The more I talk to people, the more evident it is that we’re living and working in stressful times. And where there is stress, emotions can easily get off. It’s so easy to feel anger, frustration or disappointment when things don’t go the way we expected, when problems complicate our lives or communication breakdowns wreak havoc. The actions that follow the feelings often make the problem worse, but there is a better way God instructs us to follow in these situations.
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
It doesn’t say don’t get angry. That would be hard. There are times when we’re going to have a strong emotional response to something someone says or does – we’re human. But I’ve learned, like it or not, that no one can MAKE me angry or upset. I always have the power to choose my response. I can turn to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me, instead of focusing on how I feel and allowing the enemy to use me. Those are the two choices, by the way – God’s response or the enemy’s.
As a Christian, I would SO prefer to be used by God than the enemy under all circumstances, so here is my strategy:
- Pay attention and pause. I heard Joyce Meyer once say that “feelings buried alive never die.” Some people handle anger by burying it, others react. Neither approach is healthy. Buried emotions will either affect your health or lead to an uncontrollable outburst. Angry reactions damage relationships and lead to more problems. A healthier approach is to acknowledge how you feel and process through it. I keep a journal at my desk that helps me get out of my head. It also helps to have a trusted confidant who will listen, not judge and who will tell you the truth.
- Identify your desired outcome. I am committed to building strong relationships with my coworkers and doing my job with excellence. That means I’m going to have to put my feelings aside and seek to understand what other people are dealing with. This helps me to shift the focus, and drive productive behavior and discussion.
- Have an honest, loving conversation. Most people are really not trying to upset us. They have their own deadlines, expectations they are trying to meet and challenges they are working through. If someone has said or done something that upset you, chances are they don’t even realize it. After you’ve had a chance to compose yourself, take the person aside and find out what they are dealing with. You’ll probably discover something that puts the situation in a very different light and even allows you to work together better.
Any time you feel emotions rising up, you can say this quick prayer quietly: “Help me, Holy Spirit.” This simple prayer will help you connect with the power of the Holy Spirit so that you are able to speak words that will lift up rather than tear down, and bring your emotions under His control.
Here are some additional scriptures to meditate on. If you do, over time you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to respond to any situation from a place of love and true power.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29