Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More Advantageous Than Anger

Anger is a very powerful emotion which many conclude is a bad feeling. Whether one chooses to use it in a constructive manner or in a hostile way, it carries a lot of punch (figuratively speaking, of course). As you become angry your body's muscles tense up. Inside your brain, neurotransmitter chemicals are released, your heart rate accelerates, blood pressure rises, and your rate of breathing increases, all in preparation for you to take some type of physical action. Additionally, adrenaline and noradrenalin are released which trigger a state of heightened awareness. You're now ready to fight or run.

There are certain benefits associated with anger, specifically that it alerts us to the fact that something is wrong and needs our attention. However, if one is not adept at effectively expressing and eventually healing it, it can lead to volatile outbursts, aggressive behavior, or, over an extended period of time, to medical maladies. One of the greatest challenges people face is allowing others to push their buttons and make them angry. In doing so, one relinquishes the ability to choose their feelings and subsequent actions. Whenever an individual is in a highly emotional state of mind, they run an increased risk of saying or doing something destructive that can have serious consequences and devastating effects on themselves and/or those around them. 

A more advantageous and effective state of mind is that of inner peace. While some view peacefulness as a sign of weakness or ineffectiveness, the exact opposite is actually true. When one is peaceful, they are operating with a clear and present mind.  Being calm enables one to focus better and thereby see the situation from a more rational perspective. A clear mind gathers relevant information and enables the individual to make an intellectual decision as to what steps, if any, to take. Being peaceful does not mean one fails to address such issues as injustice, arrogance, selfishness, abuse, disrespect, and such. Those behaviors that one deems unfavorable or morally or socially inappropriate are carefully identified and brought forth for discussion. 

From a physiological perspective, when one is calm breathing becomes slow, deep, and regular; heart rate slows down; blood flow improves, and muscle tension is reduced. Peacefulness supports brain growth and the generation and maintenance of synapses which are responsible for transmitting information throughout the brain. Lack of stress strengthens the body's natural immune system, thus improving one's overall physical health. Peaceful people are generally happier, live more fulfilling lives (they are not easily agitated by life's everyday challenges), have healthier relationships, and live longer (less stress = longer life)

Emotions are neither positive or negative. In actuality, they are messengers that give us insight into ourselves, what matters to us and what's unimportant, as well as what our personal issues are so that we may address and heal them. 

Peace is at the root of all beneficial and healthy emotions. One cannot experience happiness, gratitude, joy, love, contentment, etc.  unless they are at peace with themselves and those around them. When one is experiencing a sense of contentment in that moment, then anger, fear, resentment, etc cannot manifest as the mind can only create one emotion at a time.  A positive thought-process generates like feelings. 

You cannot grow lilacs in a cold, dark, damp environment. While there is intrinsic value in those environmental conditions, if what you are seeking are brightly colored and sweetly scented flowers then you must provide sunlight, warmth, and the exact right amount of moisture. Anything less will produce a contradictory product. 

While anger gives the illusion of power, in actuality it can very easily cause us to relinquish control over ourselves and our lives. Choose your authentic power, the ability to consciously and calmly respond to life on your terms rather than react emotionally to what is occurring around you.

So, if you want to gain an advantage in life, choose to live from a place of inner peace and serenity. Your body will thank you; your friends and family will thank you; and most importantly, you will be pleased beyond measure for you have discovered the key to blissful living.  

Maintaining peace in any situation:
Stop what you're doing. Take a deep breath. Evaluate the situation (is it important or not?). Choose to get involved or let it go. If it needs your attention, create a rational plan of action. 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Addressing the Primary Sources of Conflict

Conflict is a normal, healthy, and useful part of life. At its simplest, it means there is a disagreement or difference of opinion between two or more individuals. In life we can identify two types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflict, the root issue causing discomfort and the basis which leads to one outwardly expression of it, manifests for several reasons: 

1) We are not living authentic lives - our values and beliefs.  
Explanation: We all have certain belief systems and a set of values that we've adopted as our way of living.  For example: I was raised to be polite and respectful to all people. Yet in today's world, people have accepted rudeness and disrespect as the norm. It's easy to get swept up in what others deem acceptable.  Yet if I mimic their behaviors, I create an internal conflict within myself. Families, religion, friends, and society in general can put tremendous pressure on us to conform to their dictates and leave little room for the individual to make their own determinations. This unrest is the soul's  way of letting us know that we must reexamine our actions and be true to who we are.  

2) What we say or do does not match our beliefs.
Explanation: Have you ever agreed with someone simply to appease them? Or perhaps you didn't want to offend them and cause an argument? Those who are sensitive or kindhearted often have difficulty speaking the truth to others even when they believe it's important to do so. Or consider a teen who lies to her parents about going to an unsupervised party at a friend's house when she was taught the importance of honesty and trust in relationships: she feels a strain on her conscience. 

3) We feel pressured to be someone we are not.
Explanation: A child coerced into playing sports when he would rather be reading; a gay man or woman fearful of rejection should they reveal their true sexual identity play the role of being straight; seeking a high-powered career that affords us the finer things in life when what we prefer is a simple life of modest means; or perhaps our job's unethical practices pressures us into violating our own moral beliefs in order to maintain our employment with the company. All of these create unrest within us and put pressure on the relationships with those involved.

4) We do not like or love ourselves.
Explanation: Do you dislike yourself, or have you ever been disappointed with who  you are or been ashamed of something you've done or failed to do? Do you fail to see any value in yourself and sadly believe that you are worthless? Self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, is at the heart of all the decisions we make. Not being satisfied with who we are leads to internal stress and unrest, believing we should be or do more. "I should know better!" "I shouldn't have done that but now it's too late." We fight within ourselves causing inner turmoil.

