FamilyLife Blog

Anger: Definitive vs Distorted

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Conflict, Marriage

I will apologize for doing something I believe is wrong. It’s a great start; however, this is problematic if I didn’t see anything wrong with my action but my spouse does. Or vice versa. Has that happened to anyone? We learned a few principles to help sort this out at an anger workshop lead by Dr. Gary Chapman.

The Purpose of Anger

The first thing he addressed was the purpose of anger. Yes, there is a purpose for it! Anger in itself is not wrong. It’s an emotion. Anger comes when a sense of “right” has been violated. It should serve as a catalyst or motivator to drive positive change. Many social reforms and humanitarian organizations grew out of someone’s anger over the oppression, plight, or injustices that others faced. Anger should fuel restoration and reconciliation.

According to Dr. Chapman there are two types of anger: definitive and distorted.

Definitive anger occurs where an actual wrong has been done as defined and derived from the principles in the Bible. It’s something that God would be angry about. Things like abuse, cheating, deceit, hypocrisy, selfishness, oppression, etc.

Distorted anger is what happens when no actual wrong has been done, but rather, your personal expectations/agenda/demands have not been met. This type of anger-trigger is the most common with us. It is born out of our selfish pride and our self-centred nature. This self-centredness is also what keeps us from recognizing when we really have done wrong and need to apologize.

Learning How to Manage Anger is a Slow Process

Here are a few ways to get started:

  • When angry, stop to ask, “What wrong has been done? Is this definitive or distorted anger?”
  • If it is distorted anger, confess it as selfishness and apologize for being angry with the other person. You can also negotiate for something to change if it really bothers you. If that doesn’t work out, accept the humanity of the other person and cover it with love, grace, and acceptance.
  • If it is definitive anger, lovingly point out to the other person what was wrong. If he or she repents, then forgive. If he or she refuses to admit wrong then release the person for God to deal with and release your hurt/anger to God as well. You can forgive in faith and pray for their restoration and reconciliation to God and yourself. Fight the urge to retaliate. Editor’s note: remember — forgiving the person does not necessary mean you need to maintain a relationship with them, especially if there has been abuse of any nature.

If we all acted less on our distorted anger and acted more on definitive anger, the world would be a different place!