Just a few wayward sparks is all it takes to burn down an entire city. That’s what happened in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, one of the largest disasters in American history.
In popular accounts from the time, Catherine O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in a humble barn on DeKoven Street. A few sparks became a small fire that quickly grew into an inferno that destroyed miles of homes and razed Chicago’s business district.
What a powerful illustration of the destruction of anger. Anger starts small, but if we don’t handle it properly, it can erupt into something much bigger. Anger will come between you and your spouse, you and your children, and you and God.
Many of us don’t handle anger well because we don’t understand it. We confuse feelings of anger with hatred. Or we believe feeling anger is sinful.
The Bible tells us that God feels anger. “Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke,” says Isaiah (30:27).
Since God feels anger, the emotion itself cannot be sinful. “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). It’s how we handle our anger that determines whether it will be productive or grow into an inferno that destroys everything in its path.
The solution is to learn to process our anger in healthy ways. Dr. Gary Chapman says, “Anger is meant to be a visitor, not a resident.” That means we can hold our anger inside temporarily while we manage a particular situation, but sooner rather than later, we have to get our anger out. If we bury it, our anger will turn into bitterness, resentment, or depression. Or it will eventually burst out as rage.
How do you process anger in a healthy way? We’re talking about that with Dr. Chapman on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Controlling Anger So It Doesn’t Control You.”
Four practical steps for handling anger came out of our conversation:
- Acknowledge your anger.
- Be mindful of what you say to each other and the tone you use.
- Agree that yelling and screaming is never appropriate.
- Focus on listening.
There’s much more to be said, and we’ll talk through it all with Dr. Chapman. In addition to anger in marriage, he talks about anger in parenting, and in our relationship with God. He’ll also share practical tips for handling anger in ways that protects relationships instead of damaging them.
Dr. Gary Chapman is a speaker, counselor, and author, perhaps best-known for his book The Five Love Languages, which has sold over 10 million copies.