Category Archives: Anger Management

Forgiving vs Condoning

How do you define forgiveness?  Do you usually respond to “I’m sorry” with “It’s OK”?  For most of us this is why we struggle to forgive people true trespasses.  We correlate forgiveness with condoning the behavior.  For many of us it means that we are telling the person that what they have done is acceptable and let go of.  When someone does something that causes true damage the farthest thing from our mind is letting them know that what they did was acceptable and that we have forgotten it.

We need to change our definition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean that the behavior was acceptable or forgotten.  It just means that we don’t hold hatred in our hearts.  We have let go of resentment, disgust, and anger toward the person.  We hold the lessons that need to be learned but let go of the things that create suffering in our lives.

Last week I discussed working to accept life as it is as a part of finding enlightenment.  That means that we are required to accept that the past cannot be changed.  The things that we have done and that have been done to us cannot be undone.  No matter how much or how little the person that has hurt or wronged us feels remorse or regret, the deed has been done.

One of the strongest things you will ever do is forgive someone that isn’t sorry for what they did.  For just a moment think of something you hold anger and resentment toward.  Think of the justification for the anger and resentment.  Now notice your heart-beat, notice your breath, and notice your general attitude about the day.  Notice if you feel hopeful or hopeless.  This is what anger does to us.  It steals our kindness and our hope.  It steals our ability to feel in control over our own lives.  We are often quick to blame the person or the event, but the true thief is the anger and resentment.

Forgiveness is letting go of the anger and the resentment so that it doesn’t control and run our lives.  It is not condoning the behavior that caused the resentment.  Forgiveness does not mean letting go of the need to use caution, keep yourself safe, and possibly even remove yourself from the person or thing that is causing the problems.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean “everything’s OK between the two of us”.   Those that hurt us the most often correlate the two.  “You’ve forgiven me?  Great!  I guess we’re OK now and I can keep doing what I was doing!”  It is up to us to make it clear that while we chose to not hold hatred toward anyone, their behavior wasn’t OK.  It is the difference between saying “Thank you” for an apology instead of “It’s OK”.  One is saying that you accept that they regret their actions and you appreciate the apology, and the other condones the behavior.

Forgiveness isn’t about condoning.  Sometimes it really isn’t OK.  It is about letting go of hatred and resentment that binds you to suffering.  Think of it this way.  We can only hold on to so much, and if we choose to hold on to anger and resentment, we limit our ability to hold on to the pleasant stuff.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiving and condoning are the same thing.

The path to destruction

We all have beliefs, values, ethics, and morals. Because we are all individuals with out own unique perspectives and experiences these beliefs, values, ethics and morals are going to vary significantly from person to person. We think we know and accept this fact. We know we live in a country with people from all walks of life and the people from different walks than ours will have different beliefs and opinions. We seem to forget this in 2 places. 1: Relationships, and 2: Politics.

It is perfectly acceptable to have a belief that is different from another person’s. What is not acceptable is to use aggression, either verbal, emotional or physical to force that opinion upon someone else. This is where fights come in. In a relationship, when one partner has a different belief, want, wish, or would like from the other partner we move in to an attack and defend state of being. I’m going to take your stance as an attack upon mine, and I’m going to staunchly defend my opinion while attacking yours, and possibly even attacking you. In politics we see the same thing. I didn’t watch the Republican debate last night, but up until now no matter your politics, we can mostly pretty much agree that the debates have in general been a sh*t show of insults and contempt with little substance. They have been dominance fights of attack and defend, trying to see who can get in the best attack. We have all seen the exact same thing in our own living rooms as well.

This is a sure path to destruction. In a relationship, if we can’t have civil discussions when we disagree or are frustrated it will increase resentment and start destrying the relationship from the inside. Each partner will feel unsupported, not listened to, not validated, not understood, and unloved. If there are children involved the children will do two things: first they will feel unsafe, feel the need to pick sides, and start acting out emotionally, and second they will start to see the weak spots to manipulate the parents to get what they want. Within our country we start to appear weak and divided. We start to appear easy pickings for groups that are already seeking to undermine us as a nation.

There are entire seminars on how to have an argument without killing each other. Here I’m going to give the beginning on how to start. First: Recognize that as your own person, your beliefs, values, ethics and morals are yours and yours alone. Your partner or other members of your community and even Country may share many of them, but because of your unique experiences no one will share all of them all the time. You are allowed to have them The other people are allowed to have theirs as well. The minute we recognize that other people are allowed their opinion; no matter how much it differs from ours, no matter how repugnant or offensive it may seem to us, they are allowed to have it.   The key is, no matter how offensive, repugnant, or different the other person’s beliefs, values, ethics and morals are, you aren’t allowed to use violence to force them to change. Neither are they!

