Anger is a normal human emotion, but it easily can get out of control. If irritation, frustration and crankiness seem to be a regular occurrence, then its possible that anger has moved beyond simply one of many healthy emotions you experience in life. The Psalmist challenges us in Psalm 4:4 to examine our anger, to “search our hearts and be quiet.” Why do you think you get so angry?
Anger can be caused by many things, but probably the most common source of anger is related to unmet expectations. We all have certain expectations about how life should work. When it comes to relationships, we have expectations about how we will relate to other people. When it comes to work, we have a particular plan for how a project was going to go or how a fellow employee would do his or her job. When it comes to marriage, we have certain expectations of what our spouse will do or not do. When reality does not match our expectations, it causes stress. It causes anxiety. It causes anger.
One of the simplest ways to deal with the anger in your life is to take an honest look at your expectations. Are they realistic? Are they appropriate expectations?
One unmet expectation that can lead to anger in my life relates to messiness at home. This is particularly the case in the kid’s bedrooms. I find that if my son’s room is a disaster, I can get frustrated pretty quickly. So, I sit down with my son Luke and explain that I would like his room to be clean and if he would just put his toys away after he is done playing with them his room will always stay clean. However, since he is only four years old logic doesn’t always work. But then, I think to myself, “Brian, how long did it take you to develop discipline in your life.” The truth is, I am still working on that at 36 years old.
To be honest, the reason I get frustrated when Luke’s Legos have exploded all over his room is not because of Luke, but because I have set unrealistic expectations for a little guy who is still learning about how to manage his stuff. What if I approached the situation from a new perspective, that my expectation would be that I am going to need to spend some time showing Luke how to organize his room, knowing that is a skill he is still working on.
We do this in marriage as well. When we say “I do,” we have a set of expectations of what we are going to get from this relationship. We expect that our spouse is going to be a great listener when we have needs in our life. We expect that our spouse is going to meet our physical and sexual needs. We expect that they are going to be fun and entertaining to be around. We expect they are going to value what we value. But the problem is that every one of those expectations are self-focused and unrealistic. It would probably be more realistic to expect that your husband is going to struggle in being an attentive listener when he is stressed about work or other areas. It is more realistic to expect that your wife is going to be exhausted at the end of the day and most of her playfulness went out the window hours ago. It is more realistic that your spouse is going to be challenged to live out the character of Christ in their everyday life.
What if our expectations in marriage were set appropriately? Like the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, “Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ.” How would your marriage change–how would your anger change–if your expectation was that you would spend your life finding ways to help your spouse become all that God designed them to be, knowing that they are going to struggle along the way.
Ultimately, it is a change of orientation when it comes to expectations. When our expectations are more often self-focused we will find that anger is around the corner. But if our expectations are more often others-focused and God-focused contentment will be easier to find.
Does this mean that you need to live a glass half empty kind of life? Does that mean we always expect the worst? No, it means that we are careful not to base our contentment or our happiness on things in life that are likely to change and are uncertain.
Try controlling the world around you a little less and trust God a little more to give you want you need throughout the day.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”