If you are feeling stressed to the point of burnout or on the threshold of emotional exhaustion, the main culprits contributing to your troubles are likely anger, fear, and guilt. These emotions are inescapable—we all experience them. Our challenge is to not let these normal emotions spin out of control and become toxic.
Life is filled with difficult people and challenging circumstances, some of which can cripple us emotionally. Those things can cause us to get angry—a natural response to hurt and intimidation. Then we become fearful, wondering if we’ve done the right thing by expressing our red-hot feelings. So we back off and deny our anger, become a captive to our fears, and begin to live with guilt for having taken a stand in the first place.
It seems that we are always living with this emotionally toxic trinity: anger, fear, and guilt. They become particularly troublesome when we hang on to these emotions long after they should have done their useful work. It’s important to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger, fear, and guilt. How you handle these often-poisonous emotions will be a major key to your regaining control and emotional balance.
Sometimes our anger is uncalled for, inappropriate, and a hazard to our physical and emotional health. How do we avoid those misfires? A good strategy is to recognize wrong beliefs you may have about someone’s words or actions and how they affect you. By trying to look beneath the surface of the situation, understanding the other person’s motivation and your reactions, you may be able to stand down before you fire off a round of self-destructive anger.
Long-held, unproductive anger and resentment are not only crippling for us emotionally, they may also be harmful to our physical health. Here are four ways to avoid the self- inflicted wounds of anger before they do damage:
1. Be your own person. Don’t let the actions of anger enslave you and dictate how you feel. Pause and let your anger subside until you have a clear enough head to evaluate the situation mindfully.
2. Don’t intimidate, and don’t be intimidated. Be assertive by asking the person to be reasonable in your debate, even as you promise to return the favor.
3. If the shoe fits, wear it. Before you raise your defenses, ask God to give you the courage to accept the truth and confess your fault, if necessary.
4. Practice intentional kindness. God’s Word says that a kind word turns away anger (Proverbs 15:1). Your tone—in voice and body posture—can help diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.
How do you create a roadmap for your healing journey? You start with truth and continue to acceptance of grace. It is important to keep going, because one of your most important destinations is just ahead: forgiveness.
Why is forgiveness a desirable destination? It is the place where you experience freedom from the burden of your own wrongdoing and from bondage to the wrongdoing of others. Without that freedom, you will continue to carry anger, guilt, fear, and shame. These unwelcome companions will weigh you down, wear you out, and weaken your resolve to keep moving forward to healing.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.