional relationships, Toxic Shame to name just a few.
What can also happen is a confusing relationship with God where we feel afraid to express ourselves to Him - to wrestle with Him, to pour out our hearts before him.
We can more easily get into abusive relationship dynamics and unhealthy spiritual communities because we are less likely to speak up, express needs, set boundaries and advocate for what is right.
When I work with clients who struggle with allowing anger - they often feel it is unChristian to be angry. It is unforgiving. It is somehow sinful. They feel ashamed of a perfectly valid emotion.
And this can lead to unhealthy, and even abusive dynamics persisting because the impulse of anger and taking action against injustice is suppressed.
But this is not what Scripture teaches us. Scripture teaches us to be angry and sin not.
There is a distinction there which is very important. Be angry? Yes. Don’t Sin.
Can we sin as a result of our anger? Of course. But that does not mean anger is sinful.
We know that we are made in the image of God - God feels a range of emotions - including anger and He expresses it. His anger is kindled over injustice among many other things.
Jesus flipped over tables in the temple as an expression of His Righteous anger.
Somatically - anger fuels our fight energy. This is about survival, adrenaline and a production of very powerful energy. This energy helps us to fight our way out of threatening situations and preserve our life. It helps us lift the car of the child in a crisis. It helps us take action.
That is the pure expression of anger - which is part of being made in God’s image.
It brings self protection and the protection of others - protecting what is sacred, what is holy, what is innocent and what is right. It often brings a purging of what is untrue and unjust. Healthy anger is a cleansing force that we all need.
So let’s look at abusive situations and dysfunctional families and societies. In these situations people swallow their anger and attempt to be nice.
Interesting that Scripture actually tells us to be angry. It doesn’t tell us to be nice.
But we feel that we are not allowed to express anger toward those who were abusive and who acted unjustly. We must forgive.
But the thing is - anger is part of the process of forgiveness. We feel the anger. The anger reminds us that it was not okay. It is part of our conscience speaking. Recognizing that we are made in God’s image and when that image is violated by injustice, manipulation or abuse we recognize the breach of dignity that has occurred. We MUST feel it because love rejoices in the truth.
Of course, we deal with the sin-stain. Our emotions are made in the image of God, but sin means that our emotions are not perfect the way that God’s are. Our emotions are not our ULTIMATE authority. We can’t justify sinning and harming others as a result of our emotions. But they are important and valid and they tell us important things about ourselves and the world around us. And we will lose our health if we try to stuff them down - because emotions are biological, spiritual and physical.
Restoring healthy anger after trauma is a life skill and a health skill. It restores a sense of sanity, dignity, healthy boundaries and a sense of empowerment. It involves the physical body just as much as the emotional and spiritual self.
The physical processing of anger has to do with building capacity in your nervous system to actually FEEL it, express it in non-destructive ways, and care for yourself. It supports the healing of toxic shame and brings truth into the light of God - whose love rejoices in the truth.
So now - How do we walk through anger as we heal from trauma?
1. Feel the anger. Remember that it is not sinful to be angry about injustices done to you or others.
Scriptures about anger:
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,