5) We are concerned with how others view us. We are people pleasers trying to satisfy others rather than ourselves or God.
Explanation: Those with a poor self image spend their lives worrying about what others think about them or how they are being perceived. In their minds their worth is determined by how others feel about them. This leads to anxiety and fear. Trying to please others is exhausting and when we believe we've failed we feel confused, frustrated, angry, and even more worthless.  Trying to please others and feeling as though we are never good enough is exhausting and self-defeating. 

6) We say "yes" when we want to say "no". We feel pressured into doing things we don't want to do.
Explanation: Recently I made a tough decision that I was no longer going to allow myself to feel coerced into doing things that I do not have the time or desire to do. And less than four days later find myself once again saying "yes' when I want to say "no".  Giving others permission to manipulate us into doing something we do not feel inclined to do leads to self-anger and regret. Intellectually, I know emphatically that I have every right to refuse to engage in non-essential issues simply because I choose to spent my time otherwise. When I give in to the requests of others, I feel weak and become angry with myself, believing I need to assert myself more.

7) We need to be right and "win" any disagreement or dispute that arises.
Explanation: The need to be right is all ego-driven. One needs to save face, so-to-speak, in order to maintain their status among their peers. This mindset and behavior is fear based as one needs to exert power and control over the other individual and situation. Being right rarely has long-term benefits and eventually what the person fears most comes to pass - losing control of the situation, losing the respect, friendship, or cooperation of the other party.

I've always said that behavior, what we say or do, is simply an outward expression of what we are dealing with internally. Any unresolved inner issues will eventually get expressed outwardly. However, if we are able to heal them we become whole and authentic. The inner conflict is silenced and we are at peace with ourselves and those around us. External disagreements no longer trigger our covert issues and our response emanates from a place of confidence. 

Until you are at peace with yourself and your life you cannot be at peace with others or in your relationships with them.  When my external actions fully represent my internal self I am honest, authentic, and peaceful.
Peace within leads to peace between.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What the Bible Says About Anger

Dating back over 3500 years, the Bible began as a collection of oral stories handed down from generation to generation in the form of songs, narratives, and poetry. Eventually signs and symbols were utilized in a more permanent means of recording these stories until the written word became the primary method . It wasn't until many years after the death of Christ that the New Testament was added to the original Bible now referred to as the Old Testament. While most people who read the Bible are believers, one needn't be in order to find value in the written Word. For the purpose of this blog we will be examining ten passages which address the issue of anger. 

Ephesians 4:26-31
26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold."
You've heard me say many times that anger is a normal, useful, and even important feeling. Every emotion we experience plays a vital role in helping us to understand who we are and how we interact with the outside world. Acknowledge that you are angry but do not hold on to it. Repressed anger can lead to all types of health issues, interfere with our happiness, cloud good judgment, and damage relationships. Acknowledge it, express it respectfully (if necessary), use it for constructive purposes, and let it go. 

29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
How often do we hurt others verbally when we are angry or upset? We belittle them, curse at them, criticize or are nasty, rude or disrespectful. While the emotion may be justifiable, mistreating others never is. Calm down before you speak so that your words may be gracious and uplifting - always.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."

In the event that the situation you are angry about or the person you are upset with does not change to your liking, do not allow your feelings to progress to bitterness, rage or any type of malicious behavior. You will certainly damage your own sense of well-being, your reputation, and most definitely the feelings of the other party. Acceptance of that which and who we cannot change allows us to experience inner peace.

James 1:19-20  

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." 

How many of us follow this advice in the reverse? Anger is our primary response as we act out verbally or physically. However, when we take a moment and listen or ask questions to learn more about an incident or what the other person is trying to convey to us, we actually foster a better understanding, thus preventing anger from manifesting.

Proverbs 29:11
11 "Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end."

Few people admire those who become aggressive when angry. It takes far more integrity to remain calm in the face of anger and in that regard earn the respect of those around you.

James 1:20 
20 " ...because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." 

Anger is one of the most powerful emotions relevant to mankind. However, high level emotions cloud rational judgment and few people behave in a righteous manner when acting out. It is far more prudent to live as God dictates rather than to succumb to a moment's rage.

Proverbs 19:11
11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense."

Before I allow myself to become upset with someone or over an incident, I consult my 10-year Rule: will this issue matter in ten years? If the answer is "no" then I let it go. In that regard, I am able to overlook a lot that is insignificant, thus maintaining my sense of peace and happiness.

Ecclesiastes 7:9New International Version
9"Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools."

Do you allow others to push your buttons and make you angry? Don't be fooled into believing that others cause you to become angry. It is a personal choice each of us makes. All emotions originate in our thought process so carefully choose  your thoughts and you will choose the corresponding feelings as well. 

Proverbs 15:1, 15:18
15 "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
18 "A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,  but the one who is patient calms a quarrel."

In responding to any angry person, a gentle comment has the ability to calm them down. Consider an understanding response that illustrates your concern for their feelings and well-being.

Proverbs 22:24

 24 "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered." 

Proverbs warns us to avoid those who are hot-headed and irate. They present an atmosphere conducive to stress, fighting, and harm. Do not be that person nor associate with them. Surround yourself with those who are loving and peaceful.

As you can see, there is a lot of valuable instructions regarding anger. One need not believe in God to find some suggestions that will greatly benefit them. Put some faith in these words of wisdom. The are designed to keep our relationships and world safe and to enable us to live peacefully within ourselves. 

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