How to Turn Your Anger Into Healthy, Holy Action

Should Christians get angry? And when they do, how should they handle it?

Attempting to answer those questions on a recent episode of the More2Life radio show, Bill Donaghy, senior lecturer at the Theology of the Body Institute, pointed to a scene near the climax of the Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace.

Two Jedi knights are battling the evil Sith Lord, Darth Maul. Their lightsaber battle rages through a power plant until a “laser gate” suddenly closes, separating the two sides. As they wait for the gate to open, the Sith warrior paces back and forth like a caged animal, twirling his double-bladed lightsaber and glaring angrily at the Jedi. One of the Jedi reacts very differently, though: he falls to his knees and closes his eyes in a kind of prayer.

The scene illustrates two very different ways of handling anger, Donaghy told Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak, and points to a key Christian insight about anger. Feeling anger isn’t sinful: “Be angry, but do not sin,” St. Paul told the early Christians (Ephesians 4:26).

Instead, it is what we do with our anger that matters.

Anger vs. Wrath

“Anger is meant to be a gift that calls our attention to an injustice and motivates us to act in proportionate, appropriate, and productive ways so that we can heal whatever that injustice might be,” Dr. Popcak said.

Anger that is appropriately channeled into setting things right—“righteous anger”—is better than unreasonable patience with evil, St. John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church, once said: “He who is not angry when he has good reason to be, sins. Unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices.”

Wrath, on the other hand, is sinful. Wrath is “anger that is inappropriate, disproportionate, and unproductive,” Dr. Popcak said. While righteous anger aims to restore and heal, wrath seeks to destroy.

If anger is a gift from God—a signal that something is wrong that needs to be put right—then how do we handle this powerful emotion in a way that serves the good? Here are a few tips.


Don’t React; Instead, Step Back

The key to handling anger well is to avoid being reactive. Instead of launching into a hasty response fueled by the chemicals flooding your brain, pause, step back, and consider what is really driving your anger.

Is it really the thing in front of you that is provoking your anger, or is the thing in front of you stirring up old wounds? Is your child’s whining the real problem—or is the deeper problem that you are hungry and exhausted?

Understanding the real source of your anger is critical to addressing it in a proportionate, productive way.


Sublimate Your Anger to God

As you are collecting your thoughts, pray for the grace you need to handle the situation well.

“Anger isn’t so much a call to action as a call to prayer,” Dr. Popcak said. “Without prayer, anger can cause us to feel stuck, powerless, and perpetually outraged with no solution in sight.”

“We have to stop and say to the Lord: ‘Lord, I’m a mess,’” Lisa Popcak added. “’Everything is dysregulated inside of me because I feel like there’s an injustice happening. You went through the worst injustice possible. Show me what to do with this.’”

In the language of the Theology of the Body, your goal should be to sublimate your anger to God. Sublimation is not about repressing or denying your anger, Donaghy said; it is about “lifting it up to God, giving it to God and asking God to come into it.”


Learn to Express Anger Constructively

Righteous anger focuses on setting things right and finding solutions. In other words, it has a constructive purpose.

Setting boundaries for a respectful discussion can help. In a conflict with your spouse, for example, you might agree that each of you has a right to express their thoughts and feelings, but that it is not acceptable to express those thoughts and feelings in a disrespectful or destructive way.

Similarly, constructive anger focuses on finding solutions that address the concerns of all parties involved. The priority ought to be healing, restoring, and strengthening relationships, not “winning,” which only fosters resentment and fuels the cycle of angry conflict.


Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

Sometimes, dealing with anger —yours or someone else’s— requires some extra help. You can find Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s advice about handling anger in many of their books, particularly Parenting with Grace (for handling kids’ anger), Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (for anger as a gift from God), How to Heal Your Marriage & Nurture Lasting Love (for handling anger in a marriage), and God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace With Difficult People (self-explanatory, really).

And for more in-depth, one-on-one help, reach out to one of the many pastoral counselors at

How Anger Can Be Effective

Guest post by Dr. Mark Kolodziej, Pastoral Counselor with

“Anger is not the issue, anger management is what is important!”


