In the October 27, 1997, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, the question was raised, “What specific personality characteristic causes physical illness?” The answer—anger. Furthermore, it is generally agreed in the medical field that holding in anger causes stress and physical illness.
Anger held in, anger handled improperly, develops into a root of bitterness, which we've already addressed. Anger is an emotion we all experience and is not in and of itself wrong. How we respond to it is the key.
We become angry when our expectations are not met. When we become angry about something, whether it is because dinner is late or because one of the spouses feels betrayed, it needs to be addressed and dealt with. And the goal is to reach understanding. A few ground rules might help.
- "Help me to understand," spoken softly and with a desire to reconcile accomplishes volumes. We should never attack our mate -- emotionally or physically -- no matter how angry we are.
- Treat each other with honor and respect.
- Take the time you need to discuss the issue. Never bury the problem thinking it will go away. It won't. It will simply fester into bitterness. That's why the scripture says, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph. 4:26). Don’t let it build up. We are not equipped to handle it. Harboring anger takes a toll on us psychologically and physically.
- Offer and accept forgiveness.