I’ve talked about David in blog posts before related to anxiety and depression. Today, I wanted to take a different look at David’s emotions. I started reading 2 Samuel and found multiple accounts of David killing those who killed Saul’s family. It was a smart move for uniting a country after years of political unrest, and in it David demonstrated his reverence for God’s ultimate authority. However, David’s response also rockets from grief to anger and violence then back to grief.
It brought me to the idea of praying away your anger. It was honestly a strategy my mom tried to instill in my brother and me as children so that we would calm down and process our emotions instead of hitting or kicking each other. But is praying anger away really a viable strategy for handling emotion? Let’s dig in!
“What happened?” David asked [the Amalekite]. “Tell me.”
“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”
Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till the evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and the army of the LORD and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”
“I am a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.
David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”
Then David called down one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. You own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.'”2 Samuel 1:4, 11-16
Your Anger May Be Something Else
In researching emotions and anger, I was shocked to find this article discussing people whose anger and violent thoughts flared out of control. Most of the individuals affected by these violent thoughts had some sort of head trauma as a young child that affected their temporal lobes. One individual even had a genetic condition that altered the structure of his temporal lobe, which gave him terrifying violent thoughts.
I love watching CBS’ Seal Team. Last season dealt a great deal with traumatic brain injuries and how they can affect mood, behavior, and memory. However, I had no idea that trauma could occur to the temporal lobe as a child or due to genetics that would influence a child’s anger forever. Thankfully, the individuals in the article all received treatment and gained control of their anger. As with other mental illnesses, it turned out that these individuals’ anger issues actually had a deeper physiological root.
If Your Anger is Purely Emotion
For those whose anger is not caused by a malformation or injury to the brain, there are techniques available for controlling our anger. This article from the American Psychological Association has a great list of ways to cope with and redirect anger. Does prayer make the cut?
If you use prayer as a “calming” tool or to help you reframe the experience in your mind, then you should absolutely continue using prayer to control your emotion. However, whether you habitually pray to control anger or are trying prayer for the first time, make sure that you do not suppress your feelings with prayer. Our goal is to express the source of our anger in a nonjudgemental way so that we can improve in the future.
If you feel that your emotions swing like David’s or you are having explosive anger, you may benefit from seeking counsel from a certified professional. Please check out the APA website for more resources and to find a counselor in your area.