The Problem of Rage

by James Rudy Gray

An explosive temper is not a good thing. Repressing anger to the point it actually depresses a person is not healthy either. But today, we seem to be hearing more and more about rage. This may be a sign not of someone who is upset but someone who is living with a false message about him or herself.

Intermittent explosive disorder is a diagnostic identification for behavior that is characterized by unpredictable episodes of extreme anger and or physical outbursts. The person often loses control, assaults others, and destroys property. He expresses rage.

Les Carter, writing in Christian Counseling Today, said, "Very early in life, most ragers received the message that they did not measure up to the requirements of harsh or critical authorities. Non-acceptance was common. Belittlement was routine."

People with this type of behavior fight back against real or perceived injustices and hurt in both destructive and self-defeating ways. They crave respect, and they want to be treated like they are important, special, and valuable. Typically, their frustration spills over into actions that sabotage the possibility of earning the respect of others. It is a situation where they destroy the respect they so desperately want from others.

Carter says their approach is an "I'll show you" way of responding. Their episodes of rage almost always follow minor events and are way out of proportion to the event that triggered their rage.

Today, we may be seeing more and more of these types of people in counseling situations or in churches. They may never be diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, but they are ragers just the same. Why? At the risk of sounding somewhat Freudian, it may very well have its roots in childhood.

Far too many children have grown up and are growing up with tendencies toward this kind of explosive rage. When we examine what kind of relationship they had with their parents, we discover they didn't-at least they did not have the kind of relationship with their parents that was healthy and loving. Growing up in a loving and caring home is so vital to the development of healthy character, good self-esteem, and positive but realistic attitudes. Children who grow up frustrated become angry adults.

Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Children learn so much by being with their parents, particularly their dads. One of the big areas where dads influence their children is how to manage anger. If dad is negative, angry, critical, uncaring, absent, or abusive, the results will be obvious in the child's life.

The intermittent explosive disorder that is found in adults is most often seen in men. It is considered by many to be an impulse control disorder. The typical treatment in secular settings would be mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and counseling. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is so much better to teach parents to parent their children than it is to try and help an adult whose life has become characterized by episodes of rage.

Adults can certainly be helped. However, most likely, persons of rage will need to unpack their childhood and face the issues that started the formation of their tendency to act out explosively. Somehow, the frustration and hurt that is the source of the anger and rage must be identified, faced, and replaced with a way of thinking that is grounded in biblical principles. Such adults must learn to respond to situations with a scriptural understanding of life rather than simply reacting to something by dipping into their own reservoir of pain and frustration. The journey from rage to self-control may be long, but it can be accomplished. With God all things are possible.

Parents of children in our churches today should be sure they have boundaries and that they receive healthy discipline. They should strive to live the truth of God and model it before their children. They should pay particular attention to how they handle anger and how they can help their children learn to process it also in a positive, godly manner. The admonition of Ephesians 4:26 is valid for today, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger."

Rage is an extreme form of anger. It is destructive and dangerous. We may be seeing more of it today because of the breakdown of the home in our society. The good news is that it is never too late to turn to God and seek to find answers and help for difficulties.

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