Give anger space in your mind and body, holding it as a prayer.
What this looks like for me:
I don’t think I have an anger problem.
I used to think that. The way I see it now is that I quite simply experience anger and a lot of folks found that problematic. Over time, the more I experienced anger and felt like I shouldn’t, the less capable I was in feeling, engaging with and knowing what to do about it. Eventually, I did develop a problem, but it wasn’t an anger problem; it was a discipline problem.
Becoming more spiritually healthy has meant giving anger a place in my prayer life.
Anger doesn't need to work like a virus (the way I previously felt it should) in that it doesn’t just show up and get to take its time working through me and then just go away when it’s done with me. Anger can play a part in me knowing myself and my world; my exceptions and hopes and needs. That means I have to pay attention to my anger without shame or disappointment. And that’s a matter of prayer.
This kind of prayer often looks like this for me:
Confession/Observation: “I’m angry and here’s why.”
I don’t apologize; I’m not immediately sorry for being angry. I simply talk it all the way out, normally out loud. Names (if I have them), specifics (if I have them), details (as best as I can recall).
Request/Reflection: “What’s really going on here?”
I look through what I just said (sometimes it helps to write down a few things along the way) and see if I can discern or detect anything below the surface.
Meditation: “Spirit, search me and know me.”
This I try to do silently and in stillness. This is just listening. I’m not doing the searching (I’ve already done that). I’m asking the Spirit of God to search me and show me what I might need to see.
Action: “Is there anything I should do?“
I normally write this down if something comes up. I also don’t expect that it will and am thrilled if something clearly shows up. More often than not, this is the moment sadness sets in as I realize that either I’ve set myself up to be hurt or that there are simply ways the world around me is unkind.
Thanks: “Thank you so much.”
I get to be a whole person. A loving God doesn’t just allow that but asks for it. A loving God wants my anger, too.
My son is eight and loves to play with his younger sister… until he doesn’t. She’s not quite two. Last night, she hit him. He looked up, looked at her and then started crying, saying, “Ouch! Ouch!”
He wasn’t hurt.
He was mad.
He walked over slowly, his hand covering the place on his face where she’d struck him.
“Did that hurt?”
“YES!” he replied… and then looked up at me… “… not really. But she shouldn’t get way with hitting me!!”
“So, you’re mad?”
“Yes. But I know she’s just a baby… ”
He dropped his hand and looked me straight in the eye.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t be mad about getting hit.”
His shoulders relaxed a bit. “She shouldn’t hit me.”
“I agree. Can we talk about how to go about this next time?”
I want him to know he can get mad and that his anger isn’t anything to hide or just put away. I want him to know that he’s right; some things shouldn’t happen and his anger is part of the way his soul tells him that.
Anger Prayer Practices
- Get alone
- Walk/Get moving: Anger lives in and affects your body in a way other emotions just don’t.
- Pray/talk aloud