Anger is a natural progression of unmet needs. It would be easy to assume that once an individual’s needs have been met, the anger would go away, however this is not always true. When we have unmet needs we learn certain behaviors that become knee jerk reactions, these become habits. These conditioned responses persist even when there is no need. Similar to a law that has been developed because there is a need for the law. When the need disappears, the law often persists for long periods of time, sometimes centuries.

First we must identify what our needs are, then we must develop strategies to meet our needs, and finally we must use effective tools to be able to deal with our inappropriate anger response that persists even after the need has been met.

It is important to note that anger, when used appropriately, is a very effective and necessary tool for us to navigate the world. Knowing how and when to use emotions makes us more effective at life and in making a difference in people’s lives. Learning how to use the graces that God gives us helps us to bring our souls back to God and others who are in our lives. 

I have developed a program–Refrain-Freedom From Anger–that helps participants meet their needs and effectively manage anger in a healthy and grace filled way.

A new Refrain course is starting soon! Learn more about Refrain and my work as a Pastoral Counselor at


Dr. Mark Kolodziej, Pastoral Counselor,

How To Make Our Anger Result in Action

There are lots of things for us to be angry about, but new research shows we often don’t do anything about it.

A new study out of Carnegie Mellon University reveals that we typically become angry about two types of injustices. First, when a bad thing happens to a good person and second when a good thing happens to a “bad” person despite their bad behavior. 

In the first instance—such as when a natural disaster devastates a town—the research shows that we have a desire to help, but usually only in a nominal way. Dr. Jeffrey Galak, an associate professor of marketing in the university’s Tepper School of Business states, “When a hurricane happens, we want to help, but we give them 10 bucks. We don’t try to build them a new house.” 

While donating $10 can be meaningful and helpful, our reaction to this type of injustice usually does not result in action on a grander or more effective scale.

Likewise, when we react to the second type of injustice—when a good thing happens to bad people—the research demonstrates that more often than not we don’t do anything at all. According to Dr. Galak, “That’s because people often feel that the forces at play in creating the unfair situation are beyond their control, or would at least be too personally costly to make the effort worthwhile.”

So how do we use our anger to take action in a way that leads to effective change?

1. Take it to God—First and foremost, take your anger to God. Tell Him how you are feeling and even what you would like to do about the situation. Then listen. Allow God to direct your response in a way that glorifies Him and leads to an appropriate response to the circumstance.

2. Address your concerns. If you have a problem with someone—a problem that is causing you to view that individual  as a bad person—it is best to address your concerns with that person in a respectful and clear way. Be honest with the individual—but not blaming—about your feelings. Share with them what you need to heal and feel supported. Moreover, it is best to talk through small problems before they become big problems.

3. Don’t let your anger consume you. When you are feeling overwhelmed by anger make an effort to focus on the blessings in your life. Make a list of three things you are grateful for each day and thank God for those happy blessings. 

For more on how to deal with infuriating people or situations check out “God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts!” and “God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy!

Can You Be Mindful And Still Feel Angry?


Mindfulness is a powerful technique for helping individuals develop a healthier relationship with their emotions.  Unfortunately, many individuals have fallen under the misunderstanding that practicing mindfulness means they will be completely at peace at all times. Then, when this doesn’t occur, they become more upset or believe that mindfulness doesn’t work.

To combat this, we must first understand what mindfulness really is. Mindfulness is, essentially,  the ability to experience your emotions fully without feeling controlled by those emotions. Mindfulness allows you to observe your emotions without “feeling like those emotions are so unbearable that you have to engage in dysregulated behavior (substance use, overeating, self-injury, etc) to ‘turn them off.’”

In other words, mindfulness does not cause us to “stop feeling” and always be in a state of peace. If this were the case, mindfulness would in some ways be detrimental since emotions are there to help us function. For example, “Anger helps us stand up for ourselves and motivates us to fight against injustice.” Instead, mindfulness, particularly when practice with a mental-health professional, “can help anger and other emotions feel more tolerable and easier to manage so you are less likely to feel controlled by your emotions.”

For more information on how to experience your emotions through mindfulness check out Calming The Emotional Storm 

Reclaim the Calm: 5 Hints for Healing an Angry Heart

Image from Shutterstock. Used with Permission.

Image from Shutterstock. Used with Permission.

No one likes to be angry, but we all do become angry from time to time–and we all have to contend with the anger of others fairly regularly.  Christians have a difficult relationship with anger.  Intellectually, we know that anger is a natural part of the human experience; it is an emotion like any other.  But we also know that anger can be sinful.

