Engaging Anger - Part 3: Responsive

betrayal emotions guest author May 23, 2023

This is part three of a four part series on Engaging Anger as a Christian woman, written by guest author, Rachel. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

As a reminder, MRC does not condone the use of anger for verbal or physical abuse.  However, it is one of the many emotions that God has given us for healthy, productive uses.

It is our hope that this series will challenge the religious norms of maladaptive coping strategies commonly found around anger, instead modeling ways that this emotion, neither good nor bad, can be integrated into balanced emotional health.

Feel free to submit questions and responses using the Feedback button at the bottom of this post.

Here's Rachel... 


In the previous two posts, I shared a little bit of my story of anger and how I found myself in a dysfunctional dance with the emotion. In this post, I share what I’ve learned in my recovery journey about anger. Specifically, I want to reveal why Anger needs to be invited in.  As I grew towards living a healthier life, I found I needed to be responsive towards my anger. Here’s why:


Healthy Anger Tells Us Something’s Wrong


To start, we need to listen to anger because it can be a herald of injustice. We get the phrase “righteous anger” from the scene in Scripture where Jesus (who describes himself as “meek and lowly in heart” in Matthew) is literally flipping tables. He is doing this because of a deep injustice that was purposefully constructed - the leaders of the temple price gouging worshipers on animals to sacrifice - and that was in opposition to the loving welcome of the father.

Things were not functioning as they were meant to.

One key thing to note is that righteous anger is utilized to address the injustice, not just protest that it is happening. I’ve heard another quote that says “You could be right, and you could be angry, but that doesn’t mean it’s righteous anger.” Anger becomes righteous in how we use it to clean out injustices from our lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean stomping around and flipping tables (though I really, really want to do this at times). It means WHEN I feel like stomping around and flipping tables, I take a pause and listen to why this protest is happening within me.


Anger Reveals the Need for INTERNAL Healing First


In the book, Boundaries, Drs. John Townsend and Henry Cloud explain that the role of anger is to “tell us that our boundaries have been violated” - that things are not functioning as we have established as “right.” So, when I feel anger, my job is to step back and consider what has been violated - externally or internally.

This is really important because, as Townsend and Cloud continue to explain, the anger we can feel may be from old anger, from years of when our "‘no’ was never voiced, never respected or never listened to.” It’s from years of when we’ve felt the rage bubble up within us, as we’ve encountered an experience, and that rage wanted to scream “this experience is unacceptable!!!!!” Many of us have old anger, because this past opportunity to feel anger was shut down - “YOU are unacceptable for feeling angry.”

So, when I get the feeling that I need to flip tables and walk around yelling ‘This is unacceptable’. I need to gently turn inward to examine how I may be contributing to the injustice, often unwillingly. In fact, many times, my own anger is telling me something isn’t as it should be internally - I might have some belief or expectation that needs to be examined and readjusted. I can do this examination best with a Trigger Awareness Exercise (next week's post), because it helps me see if this anger is coming up stored from the past, or if it is a reaction to the specific situation I’m finding myself in.

This exercise helps me see anger as helpful, instead of shameful. Anger is often telling me I have an internal wound or underlying emotion that I need to tend to, because my internal system is tired of feeling, and ignoring, the pain.


Anger May Signal a Need for Grieving


Anger is also a necessary step in the grieving process (it’s #3, before depression). The most simple and open way I’ve heard for the reason for grief is that it comes along because something in our world has shifted unexpectedly. When the shift is large, and especially when it includes trauma - a situation that we cannot emotionally handle, so instead of processing the event, or bodies shut down - the trauma gets stuck.

Working through trauma requires that we welcome the grieving process into our lives, which can be very scary, especially since we don’t live in a modern society that helps create space for grief. In fact, grief can seem like the enemy, when in reality it is a process, a system of road signs, that can help us emotionally navigate truly terrible loss. But, if we are uncomfortable with the emotions - like anger, or depression and lament - then we won’t like the idea of having to grieve.

Before recovery, I lived in a lot of simmering anger. I had a stillbirth a few years into marriage, and after crying for what felt like a year, I just got angry. I was tired of lamenting. In addition, I was tired of trying to address the issues in my marriage. I didn’t have the tools to create boundaries. So I lived life annoyed and self-righteous, at times bursting into rage.

Now, when I find myself annoyed or judgmental, I take a time out and explore the anger. I will detail various ways I do this in the final post of this series. What I’ve found is that when I explore anger, I find that I haven’t properly attended to a small loss in my life. Or, maybe, another loss from my past is coming up, ready to be processed. When I take time to grieve, I find the anger releases as well, feeling it’s done it’s job to alert me of the internal issue.


Anger is useful for managing Stress and finding Safety


Some suggest that anger can help us with everyday stress. Since we all live in stressful situations we can’t just up and leave - the challenges of parenting, marriage and the workplace come to mind - it is wise to include a daily stress process time to “complete the cycle” as Nagoski and Nagoski name it in their book Burnout. Stress kicks the nervous system into fight/flight/freeze, and this response can stay turned on if we don’t actively (and often physically) work to restore safety.

That brings me to the biggest reason to welcome anger: it can warn us that we have left safety. Anger can prompt us to engage in behaviors that help our bodies return to a felt sense of safety. Who doesn’t need more of that? With our bodies stuck in stressed-out hyper-vigilance, everything seems like a threat and simple challenges can create big distress. By taking care of our bodies, by paying attention to our anger cues, we can move through anger and complete the stress cycle, which actually helps our body feel safe.

If you are looking to increase the amount of safety you feel in your life, you can turn to yourself and build in a routine of processing emotions that helps your body calm down even when the stressor is still present.

In the next post, I’ll talk about how to create containers for our anger, to be responsive to it. No, we aren’t looking to contain or tamp it down. We are working to process it appropriately to make space for grief, safety, maybe even joy. It’s so important to make space to engage with our anger, and I’ll be talking through several practices you can start employing in your own lives.


Rachel is a writer and educator, and has often been labeled a “force to be reckoned with”. She started recovery work after D-Day in the summer of 2019.




Engaging Anger - Part 1: Avoidant
Engaging Anger - Part 2: Accepting
Engaging Anger - Part 4: Responsible
Engaging Anger - Podcast Episode



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