“This book on anger is making me angry.”

I told my daughter this tongue in cheek, but Gary Chapman’s five step plan on handling anger seemed over-simplified and unrealistic. It insulted my intelligence and countless attempts to manage my rage over the years. So, I put the book away.

However, something I’ve felt invited to in the New Year is to finish reading a book every month. Although I’m great at starting books, completing them is a different story. So, after a few days, I found Chapman’s book again and, thankfully, read on.

In the next chapter, Chapman distinguished between definitive and distorted anger. Definitive anger is “born out of wrongdoing.” It’s a response to legitimate wrongs like God’s anger in the Old Testament. However, distorted anger, is response to a perceived wrong like “disappointment, an unfulfilled desire, a frustrated effort, a bad mood, or any number of things that have nothing to do with a moral transgression.”

Chapman gives the example of highly perfectionistic and orderly Jill, who’s often angry with her creative, but messy and unorganized husband, Jeff. Chapman says,

“Jeff has committed no wrong; Jeff is being the person Jeff has learned to be.”

I reread that several times. I read it filling in my husband’s name instead of Jeff’s. I filled in my kids’ names and the unkind name I gave the guy who cut me off in traffic last week. Normally, an exercise like this would feel shameful and I’d berate myself. But this time, the Spirit mercifully prompted me to insert another name.

My own.

Part of my anger problem is my own annoyance with the person I’ve learned to be, the failures and mistakes I repeatedly make. But continually receiving Christ’s forgiveness for all my wrongs – definitive or distorted – is helping me respond differently when I’m angry. And although I’m still not in love with Chapman’s book, I’m thankful for the grace and hard truths in it that are replacing my distorted views of myself and others, with God’s definitive unconditional love and kindness.

P.S. If you want to join me in reading a book a month, I will use my blog posts as a “discussion thread” and personal accountability tool. Anger by Gary Chapman will be January’s book of the month!