Lisa Hendey has a terrific post about an angry week she’s having and the poor fruit that struggle with anger is bearing in her life.  She asks for prayers and I’ll certainly be offering up a few for her, but her comments prompted me to offer some musings on anger and how to manage it…gracefully.

Anger or Wrath?

Properly ordered, anger is actually an emotional gift God gives us, prompting us to take effective action in the face of an injustice.  Righteous anger spurs us on to identify the problem and make a plan for resolving it.  In this sense, anger isn’t a sin at all but rather a blessing.  Wrath, or sinful anger, is another story.  In my latest book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart I explore how wrath is a really distortion of the Divine Longing for Justice–one of the seven longings that God has hard-wired into each of us that is intended to lead to our perfection and draw us closer to him, but has been distorted by sin.

Wrathful anger causes us to respond to problems, offenses, disorder, and injustices in ways that make the existing situation worse for ourselves and/or others.  That’s why it’s sinful. Anger, itself, is just a tool.  If we wield it in a manner that helps us clarify the nature of our problem and then take active, intentional steps to resolve it, then it is righteous, godly anger that does us credit and gives God glory.   It is this kind of righteous anger that our Divine Longing for Justice is intended to fuel.  It is measured.  It is intentional.  It is proportionate.  It is productive.  It is for this reason Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice.

If, on the other hand, we wield our anger in a manner that causes us to lash out at others, pile on misery, or injure ourselves in some way, then we are using our anger in a sinful manner that adds to the already existing injustice.  Popularly speaking, the word “wrath” tends to conjure up images of Ghengis Khan burning down a village in some violent rampage, but wrath doesn’t have to be so dramatic. Most expressions of wrath are much more pedestrian and banal.  We pick at our spouse’s smallest failings. We pout and mope.  We yell at our children just for being children.  We engage in self-indulgent habits and behaviors that give us momentary, albeit self-destructive, relief that does nothing to respond to the problem-at-hand.  All of these things are common examples of how wrath can wreck our day and rule our life.

The Way Out

When we experience wrath, we often try to control it by shaming ourselves or trying to squelch it altogether.  “I shouldn’t feel that way. Just stop it already” we day to ourselves along with other messages of self-recrimination.   But these approaches inevitably fail.  As I argue in Broken Godsthe only healthy way to resolve our struggle with wrath is to do the following.

1.  Step Back and Back Off.

Remember that what is driving your wrath is not your weakness or badness or brokenness, but rather a sign that you are responding–poorly–to your Divine Longing for Justice.  Something in your life is out of order. Something is amiss.  Beating up on yourself doesn’t solve that.  It only makes things worse.  Stop picking on yourself.  Instead, direct your emotional energy toward addressing your divine longing for justice.

2. Pray and Think.

Once you have reconnected with the divine purpose of your anger (i.e. the longing for justice), take a moment to ask God for clarity.  What is the problem that you are reacting to?  What is the injustice that needs to be addressed; the problem that needs to be solved?  Write down your thoughts about what, exactly, you think is wrong.

3.  Pray and Plan.

Now ask God for clarity about what he would like you to do to address the problem.  Ignoring it is NOT an option.  If that was going to work, you wouldn’t be struggling with wrath in the first place.  In the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great, “thoughts seethe all the more when corralled by the violent guard of an indiscreet silence.”  Once wrath has been engaged, the problem has gotten to big to ignore.  Make a plan.  What do you need to do to address it?  What resources do you need to gather?  Whose help do you need to enlist?

4.  Act.

Now DO something to enact your plan.  Focus the energy you were directing toward wrathful behavior and self-recrimination toward taking initial steps to address the problem that is provoking your reaction.

5. Evaluate and Adapt.

Finally, check in periodically to make sure your plan is working well and the problem is being resolved.  Adjust your plan as new information becomes available so you can maintain steady progress.  Traditionally the virtue of patience is the antidote to wrath, but patience doesn’t mean “just letting things go.”  It means being willing to take action and then allow the good efforts you are making unfold and take effect in your life.  A flower doesn’t grow faster by yelling at it or shaming it for being too slow. Give your efforts the time they need to germinate and blossom.   Practicing patience in the face of your anger means making a commitment to evaluating and adapting in response to new information as you intentionally work to address the injustices in your life and resist the temptation to rash actions.  Patience doesn’t eliminate anger.  It trains our anger so that it can be an effective tool that motivates us to respond effectively and intentionally to the injustices in our life.

