Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I keep getting angry? I want to be patient but life and people sure are aggravating.”

Life and people are aggravating. We pray for patience but as someone has said, “Don’t pray for patience; God will give you many opportunities to practice.”

That was certainly true for me. For many years, I was an anger expert–the wrong kind. It was my “go-to” response. I prayed for deliverance but I still was destructively angry toward my husband, but especially my toddler daughter. In moments of temptation, I felt helpless and believed I didn’t have a choice and God had given up on me.

But the truth is anger is a choice. Holding ourselves responsible rather than excusing our reactions will lay a foundation for slowing down, examining what’s going on, and allowing God to show us alternatives. How can we “slow down”? When life (or someone) throws something aggravating at us, we need to literally take a deep breath and ask ourselves, “What’s going on here?”

Here are three causes of anger you can consider in that moment (although there are others).

1. Anger comes from having a goal blocked.

When we desire a certain thing and someone does something or says something blocking our desire, we react in frustration. Unfortunately, this only means the “certain thing” has become more important than God. We are telling Him through our anger He isn’t providing what we require–and we are smarter than He is.

We don’t have to force anything to happen when we truly believe God will provide what we need. Philippians 4:19 promises: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

In that moment of “slowing down,” ask yourself, “Is something being withheld I’m convinced I need? Can I choose to trust God will provide what’s best for me according to His plan?”

2. Anger can be a fear of being seen a certain negative way.

Since childhood, I’ve been very sensitive to not appearing stupid. That seems horrible to me. So when someone treats or responds to me with what seems like a suggestion I’m stupid or don’t know something, I can become angry. Why does anger seem like a solution? Because my anger points to them saying they don’t know the truth–basically they are stupid. It takes the focus off of my “stupidity.”

Sometimes, my husband, Larry, will sincerely ask me, “What were you thinking when you did that?” What do I “hear”? “You must have been stupid to choose that.” I’m embarrassed and feel shamed. So what do I do? Point the finger back onto him with an angry response.

But I can choose differently in God’s power.

In that moment of “slowing down,” ask yourself, “Is there some way I don’t want to be seen right now?”

Regardless of how I’m viewed by others, God views me as His daughter through my inheritance in Christ. I Corinthians 2:16 tells us, “We have the mind of Christ.”

3. Anger may erupt from not knowing what else to do.

For instance, when my two-year-old disobeyed me, I felt helpless, not knowing how to respond. But forming a plan beforehand empowered me to have options. I wrote down in a column the primary ways my strong-willed daughter disobeyed me. Then in the opposite column, I wrote out a corresponding consequence I could give for the disobedience. I then posted the paper where I could see it. Having options removed my helpless feeling and my anger. Of course, we can’t anticipate every situation of life that might come our way, but we can try to plan as much as possible with God’s wisdom. In that moment of “slowing down,” ask yourself, “What options do I have? Lord, enlighten my thinking right now.”

“God, you promise in James 1:5 to give me wisdom, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

God used an awareness of these three possible causes of anger to transform my responses. I actually did become more patient….and wise.

Which of those three sources cause your anger most often and how does God want to use that knowledge to empower you to be more patient?
Please share with me and my readers below in the comment section what you find helps you deal with other people. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know you have lots of wisdom to share.

This article has been adapted from Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today (Leafwood) by Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller.