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About this series
Overcoming Emotions that Destroy
Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings that Ruin Relationships
How do you deal with those angry feelings we all experience? In the series, Overcoming Emotions That Destroy, Chip Ingram will help you identify whether you are a spewer, leaker, or stuffer. You will learn the difference between good and bad anger, how to gain control of it, and how to use it in constructive ways. This no-nonsense, practical series, will give you biblical tools to express your anger appropriately and deal with those who express their anger toward you.More from this series
I’m going to suggest that anger wears many masks and that there are three primary masks that we put on. And I want to walk through what these masks are. And I’m going to be pretty, I think the educational word is “pedantic.”
There may be more, but you can take anger into three major masks or categories. I’m going to suggest that there are spewers, there are stuffers, and there are leakers. Should we go over that again? There are spewers with their anger. There are stuffers and then there are leakers.
And I want to go over first spewers, and there’s a very clear inventory. You can see on your notes. So we’ll go through this pretty rapidly and then I have some questions and maybe you shouldn’t count on your fingers but I’ll have some questions that you can mentally go, “Yeah, for me. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” And here’s the goal. None of these make you bad. Okay? Don’t get, “I’m a spewer. Ahh. I’m a leaker. I wish I wasn’t a leaker! I wish I could be a stuffer then I could be depressed but people wouldn’t know.”
This is not about one of the masks. These are human responses. Now some of them have different damage so let’s follow along.
Here’s a summary of all the research about people who spew their anger. There’s two types of spewers: exploding time bombs – they’re out of control; and calculated time bombs. There are some people, they spew it, they know when they’re going to do it, why they’re going to do it and how they’re going to do it.
The message they have is that anger is necessary. Their reaction is, “You bet I’m mad. Do what I say or else.” This is a power issue. The reasons for spewers expressing their anger, it gives them a false sense of power and control, it helps them release pent up, negative emotions, and they feel unable to constrain or control their anger. They have poor impulse control.
The guy on the radio talk show yesterday, he just said, “I do it and I don’t want to do it and I work really hard and then it is just comes out.” And he goes, “I’m destroying my family.”
He said, “I read the Bible, I’m a leader in my church. My wife and my kids – this is – what do I do?”
This is how they blow up. Yell, scream, shout, push, shove, hit, kick, intimidate, aggression, become overly opinionated, overly blunt, forceful, tactless, or demanding and repetitive. My dad was a spewer. When he was really mad, then you just got out of the way. But when he got really mad and he was dealing with you with something, “Hey, why didn’t you clean out the garage? Why didn’t you clean out the garage? Why didn’t you clean out the garage? Son, come over right here. Do you see that?” “Yeah.” “That’s not clean!” “Yeah.” “The garage isn’t clean!” I’m thinking, “He thinks I have a hearing problem.” When people get real mad, they – spewers – they tend to repeat, repeat.
The results, listen to the results, this is what happens to spewers, this is why we’re going to study this. They wound themselves and others. There’s a loss of control or power. There’s a false sense of power. There’s great feelings of guilt. Spewers often feel amazing remorse. They’re so sorry and it’s genuine.
They have strain then and unhealthy relationships and possible retaliation and revenge. When you spew on people there’s times where you’ve got to be careful or, guess what, they’re going to come back at you. There’s possible damage even violent behavior and often spewers have tremendous regrets. What a spewer needs, this is what they need, is to develop a longer fuse. They need to learn to control their anger.
Unconsciously, spewers give themselves permission. They say things like, “I can’t help it. I’m Irish. I have red hair. It’s just the way I am. They did it.” And they will use phrases like, “You made me angry.” No one ever makes you angry. Your emotions are yours that you control and you choose to respond and not respond.
This has happened in our home, unfortunately. But let’s just make it your home so I don’t feel quite so guilty. So I’ll make this example in your house. And let’s just say you and one of your children or grandchildren or let’s say you and your husband and wife are having a rather heated discussion. A good, Christian heated discussion. You’re not yelling really loud. Nothing is being thrown. No expletives. But you’re hot. [Arguing sounds] And then the phone rings. “Hello. No, actually we’re busy right now. Yeah, I think I can bring a casserole. Yeah. Bob’s you know, Bob’s uh uh yeah he’s occupied right now. Okay.” Now. [arguing noises] Right? We have the power to control our anger.
