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Anger needs to be under new management

Rosemary Dawson considers everyday ideas that go way back to the 66 books of the Bible

Saying things in haste can lead to broken friendships

WHAT makes us angry or see red? We may like to think we can control our tem­per, but occasionally we have to admit that we lose it.

Mostly we tend to lose our rag when we’re tired, upset or worried. It takes only an innocent remark to highlight under­lying tensions in a relationship or work situation and set off all those other inner resentments and hurts that have been just waiting to explode. Whatever the trig­ger, saying things in haste can lead to bro­ken friendships and divided families. That kind of anger can be destructive or even dangerous.

The New Testament writer James warns: ‘By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputa­tion, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it’ (James 3:5, 6 The Message).

Although written in a different millen­nium, these words are still relevant today. There’s no invention to help us cope with this age-old problem – though counting to ten sometimes helps.

Nearer to home, anger also has other con­sequences. It’s a well-known fact that you’re far less likely to get a good night’s sleep if you’ve had cross words with a loved one before going to bed.

Writing in the Journal of Research in Personality, psychologists at Iowa State University confirm, after studying 436 people, that ‘anger and sleep are inti­mately connected’.

Participants completed an ‘anger question­naire’, in which they were asked if they were quick-tempered, how quickly they reacted to specific provocations – being criticised, for example – and how they dealt with anger.

Those who managed to control their anger experienced better-quality sleep than those who allowed their feelings to fester.

Used wisely, anger can be a strong influ­ence for good. Think William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. Think Bob Geldof and Live Aid. Think Jesus in the Temple, accusing moneychangers of mis­using a place of worship. Clearly there are occasions where anger does have a time and place.

But, on the whole, I’ll stick to the advice in the Bible, which says: ‘Don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge … Don’t go to bed angry’ (Ephesians 4:26)

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