Be Not Afraid

We don’t have to live in fear of our anger, and we don’t have to beat up on ourselves for getting angry.  Instead, we need to make friends with our anger by embracing the divine longing for justice that is driving the anger.  When we can do this, we can wield our righteous, godly anger as the powerful tool it is meant to be; a tool that helps drive our efforts to create order out of chaos, peace out of conflict, and restore justice in our lives.

For more help learning how to identify the divine longings that drive the parts of yourself that you like the least and how these parts can become the engines of your perfection in Christ, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.  Or, if you are struggling with ongoing problems related to  anger in your life, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how our Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you find the justice and peace you are seeking.

Father Forgive Me, For I Am Angry: Further Reflections on “The Furious Mysteries”

Image via Shutterstock.

Image via Shutterstock.

It seems like anger is the topic of the day.  Earlier, my wife and I were discussing the Christian response to anger on More2Life Radio.  Shortly after I got off the air, I came across an article titled, The Furious Mysteries  in which America’s Fr. James Martin reflects on what we are to make of Jesus’ displays of anger in Scripture.

It’s a terrific question.  What does Jesus’ anger teach us about how we should manage ours?

Anger, Wrath & the Divine Longing for Justice

Many people think that anger is a sin.  There’s a lot of confusion about what constitutes anger, which is a gift from God, and wrath, which is anger’s more diabolical cousin.  In Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing and the Seven Longing of the Human Heart I argue that wrath is a distortion of the divine longing for justice.   What do I mean?

At the dawn of creation, God created within the human person a bone deep desire to see that God’s plan for life the universe and everything was fulfilled.  This divine longing for justice, which is one of the seven longings of every human heart, was given to us by God to to help us keep and protect–and, later, restore–the balance that God created at the beginning of time.

Anger is our bodily response to the experience of injustice–it is the God-given, gut-level reaction that says, “This is not right!”   What many people refer to as “righteous anger” represents God’s call–through our body– to prayerfully seek solutions that allow his will to be done, justice to be established and proper order to be restored.  Righteous anger always leads to an intentional, proportionate, appropriate response that seeks to heal the injury and build up the body of Christ.   In each instance, Jesus’ anger in the Gospels presents an example of just that. I believe this is the key to unraveling with Fr. Martin cleverly refers to as “the Furious Mysteries.”

The Furious Mysteries–Jesus’ Anger in Scripture.

Jesus  sometimes got angry, but  he was never wrathful.  He didn’t overturn the money-changer’s tables because he was having a bad day and lost his cool.  He did it to see that God’s intentions for the temple would be respected.  He knew that any lesser attempt to demonstrate that his Father’s temple was not a shopping mall but a place of reverence would have simply been ignored.  As dramatic as it was, his behavior was an intentional, proportionate, and appropriate response to the merchants’ attempt to rob God of the honor he was due. Jesus’ display of righteous anger was an intentional effort to restore right order to the temple where His Father, not commerce, was to be the main attraction.

Likewise, when Jesus referred to the scribes and pharisees as “You snakes!  You den of vipers” (Mt 23:33) he wasn’t calling them names to be cruel like some internet troll.  He knew that using such colorful language was the only way to shock them out of their prideful belief that they could save themselves with their obsessive-compulsive adherence to the rules.   He knew that they were so convinced of their own righteousness that the only way he could shake them out of their complacency and open their hearts to the message of repentance was to compare them to the things they would never want to be, the exact opposite of what they thought they were trying to be; “whitewashed tombs”  filled with “death and dry bones” and “snakes”, representing the personification of Satan, the ultimate example of pride, himself!   Sometimes, Jesus anger was shocking, but in every instance, Jesus’ anger represented a conscious effort to see that God’s will would be done and it was always ordered to the godly good of the person/people on the receiving end of it.  His displays of anger represented an intentional, proportionate, appropriate attempt to work for the good of people whose behavior would be their undoing.