Question: are you a spewer? Now, I want to read this is out of an excellent workbook, actually it’s by Les Carter and Frank Minirth, and I want you to lean back and I’m going to list seven to ten questions.
And as I say them, again, this is, my lands, we’ve so been brain washed that any kind of anger is wrong, I just want you to get a grip on who you are and how you tend – you learned this, okay? You learned this from other people. It’s where you’re at.
So I’m going to read these questions and every time you think that question and just your first response. Don’t, if you’re going, “Well, I’m not sure, I really do that.” If you start down that. Just: yeah or no. Yeah or no.
But I’m going to list them and as I list them, I want you to ask yourself just a quick yes or no and keep count. Okay.
Number one: “I can be blunt and forceful when someone does something to frustrate me.” Yes or no? “As I speak my convictions, my voice becomes increasingly louder.” Three: “When someone confronts me about a problem, I’m likely to offer a ready rebuttal.” Four: “No one has to guess my opinion. I’m known for having unwavering viewpoints.”
Five: “When something goes wrong, I focus so sharply on fixing the problem, I often overlook people’s feelings.” Six: “I have a history of getting caught in bickering matches with family members.” Check with your mate on that one. Seven: “During verbal disagreements with someone, I tend to repeat myself several times to make the point.” Eight: I find it hard to keep my thoughts to myself when I know something is wrong.” Nine: “I have a reputation of being strong-willed,” and ten: “I tend to give advice even when others have not asked for it.” Okay?
Now, just in your mind, if you mentally have five, welcome to the spew club. We’ll have t-shirts later. I’m a spewer but God’s working in my life. Okay?
Stuffers. There are two types: those who repress – they deny and avoid, and those who suppress – they pretend and stuff. The message they believe is that anger is bad. Their reaction to: “Are you angry?” is, “Angry? Not me.”
Why are they afraid of anger? They think it’s bad or even sinful to be angry. They fear God’s wrath. They fear a loss of control and making a fool of themselves if they got angry. They fear rejection by others, “If I get angry, those people will reject me.” They don’t like to feel guilty and when they get angry they feel guilty. They’ve experienced anger sometime in their past that was scary so all anger is something to be avoided. They fear retaliation, punishment, or the consequences and the outcomes of them expressing their anger. Most of you learn that as a kid.
My wife is a classic stuffer. Anger was not allowed in her home. Varying opinions were not allowed in her home. She had a very sweet mother and a father who traveled who was an alcoholic. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, and he ruled with an iron fist and lots of rules and you didn’t buck him and you never talked back. Talking back was like opening your mouth.
But, so, she had a belief system that all anger is wrong. The reason I learned so much about anger was I had a dad who was a spewer. She had a dad where anger is wrong. We love one another. We’re in seminary and Frank Minirth and his friend Paul Meyer of the Minirth/Meyer clinic were teaching us how to do pastor counseling.
And here I’m learning how to do pastoral counseling and I’m learning how we’re supposed to help these other people and he gets into some of these kind of things and I realize, my wife goes silent. She withdraws, she cries quietly, and doesn’t talk to me for two days, and then pretends everything’s okay. This is not a healthy response to anger.
I don’t feel close to her when she does that, and she doesn’t feel close to me because I’m a verbalizer and as, since we don’t have it resolved and I have Ephesians 4:26 memorized, she’s in bed up ‘til one and I’m walking around the bed, “We have to deal with this tonight. Be angry but do not sin. Would you please wake up! Hey! Get up here. Hey, we’re going to talk about it right now, right now, right...” and she would shut down and then we’d pretend for two days nothing really happened. We’d bury the anger, move on.
You do understand that anger puts a road block in intimacy: emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy and physical intimacy. And so, I realized that we didn’t know how to deal with anger and we didn’t know how to communicate. And so, with making a thousand dollars a month, and supporting my family as I went to seminary, and at about ninety dollars a pop for twelve weeks, we went to Paul Meyers’ brother for counseling in marriage, and he gave us tools to learn how to communicate and how to express our anger. And I’m going to, I’m not even going to charge you.
And it is an amazing thing to be about to communicate, “I feel hurt. I feel angry when you…” and be able to get things on the table and not attack the other person and not be threatened. Some of you will come away and realize that was worth the entire time together.
