Anger is a huge underlying issue for men struggling with sexually addictive behaviors. But most men don’t recognize it as a problem because they have learned that anger is the “acceptable” emotion for a man to express. Therefore, even as acting out behaviors might decrease in recovery, the bedrock of anger remains. In order to resolve anger well you must know where it originates.
For most sex addicts the anger that eventually expresses itself in adulthood is often a compilation of numerous “little” disappointments along life’s journey. Most of these disappointments occurred in childhood, and not many of us had the emotional maturity to respond well to such feelings. Therefore, adulthood expressions of anger are constructed through years of mismanaged disappointment. I don’t blame men for not handling their disappointments well in childhood. Most of us were never taught how to manage feelings of disappointment. These disappointments range in “size” from smaller ones such as Mom forgetting to give you a promised ice cream cone, to larger ones like Dad telling you he is ashamed of you and wished you had never been born.
Whatever the disappointment, when it goes unresolved it adds a thin layer, or film, of pain over the heart. Over time, and as more and more layers of pain are added, your heart grows heavier and harder. Eventually, you end up a grown man with a heart like stone. And anyone or anything that attempts to penetrate its exterior is met with harsh, cold anger. What is most interesting about this type of anger is that it may appear like you are strong and tough. In reality, however, you are very insecure and afraid. But you have learned to use anger to “scare off” everyone so you don’t have to peer into the cold darkness of your own heart. But if freedom, peace, and purity are to ever be enjoyed, you must break through your frozen heart.
If you can relate to a life of mismanaged disappointment that has turned into anger that puzzles you, there is hope to be free. It isn’t an easy path to peace and security, but a life of joy and contentment is possible. The following are four steps that will help you overcome your anger and become a CALM man of peace, joy, and contentment.
1. Confirm the true object of your anger. Most of the stuff that gets us mad isn’t what we are really mad about. Those are just the “triggers” that set in motion the wheels of angry behavior. We might falsely accuse our wives or some out-of-control motorist for our anger when, in fact, it often goes much deeper than those external circumstances. This is why it is important to identify what has truly ignited this flame of anger. Until you get to the root you can’t kill the tree. For example, let’s say your wife comes to you and says, “Honey, I’ve noticed you have been distant from me and the kids this week. Is everything ok with purity?” Such a question might stir some feelings of anger and you might fire back in a defensive manner. You may falsely assume that your wife is the object of your anger. Nope. You are. She simply pressed a button that hit a nerve and you launched the retaliation missile. Most of the time (if you are honest with yourself) you will find that the true object of your anger is yourself or some origin of disappointment in your past. The bad news about such self-directed anger is that it can create numerous unhealthy thoughts of shame that eat you up from the inside out. The good news about this, however, is that if you are the object of most of your anger, you can do something about the object!
2. Address the “nerve” of disappointment this trigger presses on. Once you confirm the object of your anger (usually yourself or a wound from your past) it then becomes important to address whatever “nerve” of disappointment the triggers are pressing on. For instance, in the example above your wife’s comment might have pressed on long held feelings of inadequacy that began in childhood from never being able to measure up to Dad’s impossible standards. Or maybe the trigger pressed on the nerve of an overbearing mother who never let you take risks and was always in your face about something. The real healing from anger begins when we get to the emotional “nerves” in our heart. These are the points at which most of our anger was born. As you learn what these nerves are you are better prepared for addressing them with the healing power of the truth.
3. Look to God’s promises for the specific need you have for security. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). And it is the truth that ultimately sets us free (John 8:32). To address the nerves of disappointment that trigger our anger we must bring the Word of God to bear upon them. We touch the layers of pain encasing our hearts with the truth and, over time, we are healed from years of anger and bitterness. Here is how this works. You get to the nerve of disappointment. Let’s say it is never measuring up to Dad’s strict standards. Then you search God’s Word for the truth about your security in Him. And you find amazing passages like John 10:28-29 and Hebrews 6:16-20. As you implant these truths in your mind they begin to melt your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, soft and pliable in the hands of God.
4. Meet with others to grow in connectedness. Anger ultimately isolates us from relationships. We grow distant and cold toward those who love us. When we combat the pattern of anger with the truth we must complete the transformation by connecting with others. To truly break the bonds of anger requires relationship. And in relationship we have the ideal “practice field” for engaging in new responses based on truth rather than the old method of lashing out in anger. To continue in anger causes us to live lonely, isolated lives filled with pain and dissatisfaction. To address our anger and move toward honesty and relationship creates a new foundation for long-term peace, purity, and deep satisfaction. So, be CALM!
by Jonathan Daugherty