And dont' sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry... Ephesians 4:26
We have a counseling center in our office suite. I never take having space to think and work on youth ministry for granted. But I definitely feel like this more recent addition to our environment is over the top blessing for us as we lead and serve teenagers.
The coolest part about having licensed counseling professionals in the hallway is that I have an easy referral. I can always tell a student who needs extra care and support that they have resource right here in our church to help them.
The unexpected side effect to the center's existence are the openings on "the couch" where I find myself from time to time. I always walk out of the room having gained wisdom on how to counsel and respond in different situations. Not to mention the parenting/ personal counsel I get just because Rowena loves people and she can't help but help us.
Today as we discussed a particular situation involving one of our students and one of our counselors clients (with permission) I become aware of a need that I want to learn more about.
Helping students with anger.
I struggle with anger sometimes. If you're being honest, you realize that we all do.
What Rowena, our counselor helped me to think about again today was that there is what she calls a "world of hurt" under the anger we see in our students (or ourselves) and it's important to begin to understand that world if we are to work on it.
Anger leads to bitterness and resentment. It causes us to say and do things that we wouldn't want to say and do. It often leaves us feeling guilty and ashamed but we don't feel like there's a lot we can do to control it. There are students in our ministry who really struggle with anger...anger concomitant with adolescent development can be the perfect storm for disaster.
There is a student that has expressed some anger toward me on Wednesday nights. I try my best not to provoke it but I usually find a way to do just that--when I try to encourage him in the right direction or get him to stop a disruptive or disrespectful behavior.
Rowena gave me some things to remember and to pass on to those who are struggling.
-In everyone's anger there is a world of hurt.
-Beneath that hurt there was probably an expectation that wasn't met--whether it was a fair expectation or not--the hurt or feeling offended comes from this disappointment.
-And under expectations not being met is a core need. Most of the time this need is a need for love, acceptance, belonging, feelings of safety and security.
Helping our students look back to where their anger started is helpful to me. Asking the teenager what's really going on when they puff up and lash out during youth group could give us a clue.
I like the help she offered to me when dealing with my own anger and frustrations. I hope to teach this to my teens who are really struggling with their emotions and actions surrounding them. It's an acronym (ABCD).
Dealing with our anger:
A- AWARE Be aware of your triggers and recognize how they control you.
B- BACK OFF Take a step back from that trigger if you can. Get some space.
C- COOL DOWN Calm down. Don't make any decisions or say anything until you've had some space to settle.
D- DECIDE Once you're head is clear and you are aware of what's happening, decide what you need to do.
I yelled at my daughter the other night when she had an accident while trying to get to the potty. I was exhausted. The panic of my 3 year old woke up our 1 year old. I was hoping to have a few minutes of quiet before bed but instead I would have to clean up the floor, get new pjs, put the baby to bed (again). And I yelled at her. It wasn't her fault. She hadn't been feeling well. She didn't sleep much the night before. She was on medication for her ear ache. There was a lot going on. I would love to become more aware of the triggers that set me off so that I can calm down and make decisions better, that I could stop myself from yelling before I'm in the situation and have another action in mind.
Isn't it all too easy to spout off in a text message, fire off a loaded comment or blog, or vent to someone else when we are angry? But it often leads to more pain and more anger. I pray that we can learn these simple steps and make better decisions. I pray that we learn talk to each other better--that we could lift each other up as we heal.
I hope to encourage our leaders to help teenagers as they learn how to cope with their emotions. Giving them praise for the baby steps along the way...
God is transforming us--by the renewing of our minds, little by little as we allow his movement in our lives. I'm thankful to see this need and to begin to make steps toward understanding more.
If you need someone to help deal you deal an with anger-related situation or need tips on how to regain control. Talk to someone. If you're in Lakeland, Rowena's information is listed here.
Rowena Barnett Lovvorn, M.A.
Director of Counseling Services, Highland Park
Labels: anger, counseling, Highland Park Church, Highland Park Counseling Services, hurt, Rowena Lovvorn