Wrath:  Anger that Wounds

But unlike righteous anger which is always intentional, proportionate and appropriate, the deadly sin of wrath represents a response that is reactive, disproportionate, and out of order.  Rather than responding to God’s call to restore justice, wrath makes us behave in manner that makes the existing offense even worse!

While I generally like Fr. Martin’s article,  I would gently disagree with his somewhat fuzzy distinction between wrath and anger.  He argues that Jesus anger wasn’t sinful because “Jesus is never angry on behalf of himself”  while our anger  “is more frequently of the selfish type, the result of an offense to ourselves.” He supports this idea by pointing out that when Jesus was being tortured and crucified, he did not express any anger. Indeed, he went “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7) and even forgave his executioners.

The problem I have with this interpretation is that it suggests people are “selfish” when, for instance, they stand up to an abuser.  I’m sure Fr. Martin didn’t mean this.  In fact, he says as much when he writes,  “Of course we need a healthy love of self and a care for the self. So sometimes a strong response to injustice is justified.”   But I counsel too many people who are confused on this point exactly because of fuzzy distinctions like this.  If the only difference between righteous anger and wrath is that righteous anger serves others and sinful anger serves me, then when, exactly, is it OK to offer “a strong response to injustice?”   There is an unhealthy attitude among too many Christians that says that if I set boundaries of any kind or stand up for myself in any way, I am being selfish–after all, look at how Jesus dealt with his abusers!  

I would argue that this view, though well-intentioned, almost fatally misses the point.  So, what is the real difference between anger that is sinful and anger that is not?

Why Didn’t Jesus Become Cross on the Cross?

Remember that anger, properly ordered, is a God-given, gut-level response to an experience of injustice.   We can think of injustice as a situation or relationship that is “out of order” (i.e., not in line with God’s plan). Seen in this light, Jesus did not express anger when he was being tortured and crucified because he knew he needed endure this suffering to restore the right order that existed between God and humankind.   Although it was not right that we should cause him to suffer, he willingly submitted to that suffering so that the Father’s plan could be fulfilled and the order between Heaven and earth could be restored–a task no one else but him was able to accomplish.   By contrast, the suffering of an abused wife, for instance, is unjust because it represents a disordered relationship between man and woman, a relationship that directly contradicts Gods plan for marriage.  Moreover, the wife’s anger at her abuse and her attempts to either stand up to her abuser or escape him represents a just response to abuse because it attempts to call the marriage to godly order.

In short, what makes a display of anger either righteous or sinful is not whether I, personally, benefit from it but whether or not the way I am expressing that anger represents an honest, intentional, proportionate, and appropriate attempt to see that God’s intentions for a particular situation or relationship would be fulfilled.  While wrath offends God’s plan by making a bad situation worse with our reactions, righteous anger seeks to heal wounds, restore relationships,  and re-establish godly order.  To discover more ways our deepest desires–and even our darkest desires–can reveal God’s incredible plan for a grace-filled life, check out Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.


Helping Your Kids Deal with Anger

Image via Shutterstock.

Image via Shutterstock.

Parents often struggle to deal effectively with their children’s anger.  We either tend to respond by coddling them when they tantrum or shutting them down.  Of course, neither response is effective and both responses tend to produce angrier more impulsive kids.

Of course, an important part of raising moral, loving, faithful kids is teaching our children to manage all of their emotional reactions in more godly, appropriate ways.  In Parenting with Grace and Then Comes Baby, we offer a ton of strategies for dealing with tantrums and angry outburst in respectful and effective ways but  here’s a great article from PsychCentral on how parents can teach their children how to manage anger appropriately.  By all means go and read the whole thing, but here are some tips to get you started.

  1. helping him understand what triggers his anger
  2. teaching him about symptoms of being angry (such as feeling tense in his body, having a fast heartbeat, thinking about wanting to hit a sibling, etc.)
  3. teaching your child to make healthy and appropriate choices as soon as possible when he becomes angry (such as walking away, taking deep breathes, etc.)
  4. creating a tool box with your child of ways he can calm himself down
  5. identifying his strengths and building on them
  6. rearranging the environment and/or restructuring his daily schedule to better suit his true self (such as by placing less demands on him after school if your child would do better by having a break after school, although this does not mean to let him get out of responsibilities)
  7. modeling healthy responses to anger
  8. identifying what makes your child calm, happy, and feeling great and then put more of those things into his life (be sure to have him be involved in the process as much as possible as well as take on ownership and control of implementing these strategies)
  9. work on problem-solving skills
  10. practice stress-management skills together (such as doing exercise, getting enough sleep, learning progressive muscle relaxation, doing hobbies, etc.)