The next step, and this is the difficult one: work to avoid Criticism, Contempt and Defensiveness when debating wants, wishes and would likes. We have become a country of criticism. I have found myself that I want to march over to my neighbor, that blatantly has different values that I do about recycling, and tell them what assholes they are for never recycling, when we have a large trash can that is meant specifically for recycling and is, in my opinion, so amazingly easy to recycle. I want to remind them that this world will be theirs long after I am gone from this planet (they are college students) and beat them over the head with the stuff I see sticking out of their trash can on trash day that could to in the recycle bin. And at the same time, I’m pretty sure that would at the very least get me the middle finger in my face, or maybe a punch in the nose. I need to find a place where I am calm enough to have a conversation about my beliefs, and ask politely for them to change their behavior. And then when they don’t, I get to self soothe my frustrations, and continue to do my best to save the plane one can at a time by recycling myself.

We have become a country (maybe even a world) where telling people how wrong and stupid they are is meant to change something, when all it does is polarize people. Criticizing people for what they believe and do tends to make people defensive, not want to change. Showing contempt for their beliefs and actions leads to the same reaction. When all we are doing is attacking and defending without hearing the other person’s point of view and recognizing that they may have some valid points in there, just as we do, we create anger and frustration, not resolution.

For this week I want you to do your best to find a place in every argument where the other person has a good point. Even if you don’t like that point, or want to like that point, find that place where the other person isn’t as stupid as you feel they are. For a moment play devils advocate for your own perspective to see where they are coming from. Imagine if each side of a disagreement did this, what would happen. Then work to make sure if you are hitting a point of frustration where you want to show criticism or contempt, you take a break. Work to keep things civil. Take small steps to keep from eating your relationship, or even our country as a whole away from the inside with anger, hate, and polarization. It will also do the same for you, and keep you from being eaten alive from the inside by the above. Anger is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. We are on a path to destruction, and as individuals we are the key to stopping it.

Anger ain’t that bad!

With all of the talk of Anger Management, and Letting of anger, and quotes like “holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal and expecting the other person to get burned”, anger has gotten a bad rep.  While yes, long term anger is damaging to the body in the way long term stress and long term anxiety are damaging to the body, every emotion we have has a purpose; including anger.  In dangerous situations anger fuels the protective instinct and helps provide the energy to protect ourselves and others.  In overwhelming situations anger gives the fuel to keep going when the odds seem completely against you, and helps push for change.  It is one of the emotions that lets us know that something is wrong that may need to be changed; possibly how you think of a situation, or the situation itself.

A recent study  has shown that anger can actually help people make firm decisions when they may have waffled before.  It can help people think critically about a situation in which they would have felt confusion about before.  With everything, if we let the anger get too big it can get in the way.  A candle can be beautiful and provide light, a campfire can provide warmth, a forest fire can provide incredible devastation.

Anger can be a wonderful protective agent. Feelings such as fear, shame, sadness and powerlessness are painful.  Anger helps manage those feelings from being as painful.  This can be a good thing in small doses, of course.  Anger can also be a distraction keeping us from being present with the true struggle. We need to look at what anger is able to give is in the moment we are using it. Is the anger giving us the courage to fight a fight that we need courage for? Is the anger helping keep motivation up in a situation that seems helpless? If so the anger is beneficial and helpful. If the anger is distracting from the true needs for yourself or a situation, or if it is just providing a cover-up so that you don’t have to be present with painful emotions then it is not helpful but possibly detrimental.

When we use Anger as a cover-up for painful emotions we don’t lose the emotions, we are hiding them from ourselves. Like when we were children and our parents told us to clean our rooms, and we just shoved everything under the bed. (I know very well that I am not the only kid to do that, I work with too many teens and adults.) Eventually the mess under the bed grows until there is a huge mess that will take a monumental amount of time and effort to clean. We can go on hoping that we never have to worry about it, but that day always comes. Out of sight may be out of mind, but it is still there. If there is trauma added to the mess it festers, like shoving food under our metaphorical beds. It starts to stink up the whole place. Using anger to cover this up just causes more pain and hurt that has to be shoved away and covered up, creating a cycle. Being able to let go of the anger and having the courage to face the pain and hurt that has been ignored is the first step to emotional (and sometimes physical) health.

