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March Madness: Steps for Healthy Anger

Doug Bender

March 01, 2023 | 3 minute read

March Madness has always meant college basketball for anyone even mildly interested in sports. I remember taking pride in my alma mater when our basketball team debuted in the NCAA Division I tournament. Go Flames! But March now reminds us of another episode of madness: the famous “Oscars slap.” 

Last March, during the live broadcast of the Oscars, host Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Will Smith proceeded to climb up on the stage and slap the man in an outburst of anger. On the cusp of the Academy Awards, Chris Rock is ready to share his opinion on the slap. Many are still debating whether Chris Rock crossed a line when he joked about a man’s wife and her hairstyle or whether Will Smith overreacted with his use of violence. Ultimately, the situation made many wonder: What should a person do with their anger? If you have wondered the same, then try to follow these steps whenever you feel anger welling up. 

Step 1: Check the Source

First, you must consider whether your anger is justified. For example, when I share an idea with my team at work and my coworkers don’t like it, why does that make me mad? Is it because of a toxic work culture where my voice is not heard and valued? Or is it because I have a pride issue and can’t consider the thought that my ideas weren’t as good as I thought? The first reason, I might be justified in being upset, but the second reason, I wouldn’t be. 

There is a famous speech by Jesus about how to handle interpersonal conflict in Matthew 18. He begins his talk by saying, “If a brother or sister has sinned against you…” That phrase is important because it tells us to confront someone and challenge their behavior towards us; there must be actual sin. Something wrong must have been done against you. Differences in preference or opinion do not constitute a valid source of anger.

Step 2: Weigh It Out

Next, think about how much this really matters to you. Your emotional reaction, that anger you are feeling, may be valid, but that doesn’t always mean you confront the person. For example, it will not fix the situation if I confront the person who cut me off on the highway. My anger may be a valid reaction to their driving misbehavior, but it’s not worth risking my life and my car to teach him a lesson in driving. In the same way, a loved one may do or say something that annoys you, but can you just ignore it and move on? If so, you might be following the famous proverb from the Bible that says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” 

Step 3: Talk With the Person

There are two critical parts to this step. First, you must talk, not yell, hit or give the person the cold shoulder. Second, you must speak with the person who did something wrong to you. Gossipping with a friend, putting it on social media or confronting them in front of others will not accomplish anything but further animosity. This advice seems like common sense, and it’s actually straight out of Jesus’ mouth when he said, “Go to them. Tell them what they did wrong. Keep it between the two of you.” (Again, see Matthew 18.) 

For more info, watch this and see how an innocent man and a crooked cop learned to reconcile.

Step 4: Find a Mediator

In my experience, this step is rare. If you do steps one through three correctly, you can usually solve whatever problem you face. In the rare instance where you can’t, getting another person who is a fair third party can help everyone gain perspective and have constructive conversations. Many local churches, professional mediators and restorative justice programs can provide more formal options. For example, Jena Malone, who played Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games, recently posted on Instagram how she used a restorative justice process to heal after someone sexually assaulted her. But most of the daily issues we encounter can be resolved with the help of a mutual friend fulfilling this role.

Step 5: Go to an Authority Figure

Going to an authority figure means you have assessed that the situation is beyond your ability to manage and, therefore, you are handing it over to a higher power. In other words, you have tried steps one through four and nothing has worked. You may need to go directly to this step in cases involving abuse, violence or personal safety. But for most of your daily life issues and problems, you should only go to an authority when all other options have been exhausted. Whether you go to a parent, teacher, manager, pastor or the police will depend on the situation, so use your wisdom. 

There are plenty of things to get angry at in life. The trick is channeling your anger into healthy behavior, and, hopefully, healthy outcomes. Unfortunately, sometimes the situation remains unresolved. Personally, I’ve had a couple of those situations. Finally, I had to hand it over to God, the ultimate authority. I know he’ll resolve it eventually in his timing. Honestly, handing it over to him has allowed peace to enter and my anger to subside.

Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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