Toxic Anger
T. Suzanne Eller

"Settle matters quickly with your adversary..." Matthew 5:25a (NIV)

"Do you think we could stop by the auction on the way home from church?" I asked.

Hanging out at auctions isn't my husband's favorite thing, but he said yes. I noted that his voice lacked enthusiasm. "We don't have to go if you don't want to," I said. Then I calmly brought up an event from two months earlier. A time I had felt disappointed.

To be honest, he didn't have a fighting chance.

We arrived at church, tension hanging between us. Worship was wonderful. The sermon was great. But all I could hear was the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit showing me how I had used my words to pin my husband in a corner. I reached for his hand and apologized. He willingly forgave me.

When we think of anger we often think of destructive anger. Words and actions that violate and separate. But that's not how most of us operate. For many, our anger is cool and calm on the outside as we hide the resentment on the inside. Over time it becomes toxic, seeping out in seemingly innocent comments or hidden behind a wall that loved ones cannot penetrate.

Be angry and sin not.

Maybe you push anger down because you believe it is a sin. The reality is that we are going to be disappointed, even in the strongest relationships. Normal families do have conflict. We will get angry at the people we love the most. Anger in itself is not the sin; it's simply an emotion. Anger only becomes toxic when we use it to hurt others or ourselves.

Listen and be slow to speak.

I wasn't angry about the auction, or even my husband's lack of enthusiasm. College classes and other family obligations were taking large chunks of my husband's time. I longed for unscheduled time with my husband.

That was the real issue, something we could work through.

I needed not only to listen to the Holy Spirit to view the real issue, but to listen to my husband's perspective. In spite of my calm demeanor, Richard felt like he was fighting ghosts. My passive aggressive approach made it impossible for Richard to participate in a healthy conversation.

Settle matters quickly.

This incident may seem small, but how many fractured and broken relationships are due to once-small issues that festered under the surface for years? Toxic anger rarely ignites instantly, but simmers as the fire is fed until it burns out of control.

Healthy conflict means that you work through issues immediately, though never in the heat of an argument. It's admitting when we are wrong, and forgiving others for their shortcomings. It's putting yesterday behind us and starting fresh.

Hold up your wounds to the Healer.

Maybe you've been wounded and anger has become your defense mechanism. Are you willing to allow Christ to heal those wounds? When I look at my heart I find scars of old conflicts, but I'm not ashamed of those scars because a scar by its very definition implies healing.

Those marks remind me of the love of Christ, and to never let toxic anger rob me of living and loving fully.

Heavenly Father, I'm angry and I'm hurting. I've let small things become big things that are threatening my well-being, and my relationships. Give me the words to say, and keep the words that I shouldn't say from my lips. I offer my wounds to You today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do You Know Jesus?

Visit Suzie’s blog to download a free resource, Five Healthy Ways to Handle Conflict

The Mom I Want to be: Rising above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future by T. Suzanne Eller

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood
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Application Steps:
Admit it when you are angry.

Journal about the incident.

Read it out loud. Ask Jesus to show you the real issue.

Ask for wisdom (James 1:5).

Add a prayer, and one step you can take, to your journal entry.

Am I brokenhearted over my anger?

Have I asked Christ to forgive me?

Am I committed to turn in the opposite direction?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)

James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (NIV)

© 2010 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Donna said...

The information you gave was very helpful and the little prayer at the end was exactly what I needed. Thank you.

Blogger Unknown said...

My son and I were arguing (over something petty), it was getting heated and we both said some things that we didn't mean (hurtful things). I'm not in the habit of reading your post; but something was pulling at me to read this story...
I know (w/out a doubt) that out was God doing the pulling because it is Exactly what I needed to hear at that exact moment! Thank you for this post. God's light is defintely shining through your ministry!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was exactly the post I needed to read this morning - thank you!

I do have one question, however - If you personally have reached a point of forgiveness with another individual, but haven't discussed it with them - AND - you don't want to go back to what the relationship once was (from closeness to a very surfaced relationship), does that mean that my journey to healing with Christ hasn't completed? I love the individual, and with time and healing, their name will be safe on my lips...but based on some very dishonest behavior by the individual, I don't know if I *want* to work to return the relationship to what it once was.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very timely devotion for me~I am angry that my Ex-husband who has custody of our 7 year old son, calls me yesterday to tell me he has basketball practice Saturday and that instead of picking him today, I must wait until Saturday. Me and my 14 yo son live 3 hours away and I must carefully plan my resources (being unemployed) to be able to go pick my son up. (He doesn't meet me half-way) Jesus, I need You to be with me and my children during this Holiday Season~Give Our Home A Spirit of Forgiveness, Healing and Love. God please protect my fragmented family and please Heal us all. My 15 year old daughter too needs Emotional Healing too. Thank you for my kids and thank you God for allowing me to be a Mother. I love You~

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment by Anonymous @ 10:44 AM touched a tender place in my heart and was so honest and sweet. You sound identical to my hurting sister, and so I shared it with her. We thank you; I am praying for you & your family now, sister in grace.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!! Thank you so much for writing and posting this devotional!! I KNOW it was from God! Let me just say, that last Friday, when this was originally posted, was my day from you know where... I know God has been trying to get me to move past my complaint dept, I am currently stuck in, to the love your SISTER as yourself,to have a friend you must first show yourself friendly, and being helpful to those in need kind of attitude. The person who lately has mostly needed my help, is very much a user and manipulater, and was formerly married to my husband... I have given more in ways I can't begin to explain, all for the children's sake.. My day started out like that, with me giving, then moved on to two(2) separate but quite embarrassing situations, and lastly to my giving in again.. Plans altered, irritable, and leaving my husband stuck in the middle... Nonetheless, I had read this post early Friday morning, then after part where I had ripped my jeans, It showed up in my inbox again.. I thought ok, God is telling me that I am getting too upset and need to calm down... Then I came home that evening, only to get on FB and see it there again, reposted!! Then, today @ work, after telling a friend about my Friday, I walked back to my desk, and there it was a brand new email, right in my inbox!! I just bowed my head, and said, Lord, forgive me for bringing that up again, and help me to move past the past,discard the anger, and to turn the other cheek with ease, and to do your will!! I knew at that moment, I had to let you know that God is using your devotionals to teach us, your readers, little life lessons in many ways!!Thanks again for being obedient..

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