How to deal with an angry person

The most common resistance you get from other people is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. They are self-centered. They think the world should revolve around them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

Proverbs 19:19 A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

The chronically angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others.

Some lessons about dealing with an angry person:

1. The person who is mad at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you don’t realize this, you may think YOU’RE the one with the problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn life lessons they should have learned from their original family.

2. You must view anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot "get inside" you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another person’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. If you either rescue him from his anger, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

Two companies were working together on a project. The president of one company got very angry with 3 men from the other company because they wouldn’t do something he wanted them to do. 2 of the 3 partners lost sleep, worried and fretted about it. They wondered what they would do if the president didn’t like them anymore. They finally called a meeting with #3 guy to talk strategy. They were prepared to change all their plans to appease Mr. Angry. When the two told the third partner of their plans to give away the store, he just looked at them and said, "What’s the big deal? So he’s angry. What else is on the agenda?"

They all began to laugh as they saw how silly they were being. They were acting like kids with an angry parent, as if their psychological survival depended on this president’s being happy. The two both came from homes where anger was used to control, where they were children dependent on an angry parent whose anger frightened them. The third guy saw it from an adult’s perspective, and he knew that if this man couldn’t get his act together, they could move on. So they had him meet with the president. He confronted the man, saying that if he was able to get over his anger and wanted to work with them, fine. But if not, they would go somewhere else.

3. Don’t let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, they seek approval, or they get angry themselves. There is great power in doing nothing. Don’t let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just let them be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.

2-year-olds with temper tantrums expect that their anger will push their parents’ buttons and the parents will capitulate and give them what they want. It’s best to think, "Your anger is about YOU. Get over it. I ain’t giving in." Sometimes grownups with anger problems are 2-year-olds in big bodies, but the best reaction is the same.

4. Be sure to have your support system in place. If you’re going to set limits with a person with an anger problem, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you’ll say. Anticipate the other person’s anger. "Here comes the anger, just as I expected" takes (some of) the sting out it. Role-play the situation.

5. Don’t allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving position while speaking the truth in love. Don’t let their fleshly anger be contagious and infect YOU.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized she could say, "I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you."

These are serious steps, and they don’t need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. "I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I’m sorry you feel that way. How can I help?"

Just remember that helping does not include changing your NO to a YES. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of "other control." When they discover they can’t control you any more, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

The reason we get ourselves in the place where we can be controlled by another person’s anger is that we are dependent on that person. Lots of women are financially dependent on their husbands, so the husband can control them. The one with the power is the one with the control. But sometimes we are controlled because we have unhealthy relationships with other people.

We confuse people with God. What is healthy with people is unhealthy with God. What is unhealthy with people is healthy with God. Healthy human relationships: "I care for you, but I don’t need you to survive." Healthy relationship with God: "I need you desperately." Unhealthy human relationship: "I need you desperately." Unhealthy relationship with God: "I care for you, but I don’t need you to survive."

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can’t control you anymore. This is a true risk. God does this every day. He says He will only do things the right way and that He will not participate in evil. And when people choose their own ways, He lets them go. Sometimes we have to do the same.

Reminder: people who get angry when others set boundaries have a character problem. This could be you. If you realize this, confess it as sin and invite the Lord to transform your heart. If you feel "How dare you!" whenever anyone sets a boundary with you. . . you have a character problem.


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