Conversation: Doug Britton
Doug Britton is a prolific author, former radio talk-show host and marriage and family therapist based in Sacramento, Calif. Recently, he talked with Associate Editor Kirk Noonan about overcoming resentment, irritableness and anger.
tpe: Christians are supposed to have the joy of the Lord, but why do some struggle with anger and a constant negative attitude toward others?
BRITTON: ItÕs part of our sin nature. We also learn to be angry or irritable from those who have an influence on us. Plus, we live in a society that tells us there is justification to our anger.
tpe: Though anger can be a natural response, you say Christians need to be responsible with such a feeling. How so?
BRITTON: If you are constantly feeling irritated or angry with people, you need to be praying for a peace that surpasses all understanding. Feeling irritable or becoming angry easily is far removed from what God wants for your life.
There will be times when our immediate reaction is going to be to feel anger and frustration. We canÕt condemn ourselves for feeling those things, but we cross the line when our feelings hurt other people. ThatÕs why we need to always be praying for a good attitude and for those who wrong us when confrontations arise.
tpe: Some studies suggest our busy lifestyles cause stress, which can lead to irritability and bursts of anger — what other harmful effect does busyness have on our lives?
BRITTON: Busyness takes us away from our quiet time with God. If we donÕt start our day in complete surrender to God and His will for our lives we can become very irritable.
tpe: What does it tell the world when Christians are characterized by anger?
BRITTON: I was with a friend who was offended by a fairly minor thing. My friend railed loudly against the stranger who offended him. It was a terrible situation, especially in light of Christ calling us to be ambassadors to the world.
tpe: But society tells us that if we are offended or confronted we need to stand up for ourselves. If we donÕt, weÕre weak. What about that logic?
BRITTON: WeÕre all going to get angry from time to time. But my goal in life is to follow the Scriptures and love other people as myself. As I love other people I become more concerned for their welfare than for mine. Instead of taking confrontations and conflicts personally, I pray about the situation and for the person I am dealing with.
tpe: In your book Victory over Grumpiness, Irritation and Anger you say we should be thankful for confrontations and conflicts — how so?
BRITTON: WeÕre all being transformed into the image of Christ and most of us learn more from our shortcomings and conflicts than from our successes. In James 1 we are told to count it as pure joy when we go through trials and tribulations, knowing that it will bring about perseverance. When problems come up, we can train ourselves to thank God for the opportunity to grow. Then we can talk calmly instead of getting mad.
tpe: If I am a consistently angry person, what are three things I can do to change?
BRITTON: First, acknowledge you have a problem. Second, study Scriptures such as Galatians 6:1; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4,5; and Ephesians 4:26-32 that tell you how to deal with problems. Third, find someone to talk and pray with about the issues you struggle with.