When Hurt Turns To Hate And Hopelessness
By Mark Schaufler • MST Ministries • Olympia, Washington
Learning how to deal with anger whether it is connected to wounds or not, is another challenge we can face with a common vocabulary. We built a vocabulary to be able to show the maturity progression of anger but also to be able to talk about it. Emotional issues are often a challenge because people can have the same experience but describe it in ten different ways.
Those ten people might think that nobody understands just because of the words they use to describe it.
Anger is not the problem; it is what we do when angry that turns into a problem. Jesus got angry and there are things we should get angry about as well. We must learn how to deal with it in a mature way that turns the emotion into motivation for change versus a motivation for destruction. Like all emotions, there is a mature response we can grow into.
Here are the six maturity stages we put common word usage to. Having shared these with thousands it always resonates with people because of the common experience we all have with them.
6 Maturity Levels
Level One: The Temper Tantrum – Defined by a showing of raw emotion either horizontally as small kids or vertically when older.
Level Two: The Hit And Grunt – Defined by small children recognizing that people are a part of the perceived problem and lashing out at them.
Level Three: The Point And Shout – Defined by the act of pointing and shouting instead of physically assaulting someone. Though a bit more mature, it still doesn’t work to solve problems and grow from the experience.
Level Four: Silence – Defined by a lack of expression despite the full emotion of anger. Often accompanied by a loss of sleep and eventually physical and mental health issues. It’s an easy one to get stuck in but with huge long-term consequences.
Level Five: Try To Say It Right But It Comes Out Wrong – When you are angry you aren’t creative. There is a neurological block that stops our ability to be creative. That is a good thing, if we were creative and angry at the same time it could be dangerous. However, if we have already thought about other ways to deal with a situation (usually negative ones) then they can come out like a flood. Neither of these solves anything and often only makes it worse.
Level Six: Right Time, Place, And Solution – Defined as stated. There is a right time, place, and solution that, if it involves people, falls into four basic categories.
- I Am Right And You Are Wrong – The challenge here is how we treat others when we are right because in time how we treat them will be how they treat us when B is the reality.
- You’re Right And I Am Wrong – Responding positively to a correction is a sign of maturity as well. It pays off big dividends in the long run if we can listen and respond accordingly.
- We Are Both Wrong – There is so much misinformation out there that this is more common than you might think. The other contributor to this experience is that people believe they have the right to have an opinion even if they have no clue about the subject. More than one argument has been had in this regard.
- We Are Both Right – Probably the most challenging of the four. When we “know” we are right we tend to dig in. As a result, these often produce the most heated and explosive events. When we realize we can both be right and that we both have pieces of the puzzle we win. Together we come up with a better solution than the single one we are fighting for.
Anger is a maturing issue so it’s like riding a bike uphill. If you pedal, you make progress but if you quit you go backward. Reflecting on our Texas shooter, he had been silent too long and he slid back into the “Point And Shout.” As young men grow up it can become the point and shoot. If someone gives up at the “Try To Say It Right” stage, they fall back to silence. As you can see not moving forward in this has long-term consequences for all involved.
The actions we take in response to our anger also need to be scaled down. Physical violence is the most tragic act that is based on anger. It’s at the top of the Anger Action Scale:
Verbal Violence almost always precedes Physical Violence. Trash talking has become normal and unfortunately, it too often results in Physical Violence. Below that is Mental Violence. Remember, you are not creative when angry, so if you haven’t thought of doing something before it won’t come out. If you have rehearsed the action in your mind, it has a real chance to be acted out.
Having Physical Control becomes paramount. It’s not usually a problem unless you rehearse acts you will take if someone “says” or “does” certain things. In some cases, you will overreact to something that wasn’t the “say” or “does” thing you thought it was. Verbal control is next and that all by itself will keep people out of a lot of trouble.
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Finally, Mental Control is not a problem most of the time unless you get stuck in a loop.
There, all you can do is think about a past event or an action you might take. Then you have lost it and need to be able to seek help for yourself or another if you see it in them.
Physical Violence > Verbal Violence >
Mental Violence > Physical Control >
Verbal Control > Mental Control
As we briefly covered, there are Scriptures for many of these specific stages, steps, and actions. Working with faith-based and public school students I don’t find that quoting the Scripture reference is helpful in the main body of a presentation. Connecting with them through common experiences helps validate the truths you are presenting.
Yes, we must bring the Scripture into it towards the end of a presentation to show them how relevant Scripture is (when possible) to today’s world. Starting with it will put up a barrier for some. We think we are showing them why they should listen and often their response is to not listen at all because we said it came from Scripture. Too often they have a preset push back on Scripture.
Both anger and wounds are common experiences for all people. Connecting with them happens as soon as we are willing to approach them. Give them enough time to process the reactions that will come as you initially dive into the subjects. These aren’t one-time topics. Camp on them until people have had a chance to wrestle and process them.
Wounded and angry students are headed for trouble unless we dive into the muddy water with them and give them a path out. It’s also possible that we as leaders could still be struggling with these ourselves. I know I can share the anger material because it was a huge issue in my life.
The draft card I got at 18 says I am 5’5” and weigh 112 pounds. I was a target most of my teen life for the bullies looking for an easy mark. Now at 5’10” and 185 pounds I haven’t dealt with it for decades but in my early ministry years I was stuck in silence, and it resulted in health problems.
Each of the issues (wounds and anger) is critical for developing healthy people and therefore futures. It also greatly reduces the reality of suicide. Dive into the muddy water of hurt students but take the lifelines discussed in this article with you.