Stuffers, how do they stuff it? By ignoring it, denying it, shielding it or deflecting it, minimizing it, pretending they’re not really angry by avoiding it, by burying it. By the way, when you bury it, Paul Meyer says ninety five percent of all depression is anger turned inward. Think of that.
People that are very, very, very depressed. Now there are clinical reasons and physiological reasons but a lot of depression is people don’t even know they’re angry, they push it down and it, physiologically, we’ll see in a minute, it can cause ulcers, headaches, all kind of difficult things in your body, but emotionally it causes depression.
Results: they become doormats. They’re taken advantage of. They redirect their anger at themselves. I remember one of the biggest things I’ve done to my wife after those years is I would say, “Honey, I think you’re angry and she’d look at me like, No I’m not. No I’m not. “Honey, honey, you’ve got to be angry, that, that lady just talked to you like that.” “Well, she’s probably having a bad day.”
No matter what happened, my wife… I would joke an ambulance would go by and Theresa would turn, “I wonder what I did wrong.” I’m joking. I’m exaggerating. But she thought it was so wrong to be angry about anything that she always figured out how to blame herself. Now, I wish you could see the beautiful woman that I’m married to now.
But, wow, we had to discover how she dealt with anger before she got the truth that set her free. The results are they develop physical ailments that I talked about. They occasionally erupt.
By the way, it’s kind of weird. These kind of people, they never share it never share it,
and then, finally, they develop resentment. What stuffers need is to accept that anger is okay and normal, to acknowledge their fears and seek to minimize their hold on others, learn to communicate anger effectively, become more assertive with their needs, that it’s okay to have real needs and real wants, and to become clear about what they will and will not do. So are you a stuffer? Could you be a stuffer? I have another ten questions and you can just put them on your fingers.
Question number one: “I’m very image conscious; I don’t like to let others know my problems.” Yes or no? “Even when I feel frustrated, I portray myself publicly as having it all together.” Three: “I’m rather reserved about sharing my problems or my frustrations.” Four: “If a family member or friend upsets me, I can let days pass without even mentioning it.”
Five: “I have a tendency to be depressed and moody.” Just a tendency, doesn’t mean you’re all the time. Six: “Resentful thinking is common for me although many people would never suspect it.” Seven: “I’ve suffered with physical complaints. For example: headaches, stomach ailments, and sleep irregularity.” Eight: “There are times when I wonder if my opinions or preferences are really valid.” Nine: “Sometimes I feel paralyzed when confronted by an unwanted situation.” And ten: “I feel guilty a lot about little things, especially if someone is upset with me.”
Those of you that said, “click, click, click, click, click,” five or more, you’re probably a stuffer. Now, some of you are feeling real bad because you’re thinking, “I had four or five on the last one, I got five on this one…” Yes, you can wear more than one mask. You probably have a primary one, but you can wear more than one. So are you a stuffer? Yes, no, or maybe?
Finally, let’s look at our leakers. The technical word for this is passive-aggressive. And a leaker is a person who is angry but what they do is they have, as you’ll look, they have all the same fears as stuffers. They have the same belief system as stuffers but they just, just stuffing it all the time is like, “I just can’t go there.” And so, but they’re not going to do it directly.
So, what they do is, “I’m angry about this situation, this person, this hurt, this injustice, this pain, this wound. I’m not going to deal with it over here, I take that anger and put it under my arm like a football, and now I go over to here to a safe playing field. And then I take the anger and I leak it to get back at the person to punish them for what they did.”
Sarcasm. Negativity. Procrastination. Frigidity. Critical remarks. Knowing they like you to be prompt, you’re late. Knowing they love you to follow through? I forgot. I’m so sorry. Okay? That’s what leakers do. I’m an expert on this one.
Types are indirect and direct leakers. Here’s their message: it’s not that anger… it’s showing anger that is bad. You can be angry but just don’t let anyone see it. Their reaction, “Angry? Not me. Well maybe just a little.”
Why are they afraid of anger? They think it’s bad or even sinful to be angry. They fear God’s wrath. They fear loss of control. Losing it might make them look foolish. They fear rejection. Others won’t like them if they get angry. They don’t like to feel guilty. Their experience with anger was scary so all anger is something to be afraid of or avoided. That’s what I had. They fear retaliation, punishment, or consequences or outcomes.