Anger, like all of our emotions, is a gift from God but we need to be taught how to use it.  These tips can give parents some great ways to help their children express their anger in respectful and appropriate ways.  When that happens, children feel heard, parents feel respected, and everybody wins!

Anger vs. Wrath: What’s the Difference?

Anger is a common enough emotion.  Everyone gets angry from time to time, and anger, when used prudently as a normal part of the human experience, can be understood as the gift from God that allows us to recognize and respond when we feel we have witnessed–or been the victim of–an injustice.  If our anger motivates us to seek solutions, address injustices in a productive way, and heal the damage that has been done to a relationship, then that anger can be both righteous and healthy.  Righteous anger doesn’t see anger as an end itself.  Righteous anger stirs us out of complacency and urges us to right wrongs and seek the justice that St Augustine said was necessary for true peace to exist.


But sometimes, anger can get out of control and turn destructive.  We can use our anger as a justification for lashing out at others, or we can become addicted to our anger and use it as an excuse to withdraw from the people around us.  When this happens, anger turns in on itself.  It does not motivate us to seek answers or right wrongs.  It simply burns everything and everyone it touches.  First our own sense of right and wrong is impaired and we find ourselves lashing out, blaming, and abusing those around us.  Later, if left unchecked, the flames of our anger will ignite our relationships and reduce them to ashes.  The catechism tells us that this kind of anger, sometimes called wrath or fury, is actually a deadly sin because it causes us to desire and even work for vengeance instead of love.   As Matt 5:22 says, “Everyone who remains angry with his brother is in danger of judgment.”


What to Do?

If you have a problem with anger, try these tips…


Catch your early warning signs.

Stopping anger early is key to being effective.  Everyone has signs that let them know that they are approaching the point of no return.  The time to take a break and calm down comes long before you start yelling at the person you are angry with.  As long as the conversation is focused on working with the other person to find solutions, you are on solid ground, but the moment you start thinking of the other person as the problem, or experiencing other physiological signs of stress (rolling your eyes, “tsk-ing” and huffing and puffing, feeling the urge to pace, making disgusted sounds as the other is talking, fidgeting) it is time to take a break.  All of these signs indicate that you are beginning to flood with the stress chemicals that will cause you to abandon logic and lose your cool.  Once you notice yourself doing any of these actions, you probably have about 1-2 minutes to get yourself under control before you get to the point where you either become abusive or you shut down and withdraw.   Catching yourself early prevents you from adopting either of these ineffective and potentially hurtful options.


Begin with an end in mind

If you’re angry, before you open your mouth, take some time to pray and reflect on the following.   “What is the problem?”  and “What are the one or two practical ideas I have about solving this problem.”   Righteous anger is always ordered toward solving problems, not pouring gasoline on them.  You can’t help but make a bad  situation worse if you begin talking before you have your own ideas about what the endpoint should be.  If you don’t know how to solve the problem, then begin the discussion by admitting that and then present your ideas about where you would like to turn to get the information you need to address the problem (e.g, a particular book, prayer, your pastor, a counselor).


Take a break

This is common enough advice, but most people don’t take breaks early enough to be effective.   Most people wait until they are screaming at each other (or want to) before they “break.”  This usually means “not talking to each other for the rest of the day and then ignoring the problem that started the whole mess.”  This is not a break.


Counselors recommend taking a break much earlier, at the point when you begin to think of the other person as the problem and not your partner for solving the problem.  At this point, it is useful to excuse yourself to use the restroom or get a drink from the kitchen (and for bonus points, offer to get them something while your out of the room).  While you are in the other room, try to remind yourself that it is your job to find ways work together with the person with whom you are struggling.  Remind yourself of the purpose of the discussion and what concrete resolutions you want to achieve.  Then return to the discussion and reset the focus on solutions.  For instance, you could say something like, “I know we’re frustrated right now.  Help me understand what you would like to be different as a result of this conversation.” Or, “Here’s what I’d like to do about this problem.  What do you think?”


Check your thoughts.

