Tell me, what do you think of when you hear someone is in a rage? It usually means they were more than a little upset, right?
In full transparency, let me say that I hold no professional titles, licenses, or certifications as we discuss how imperative it is to deal with anger in a healthy manner. What I do have is a lifetime of experience. So, speaking out of my experience, I can advise you that anger must be dealt with before it becomes volatile and long before rage takes root. Otherwise, after “the storm,” relationships you have held dear may be left in shambles.
In honesty, I struggled with writing this blog post, because my goal was not to turn this into a story about me. Rather, through my examples, I want you to know that even if all you see right now is destruction, God is present. He has a plan for your life, and He will lead you to calm waters if you submit or surrender your hurt and anger to Him.
Out of control anger or rage has been a very real, very painful part of my life story. With that in mind, I come to you today to share the stories of a child trapped in an abusive home filled with fits of rage, a wife and mother who strived to keep past hurt and anger buried deep within her until it erupted like a volcano, and a Christian woman who learned to collapse to her knees at the Cross and give all her pain to the Lord.
To begin, I was a child living in a two-parent, upper to middle class-income family. We lived in a three-bedroom, brick ranch in a nice neighborhood on a coveted corner lot. I have one sibling, and back then, we had one ridiculously cute dog that ran sideways after a brush with a speeding van when she was young. One more detail you should know is that at least once every month, my father would tear into our house in a complete rage.
Anger was like a monster that consumed him. You could see the color of his eyes shift to red, his fists would turn into steel, and we all knew there was a price about to be paid. We could be laughing and having a great day and suddenly without a moment’s notice the winds would shift. It did not even have to be a big thing in order for the storm to come. Something as simple as mom telling him in the morning she planned to make meatloaf for dinner and then deciding to make spaghetti instead was enough to set him off. And when the rage took over, it came with a tremendous fury, and wow, did it leave a mess in its wake.
Once the chaos had settled, he could be found sitting in his recliner often with a look of satisfaction on his face and yet sometimes there was also a hint of remorse. The next morning, mom was often found dabbing on extra foundation to hide the bruise left on her cheek or she might be insistent that I wear my dark green tights instead of the pretty white ones so the welts and bruises that ran up and down my legs would not be visible to my teachers or the neighbors.
My dad’s rage was the most frightening part of my childhood. I never knew when it was going to storm in my home. My house was the scariest place I knew. I spent a lot of time hiding in my closet and talking to God. I vowed that when I became a parent, I would never yell or hit my children the way I had been treated. My kids would never see me angry. They would NEVER feel my rage.
At the age of eighteen, I became a wife and a mom. To say the least, I was ill equipped for both roles. I had never witnessed a healthy argument in my life. Almost subconsciously, I thought if someone did not do what you wanted them to do, you yelled at them! And if that did not work, then by all means, hit them until they agreed! You have no idea how much my dear husband put up with during those early years.
Along came kids, and let me just say, boys are different than girls. I only had one male cousin on either side of my family, so I had no idea on how to handle the two little men the Lord gave me to raise. I did know I was tasked with making sure they were better husbands and fathers than my own dad had been. Fortunately, they had an excellent example in their dad, but George traveled a lot for work and that left me with those two boys for months at a time. More than anything, I wanted them to know how much they were loved regardless of what they brought through the door. I hated the thought that my sons might ever look at their childhood home with the same hard feelings and memories I held for my own.
But I miscalculated how to successfully do it. Instead of dealing with any conflict in my home, I stuffed my resulting feelings deep down inside. I would try to bury those feelings with food or pretend that everything was just picture perfect in my own three-bedroom, brick ranch with two dogs. If the boys, the dogs, the weather, or my husband irritated me in some way, I would take the hurt and anger and file it away for another day –not intentionally. My goal was not to store ammunition to be used later, but to create the peace and calm I desperately wanted. So, I would leave matters unaddressed until …until I had my fill! Like until I stepped on the scale and realized the physical damage I had done by eating my feelings or until one of those boys tracked in a little dirt from outside or until –you fill in the blank.
Suddenly, and often without warning, a simple mistake would lead to an eruption of rage of epic proportion. Words or actions I thought were long gone would come flying out of my mouth steeped in venom because of things I left unaddressed and soaking deep in my soul. Sadly, I was repeating a generational problem of uncontrolled anger.
Rage all too often came to wreak havoc in my home. I didn’t leave physical welts or bruises on the kids, which they would have to hide, but as I screamed to the top of my lungs they looked at me with fear when they were little and with disdain when they were teens. Yet, the harshest of criticism that I received, after spewing such ugliness all over those that I held dearest, came from myself.
To this day, I know God placed George in my life to teach me that love is not the same thing as total agreement. Love is being kind to one another and always being present. George has taught me that disagreements do not have to be so ugly. He has shown me that you can be angry and justified in your anger without destroying those you hold dear. And though George was the instrument God used to teach me these lessons, make no mistake about it, God was the instructor. All along the way, God has been working His plan out in me and has been beside me every step of the way.
I wish I could tell you that I was quick to recognize my issues with anger and that I prayed to God on a Monday to take the sin of rage from me and that by the following Wednesday it was gone. But I cannot. God has worked on me and my anger issues most of my life. I have cried out to Him and asked Him to please help me stop being so mad and to stop screaming or saying hurtful things to those I love. Changes in me have not happened instantly. Not because He could not heal me in a flash, but because I have chosen at times to hold onto my uncontrolled anger.
I will admit that in times past it felt really good to display the power I held through the words I chose to throw out. You see, as a little girl I was powerless against the rage in my childhood home, but as a grown woman, I could lash out and dole out my anger however I wanted. It is disheartening to think about now, but back then, I felt those displays of emotion made me appear strong.
As I continue to grow in my walk with Christ, I strive to allow the Holy Spirit to show up in my words and actions. I understand now that it is fine to be angry in some cases. I understand that I am entitled to “get my mad on” when I see things that are wrong. You are too. But with God’s grace, and the wisdom that comes from years of experience, today I am better at addressing my anger in a productive manner. A manner aimed at peaceful conflict resolution instead of one that demands payment from those who have dared to offend me.
My goal is to live a life with God at the helm. That means I can no longer allow things of this earth to drive me. Colossians 3 speaks of living a new life in Christ. Specifically, in verses 7-8, it reads:
“You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.” NLT
That is the woman I want to be, one free of those things.
In closing, I pray that if you, or someone you love, struggles with anger that is out of control, you (or they) will seek God’s power to bring freedom from this issue. Always seek His authority over your life first and foremost. Trust me when I say, you cannot hide something like anger or rage under a brownie.
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Scripture taken from the NLT.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.