The Fight Response: Anger Will Not Protect You
STUCK IN THE FIGHT MODE
Our focus today is the fight mode. To stand and fight in the face of danger is wise. But to become locked in the fight mode is foolish because it exposes you to danger. Saul, the first king of Israel, chose to embrace anger because it felt powerful. His choice opened the door to the demonic to deceive and torment him, then to rob him of life.
The instinct to fight in the face of danger is a normal response. Sadly, if you have unresolved trauma from childhood or face repeated incidents of trauma as an adult (like domestic violence or being a police officer), you may become locked into the fight mode.
Anger feels good. It feels safe. Why? Because in the moment, anger makes you feel protected and powerful. But that feeling is an illusion.
King Saul got angry when he learned the Ammonites had surrounded Jabesh and planned to humiliate them by removing everyone’s right eye (1 Sa 11). Saul didn’t yell, curse, throw things or hit someone. His anger drove him to take decisive action to protect the people in danger.
There are times anger is appropriate. It is when anger becomes a habitual reaction used to intimidate or harass others, it becomes sin.
The story of Saul is interesting. Feeling insecure, we watch him become stuck in the fight mode. Whenever he felt out of control or anxious, he used anger to feel powerful but anger clouded his ability to think with clarity. As a result, he became a violent man desperately clutching at the illusionary feeling of power anger gave him.
Where did his problem begin?
King Saul ruminated on losing his kingdom. Anxious thoughts played like a broken record in his head. He meditated on imaginary dangers.
Jealous of David who exhuded peace, Saul perceived David to be his enemy. Feelings blinded him to David’s loyalty – feelings that felt more real than truth.
The result? He engaged in uncontrolled outbursts of irrational and violent anger where he sought to kill David.
Anger Is a Choice
Did you know if you are an angry person, you have chosen anger as your survival mode?
Unresolved trauma and unresolved anger are stored in the body and will trigger you. Anger manifests in different ways according to your life experiences, but primarily it causes your brain to perceive the person in front of you as your enemy.
Anger is never a wise choice; though it hurts others, it also is self-destructive. That is demonstrated by Saul and his tragic death.
Unresolved anger fills your mind with negative thoughts. Think about it. Are you prone to negative thoughts or to positive and friendly thoughts? Churning negative thoughts stir up anger and cause you to become bitter.
Let’s look at healthy ways to manage anger.
- Pause. Don’t look at what angers you. If you’re in a safe place, close your eyes. Pausing creates a physiological response within your brain that helps you relax.
- Breathe through your nose to the count of 5. Hold your breath for the count of 5. Exhale through your nose to the count of 5.
- Do you have a pet? Or a stuffed toy. Pick it up and pet it. This calms you.
- Be grounded in the moment. When you pause, breathe, allow yourself to be grounded. This switches you from the reactivity of the amygdala and limbic system and allows your cortex to engage in rational thought.
- Be a student of yourself. Recognize your triggers so you recognize when you are being triggered and are able to talk yourself down.
- Know your body. Be aware of early physiological changes that occur before you lose control of your anger.
- Recognize you enjoy getting angry. Tell yourself “Anger won’t solve my problems or protect me.”
- Get professional help if you are violent or if you are living with a person who is violent.
Learn a More Excellent Way:
God gave you authority over anger. Don’t be its pawn. Recognize you need help to escape the fight mode.
God gave you permission to get angry. That’s right! He says, “Be angry but do not sin.” Your initial anger isn’t sin. It’s what you do with your thoughts that turns it into positive action or into sin.
Here are a few things to remember about anger:
- God gives a time limit for anger. Before the sun sets, deal with your anger. (Eph 4:26)
- Remind yourself: “The anger of man does not work God’s righteousness” (Ja 1:20).
- People are not the enemy. Fight the real enemy, the enemy of your soul who seeks to destroy you!
- Cast down imaginations and bring all your thoughts under the authority of Jesus, who will teach you self- control.
- Set a boundary. Stay within that boundary. Self-control is a choice. (Gal 5)
- Decide to walk in forgiveness.
- Who do you need to forgive? It might be yourself. Begin the journey.
Likewise, learn what triggers you. That person is not your enemy. He/she may look or do something that reminds you of someone from the past. But the true enemy is from the kingdom of darkness. Ask the Lord for wisdom to discern.
You don’t have to continue to be a victim – to anyone else or even to your own anger. Ask the Lord to become your protector. Choose to actively step out of anger and self-protection. Remember. Anger won’t protect you or keep you safe.
Take responsibility. Anger is often rooted in fear. Ask yourself, “What is the root of my anger? Do I use it to protect myself? To drive people away?”
Being stuck in anger develops the fruits of unforgiveness and bitterness. You can change! Your brain is constantly changing. Hide God’s Word in your heart. Speak it out loud so your brain learns new paths of thought.
In conclusion, God has given you authority to step out of victimization and become a mighty warrior.
I urge you. Let go of anger. Choose a more excellent way.