It is important to be able to see your own true motivations behind the anger. Many motivations that lead to anger are a desire to be heard, a desire to be respected, and a desire to be seen as valuable. A feeling of lack of skill or lack of knowledge can lead to fear and anger. As discussed above, anger in these situations, in small doses can be helpful. It can help focus and add direction. In big doses it leads to rash decision making with verbal and possibly physical aggression. Learning the skills to feel comfortable in multiple situations can limit the anger as you feel confident instead of afraid.

Anger is no better or worse than any other emotion. It is useful and necessary at times, and in moderation can be beneficial. As with all emotions it is important to be able to harness the anger without letting it overwhelm you and your actions. It’s OK to be mad, it’s not OK to be bad.

Even when I’m angry I can still think!

A couple of years ago I attended a training on play therapy. The trainer had years of experience and had some excellent tools in his tool-box, including a couple of stamps that I jumped on. These stamps were:

Even when I’m angry, I can still think

It’s OK to be MAD it’s not OK to be BAD

My mouth can’t say everything my brain thinks

Good Face, Good Voice, Good Words


These seem simple things, simple ideas that we want out children to learn. I have found that teaching kids these concepts is actually relatively simple.

Kids can understand that when they’re mad they do things they get in trouble for and regret later. When they learn that they are in control of their anger; no one has a button that someone else can push and “make them angry” and no one has the reigns to their feelings then they start to be able to understand to following two stamps.   They start to understand that being mad isn’t wrong; we all get mad, but that what we do with it is what can be bad. When they add an understanding that they still have to take a breath and think even when they’re mad, anger management starts getting easier for them.

When they learn that their relationships are compromised when they are mad and say something hurtful or inappropriate they learn they have to think about what they are going to say or do before they do it. They learn pretty quickly that being mad isn’t a pass for horrible behavior and you don’t get to shut off your brain just because you’re mad.

Kids really get it when you remind them that usually the reason they get in trouble with adults and friends is because they didn’t follow the last stamp. They made mean faces, they had ugly words, or sarcastic words with an ugly voice. Kids learn quickly that when they have the good face, good voice and good words that they are actually more likely get their wants, wishes and would likes met, even when they are angry. When the combine all of them, especially when they are mad; remembering to think before they speak, they are still accountable for their actions, they have control of their face, voice and words, they get the concept of anger management pretty quickly.

Then we get to adults. Whether we learn a sense of entitlement, a sense that anger means an all out pass to be a jerk and other people are required to step lightly to keep us from getting angry, or we see that people around them get to use the “anger” defense again and again, we forget that we really are more in control of our anger than we think. We forget that we are always accountable for our actions, and high emotion does not give the right shove your words, your fist, foot or car in to someone.

It is OK to be angry. It is a natural human emotion that we all feel in many variations. There is irritated, frustrated, bitter, contrary, exasperated, flustered, aggravated, ticked, grumpy, fuming, mad, burning, angry, boiling, enraged, incensed, infuriated, ballistic, livid etc. Little to big, we all find a place where we are angry at some point. Like any emotion, it isn’t OK to lose yourself in the emotion so far that you are no longer in control of your actions.

We need to find a place where “you made me mad” is not an excuse. I have seen an adult reply to the “why did you (insert behavior here)?” question with “Because you made me mad!”. And? When did making someone mad give us the right to treat other people or their belongings with cruelty, disrespect or violence? When did we lose all accountability for our own emotions and our response to them?

These very simple lessons are something we need to start remembering as adults.

Even when I’m angry, I can still think

It’s OK to be MAD it’s not OK to be BAD

My mouth can’t say everything my brain thinks

Good Face, Good Voice, Good Words


I am in control of my own emotions. I don’t have an anger switch, or a happy button that someone else can push for me. My triggers are mine and no one is required to walk on eggshells to keep from hitting them. I need to be aware of my triggers so when someone unsuspectingly comes across them I don’t explode like a land mine and destroy everything in an emotional radius around me. When I can slow down and keep the above lessons in my head, even when I’m angry, I will have a good grasp on anger management. When I remember that I can’t control other’s emotions, and that while I should be sensitive and not intentionally jump on their triggers I can’t always control when I hit them, I probably won’t be as reactive if they aren’t in control of their anger as I would like them to be. Just always remember, Good Face, Good Voice, and Good Words and you’ll do great.