Today I had lunch with a buddy who admitted that his anger is impacting his marriage.

He was looking for a Band-Aid idea that would slow him down and help with his anger (kind of like the good-ol “count to 10” technique).

No easy answers, but there is an easy question to ask.

The default question most people ask is “What?” What triggered my anger? That’s NOT a good question.

It’s too easy! It’s too general! It’s not that helpful.

What triggered my anger? Music, a dirty room, traffic, rudeness, not flushing the toilet, deleted a recorded TV show…etc…who cares?

Instead of asking “What?” I would encourage you to ask “Why?”

The why question forces you to peel back a layer from the surface and look inside your heart.

Instead of asking what triggered me

[that’s too easy]… ask, why did that trigger me?

When you ask what… you’ll continue to blame the triggers… and that won’t help you stop the pain.

When you ask WHY?

Chances are you’ll discover one of two primary emotions hiding beneath the surface. You might imagine these two emotions hiding in the corner of your soul… one in the fetal position and one in the attack position.

All curled up in the fetal position will be FEAR.

Every time I try to learn from my anger… that’s who I meet. I encounter fearful Doug. Fearful Doug who expressed his anger because he was …

  • afraid he wouldn’t be a good dad or husband
  • afraid of failure and rejection
  • afraid that he can’t control others to compliance
  • I could go on…

The second emotion is hiding right next to fear is likely “hurt.” Like a wounded animal, hurt is very dangerous because all it knows how to do is attack.

Hurt people… hurt people.

If I hurt you with my anger… I don’t have to focus on the hurt I feel, or re-open the hurtful wounds I’ve never dealt with.

If we don’t learn where anger is coming from, it keeps coming back out, over and over. Maybe that’s why we’re told to “search our hearts”.

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Psalm 4:4

Search your heart. Ask the right question. Learn from your emotions. Change your behavior. Improve your relationships.

Easy? No. Doable? Yes.

Question: Is there a better question to ask than “Why?” Share your thoughts.

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