It was a typical night, and we were all sitting down to dinner. A news show was in the background, and they were doing a story on Senator Joe Manchin. Hearing the name "Manchin," my Dad tried to be funny and started belting out a chorus of "I've Got a Mansion, Just Over the Hillside" as I got up to clear the dishes.
Did I laugh?
No. Instead, It infuriated me. The more he sang the song, the angrier I got.
Why? What I didn't realize then was that a volcano was bubbling up inside me—pain from my childhood was bubbling up and about to boil over. The more things, like this song, triggered and fueled it, the angrier I became.
Later that night, we watched an old episode of the 1990s classic, Growing Pains. One line from the episode cut me like a knife, and I became so angry I couldn't fall asleep.
I was also confused.
Why was I so angry? Where was this coming from? One side of my brain told me it was wrong to be angry about things that happened twenty or thirty years ago. However, the other side was filled with rage that I was doing my best to keep under control.
Realizing that this anger must be coming from all of the work, research, and journaling I'd been doing to overcome the issues in my heart, I decided, "This isn't worth it. I'm not going through this process anymore. I'm just going to quit. Can't take the pain and don't want to be this angry." Then I finally fell asleep.
The only thing was that the next day, I woke up furious.
Not knowing what to do to squash this anger, I called a trusted friend with experience in counseling and inner healing. Thankfully, she was available and listened to the story of not knowing what to do with my incredible anger. I told her I knew it was wrong. I've asked God to forgive me and help it go away, but nothing was helping.
The next words she spoke were exactly what I needed to hear.
She said, "It's perfectly normal for you to be angry. It's part of the grieving process, and alot was taken a lot from you. The key is to deal with the anger and not sin."
Read that again.
"Your anger is normal… it's part of grieving."
Perspective #1: My anger wasn't evil or sinful. It was a normal, healthy part of the grieving process.
Perspective #2: I was grieving.
Until this point, I had no idea. Yet, it made so much sense. Grief is a normal part of healing your heart and mind.
Perspective #3: While anger is normal—we must be careful that our anger doesn't allow us to sin.
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27)
How do you do that? How did I do that when one of the people I was angry with lived in the house with me, expecting me to make him dinner?
First, you must choose not to release your anger on someone else.
Even if you have to get away to a private place and say, "Just let me alone til I work through this—that's what you need to do."
It's better to hire a babysitter or go off by yourself for a day than let your pain explode all over innocent people. If you can't do this (which, at the time, I couldn't,), then you need to do your best to exhibit self-control until you can. Remember: it's kinder to tell those around you, "I'm dealing with some things, and I need some space right now," than to take it out on them.
Secondly, don't drag it out.
Make time to get alone and work on your anger as soon as possible.
Miss an event—give up some sleep.
Don't drag it out—it's only hurting you and others.
Most importantly, find a healthy avenue to work through your pain.
Some people can simply talk to God and release it in prayer.
This doesn't work for me. When I'm really struggling, I'm not good with words, so instead, I write. I grab a notebook or a laptop and pour all my feelings to God.
The afternoon after talking to my friend, I spent hours—literally hours— journaling and pouring all of my feelings onto a piece of paper. There was so much heartache and pain that came out. Here's the important part: the writing and journaling provided an outlet to release the anger.
Rather than wrestling with the guilt of my anger, I had the freedom to feel it and find a healthy avenue to release it. I could say anything and be completely honest. If you read my journal, you'd see it's filled with sarcasm and anger. That's okay because I'm unloading those feelings onto a piece of paper, not another person.
After I spent hours journaling that night, Jamie and I talked about it for another 3 or 4 hours. This is another avenue that you can use to release your anger—talk about it with a mature, trusted Christian friend who will keep your story to themselves until you are ready to share it.
Like journaling, talking releases the pain from inside of us and begins to set us free. It's like when you have bad food and feel so much better when it is finally out of your digestive system. Even though expelling it isn't a pleasant experience, you feel so much better when the toxins are gone.
Another healthy way to release your anger is to talk to a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled counselor. In my book, "Finding Healing," I provide helpful insights on choosing a counselor and the benefits counseling can bring. It's too much info for a blog, but it will really help you if you read that chapter.
Again, I do not know how I would have made it through this process without the help of my counselor friend. She saw things I didn't and pointed me in the right direction when I didn't know where to turn. A Bible-believing, Spirit-filled counselor will do the same for you.
Here's the amazing part: After I took the time to acknowledge and work through my anger in a healthy manner—through journaling, talking, and seeking help—after I released the pain instead of keeping it all bottled up inside, I began to experience healing.
Even more, the Holy Spirit was able to begin helping replace years of lies and abuse with Biblical truth.
Ultimately, I discovered that anger wasn't a sin—it was just part of the healing process.
Using the right tools, you can work through your anger without sinning or hurting yourself or other people. Then, you can move toward healing.
Today, if you are working through a time of inner healing in your life, I hope my friend's wisdom gives you the same direction and help it gave me.
The truth is that it's normal if you feel angry.
You may even have a right to feel the way you do.
However, you don't have to stay there, and you don't have to let your anger cause you to sin.
Instead, provide yourself the space to feel the anger and pain. Don't let guilt for feeling angry keep you in bondage to your anger.
Instead, find healthy outlets to release the anger and make way for healing.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."