Now did you notice that most all of those are the exact same reasons as people that stuff their anger? But then how do they leak it? By not following through on commitments or promises. By not letting their yes be yes or their no be no. These people, when you’re really a leaker, “I’ll do this,” “Well, I wish I could, I can’t.”
We are flaky at times, and it makes people crazy. By making excuses, by procrastinating, by knowingly going at a pace different than others are going. Have you ever had people really get up on your bumper? Beep, beep! There’s, like, fifteen million cars ahead of you and this guy’s switching [lanes] and almost killing people so he can make it thirty more feet? Right? And so, he’s – you look in your rearview mirror and all you see is his grill?
Now, some of you in your younger days or if you know karate, want to pull off and say, “Right now, dude, right now, let’s take it down! Let’s take it down!” Others of you, want to express yourself to them and still others go, “If you think you’re close to my bumper now going sixty-five, oh my. I’m only going fifty-eight now. And there’s a big semi on the right. And you know something, I’m getting kind of tired I think I’m going to pull it down to forty-three.” You know? And then, no eye contact. You just look ahead. Right? You’re one angry person. You wonder where I got that illustration. I have no idea.
The results: they develop a false or unhealthy sense of power. Even all your laughter. You know why you were laughing? It was a power deal, right? “We got that guy. We got that guy, that smart aleck in front of me or in back of me.” They aggravate those around them and they strain weakened relationships. They become critical and negative. They become isolated. You might write the word, “Leakers are very, very sarcastic.” They’re often late. They withdraw. They often are frigid sexually to pay back their mate. They forget. And they avoid issues.
What a leaker needs is to accept that anger is okay and normal, to acknowledge fears and seek to minimize the influence of those fears on their life. They need to learn to communicate their anger effectively. They need to become more assertive. A lot of the times they don’t really say, we don’t say what we really mean, we think people can read our minds. But then they don’t come through for us because they’re not reading our minds and so we get angry at them because they don’t read our minds even though we didn’t tell them and then we do stuff to punish them and then it doesn’t work. And they need to be clearer about what they will do and won’t do.
Okay, are you ready for the big ten questions? Here are the questions. Add them up. Yes or no. Real quick: “When I’m frustrated, I become silent, knowing it bothers other people.” Two: “I’m prone to sulk and pout.” “I’m going to go out the garage, work on my tools.” Three: “When I don’t want to do a project I will procrastinate.” I can be lazy. Four: “When someone asks me if I’m frustrated, I will lie and say, ‘No, everything’s fine.’”
Five: “There are times when I am deliberately evasive so others won’t bother me.” Six: “I sometimes approach work projects half-heartedly.” Seven: “When someone talks to me about my problems, I stare straight ahead being deliberately obstinate.” Eight: “I’m often sarcastic and hide my real hurts behind jokes.” Nine: “I withdraw affection and become frigid when hurt.” Ten: “I forget to do things for people when they’ve wounded me.” Got them? Are you a leaker? Yes, no, or maybe?
Ask yourself and I encourage you to get a pen before you share it with others if you can. What makes you angry? Just the top three. What are two to three things that really make you angry?
Second, when and where is it okay to feel angry? If you could just identify – some of you think it’s so wrong. When would it be okay? Some of you so lit up when I talked about, “Jesus was angry.” Huh. “Moses was angry.” Uh. “David was angry.” Uh. “Chip was angry at the laundromat.” Some of you, your faces just said, “Wow. Maybe, maybe I could get a little bit mad, it’d be okay.” Where do you think it’d be okay to get mad? And then, in what ways do you tend to misuse anger? Why do you hang on to it? And then, which anger mask do you wear most often? Spewer, stuffer, or leaker?
Then the final question and this will be the journey. Just up to now, if you had to turn to someone and say, “The one insight that I received so far about anger and emotions that I think will be helpful to me, I think it’s…” What would you write down?
We’re going to go on a journey together and get some practical help for those angry feelings that destroy relationships. God gave you this divine gift. A neutral emotion called anger that can be for good or for evil. Let’s figure out how we deal with our anger and then how we can, by God’s grace, begin to channel it in ways for His glory and our good.