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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Should Christians feel angry?

We live in a crazy culture when it comes to emotions. We refuse to take 100% responsibility for how we feel. We prefer to blame others or circumstances for how we feel. We choose to encourage and sustain a direct connection between how we feel and how we act. 

As a result we try to regulate behavior by regulating emotions. That is an impossible and unnatural quest. There is no such thing as an emotion that is wrong. And regulating emotions so as to not feel them is unhealthy and irresponsible. The only healthy regulation of emotions is to budget their intensity so as to resolve them wisely at the most opportune moments. Once you feel something there is no healthy or responsible way to deal with those feelings if you attempt to avoid or bypasses the necessary steps of feeling them completely, embracing them to own them as your own, and abiding in them until they finish their purpose in you.

There is never a situation in which it is wrong to feel what you feel. EVER! If you are angry, then you are not honest or healthy unless you feel angry. 

We like to think that circumstances or the behavior of other people make us angry, but that is psychologically invalid, irresponsible and an avoidance of the real cause.

All emotions are a form of non-verbal reflection of our private belief system concerning values and significance as provoked internally by our perspective and focus precipitated in accordance with our own personal biological predispositions. As a result, everything we feel is generated 100% by things going on inside us and are therefor a reflection of ourselves -- never of anything outside ourselves. 

For example, whenever we are angry, we feel that way because there are "things" we have come to consider over time as having a value and significance and for the moment we perceive those things as being treated unjustly or being violated.

If the "things" we value as significant truly deserve the value and significance we associate with them, then anger is appropriate to our perspective. Of course it also follows that you cannot be angry if you value nothing and it is also true that when you are angry there is something you value that you perceive as under threat of injury or injustice. So when you feel anger and don't know why that is a clue that there is something you value that you think is under threat somewhere in the back of your mind.

So what is the cure for anger? There is no cure, be angry. And as you embrace that feeling take the time to ask yourself several questions: Is this "thing" truly that valuable and significant or am I being unreasonably self-centered and inequitable? Am I tired or in some other state of health so that I am more predisposed to being angry and irritable? Is what I value really under threat or is that just the way I choose to understand the situation dishonestly?

When you are done asking those questions then own your feelings as yours, the result of your processing and hold no one else responsible for them at all. After all, no one else chose for you what you should value or deem significant. No one else requires of you to make sense of the situation the way you do. No one else forces you to focus specifically on just the narrowed set of facts that create your perspective, there are lots of other things you might focus upon - it really is your choice. And of course, if you decide that your perspective is fair and balanced and your assessment of injustice and injury is reasonable then celebrate your anger. How good it is to be alive and well able to have a healthy and excellent response to the world as you perceive it. Being angry is good, own it. Choose it, consider it your privilege. But own it as 100% yours.

If you ask yourself the questions above and decide that your values and sense of significance are not fair or equitable it is amazing how that can instantly alter how you feel. If you discover that your focus is too narrow and lacks honesty or that your perspective reflects a chosen bias or a preferred bias, that too can alter how you feel significantly.

But what should you do about it. You cannot hold others responsible for how you feel, that is manipulation. Rather, hold them responsible for their behavior and choices. It is a lot easier to get someone to take responsibility for what they did when you can be very angry and yet not hold them responsible for your anger. Your sense of control and balance might even win them over and place confidence in both you and your demand that they take responsibility for their actions.

Bottom line -- we feel what we feel because it is a biological sensation generated entirely by the processes going on inside ourselves and are merely occasioned by the things that grab our focus. And since no one else is responsible for what goes on inside you and since you have the power to allow different things to go on inside you, there are many times when it is wise and prudent to keep your feelings to yourself and those who love you. Regulate them by delaying them if possible to embrace them at a better time.

When you learn to do this it is amazing how much easier it is to detach how you feel from how you react. You are even more free to be angry and to feel good about feeling angry. It is an opportunity to reconsider your values, reconsider the possible imbalance of your focus and an opportunity to validate the high value of the things properly deemed as valuable and significant. Being angry when appropriate is a privilege. Seeing it that way is a choice. You can learn as Paul did how to be content in every circumstance. It is even possible to be both angry and completely at peace for being angry. There is a way to do it and to do it without stuffing anything or pretending to be anything other than who you are.

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