At the point that you start wondering if the person you are angry with is crazy, totally irresponsible, stupid, or out to get you, take a break, you’re too hot to be rational.  Remember, the only way to solve a problem, even with a child, is to find a way to work with the other person to solve it.  If you are convinced that the person you must work with to solve the problem is an idiot, you will never be able to partner with him or her effectively.


Stop seeing yourself as a victim

Wrathful anger tends to be rooted in a sense of powerlessness.  When we have not done our homework and tried to come up with our own solutions to a problem before we begin talking about those problems with someone else one of two things happens.  Either we can only talk about our frustration with the problem which makes us feel hopeless, or we may feel pressured to accept the other persons solutions-whether we like these solutions or not—because we haven’t brought anything to the table and, as a result, we feel resentful.  In either case, the result is a feeling of powerlessness which causes us to lash out at the other person in an underhanded attempt to get them to take control over a situation we have not taken the time to figure out how to get control over.


People who deal effectively with anger refuse to see themselves as victims either of others or fate.  They see themselves as responders to the challenges of life.  As St Paul puts it, they know that with Christ they can be “more than conquerors.”


Get Help.

If you find that your anger is too strong to employ any of the preceding tips at all, or employ them effectively.  If the people in your life tell you that your anger scares them (whether or not you think it should).  If your anger ever causes you to become physical in any way with the person at whom you are angry.  Get help.  All of these signs indicate that your anger is stronger than your ability to control it.  Competent, faithful counseling can help you learn to express yourself and meet your needs in a manner that does not alienate the very people you need to work with to create solutions.

For more ways to get your anger under control, check out God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Crazy! 

Coming Thurs on More2Life Radio: The Grapes of Wrath

Thurs on More2Life–The Grapes of Wrath: In light of the recent firing of a Rutgers coach for abusive behavior toward his players, we’re reflecting on anger. We’ll look at those times anger goes too far and how to respond more effectively both to your own anger and the angry outbursts of others. Call in from Noon-1pm Eastern (11-Noon C) at 877-573-7825 and we’ll explore more effective ways to deal with anger, and the angry people in your life.

Don’t forget to answer the More2Life FB Q of the D: 1. What situations are most likely to provoke you to anger? 2. How do you tend to respond when other people start yelling at you?
Listen to More2Life live weekdays from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C). Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you? Tune in live online at, listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), or catch the M2L Podcast!

Newsflash: Yelling isn’t Communicating.

I talk to a lot of people who have a hard time with their temper but excuse it by saying that they are just being honest about their feelings.

I think it’s important to remember that your emotions are God’s gift to you, and not the people around you. When you are angry about something, that’s the Holy Spirit’s way of prompting you to look at a  potential  injustice.  Having been prompted, your job is to pray about whether the injustice is something in your environment, or if it has something more to do with your unreasonable expectations about how life should work as opposed to how life does work.  Either way, there is a problem to be solved and prayer will help clarify both the nature of the problem and the direction you should take.

Having prayed about your feelings, the next step is to prayerfully reflect on a respectful course of action.  If the course of action requires addressing a problem with someone, the rule of thumb is, “Lead with solutions, NOT emotions.”   For example:

A.  Leading with Emotions looks like this:  “I can’t believe you’re such a selfish jerk!  I have to do everything around here!”

B.  Leading with solutions look like this:  “I’m really overwhelmed.  I need us to sit down and come up with a plan for getting things together for our company this weekend.”

Now, there are a host of irrational thoughts that stop a person from doing B instead of A–but they’re all irrational.  If you tend to do A more than B, you’ve let Satan get in your head and he’s going to tempt you to actions that will drive the people you love away from you.

The second challenge (beyond the variety of irrational thoughts) people offer to this advice is, “Well, that’s just the way guys think about problems, not women.”  No.  That’s the way rational men and women think about problems.  Look, both men and women are equally capable of tantrumming and both men and women are equally capable of being reasonable, proactive, and effective.  If you find that you can’t consistently pull this off, don’t hide behind your gender.  Get the skills you need to be a more effective man or woman of God.   God wants to use you mightily, but he can’t do that if you love your emotions more than you love him or the people he’s placed in your life to love and serve.

Here’s another article on why shouting isn’t communicating.

For help getting a better handle on the emotions that are ruling your life, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to make a tele-counseling appointment with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor today.  740-266-6461.