“Take your moods to God and your anger to your husband.” The classroom was full of blank and confused faces as we looked intently at our Marriage and Family Psychology professor who just uttered those words. Take our moods to God and our anger to our husbands? What is this man trying to teach us? In the Fall of 2002, I was still quite young, moderately naïve, and exceedingly unmarried. So, the thought of taking my anger to my husband did not hit me the same way then as it does now.
Ten years later…
…sharing this message with our clients, Eric and I received some fully expected furrowed brows. “You want me to take out my anger on my husband?” (no, this is a commonly mistaken translation). We quickly set their minds at ease and explain that we do not wish for our female clients to take out their anger on their husbands (nor do we want our male clients taking out their anger on their wives) – and neither did my professor all those years ago. The message we want to convey is simple: moods can be deceiving, so before unloading your displeasure onto your sweetheart or spouse, ask yourself, “Is this anger I am experiencing – or, is it a mood?” If you are unsure, give yourself some processing time before talking to your sweetheart.
If, after some time, you realize you are simply hungry, tired, overwhelmed, or down in the dumps, go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you. Eat something. Take a nap. Have a glass of water. However, if you realize there are indeed issues causing you anger, then confront your sweetheart or spouse – not angrily, but calmly, respectfully, and methodically.
More times than I can count, I have pounded Eric with my mood. Is he to blame for my low blood sugar, my lack of sleep, or my cancelled TV show? Of course not – those are times I needed to go to my Heavenly Father and ask for His grace and love to fill me and change my countenance.
Then… there are those other times. Those times when Eric is the recipient of my anger – and rightly so. He is human, and occasionally, he angers me. Some seasons are more intense than others; but, all too often, I sin in my response – raising my voice, rolling my eyes, or mumbling disrespectfully under my breath.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)
So, it is not enough to shield Eric from my random moods. I must also be mindful of how I confront him when I am angry. I need to take my anger to him, confront the issues, and resolve them, but I must also refrain from sinning. Such a feat requires me to rely on God’s strength and to seek God’s strength before talking to Eric.
The beauty of the phrase “take your moods to God and your anger to your husband” (or wives, for you gentlemen who can be a bit moody at times ~smile~) is that it saves our partners from being the target of our directionless angst. The ones with whom we spend the most time are typically the ones who step in the path of our, as Eric and I call them, grrrrrr moments. Taking ten seconds to evaluate which emotions I am experiencing and why helps me determine where to direct my frustration. My moods have ruined more than a few evenings around here. And, I could have saved them had I chosen to take a step back and think is this a mood or am I truly angry? And, that is why I appreciate the process below!
A Deep Breath and a Few Questions
When experiencing a negative mood, we recommend separating yourself from others for a brief period and asking yourself the following questions:
- Is there a physiological reason I may be feeling this way? It is amazing how fast a quick nap, a glass of water, a protein-rich snack, or heartburn medication can flip our switches from crabby to pleasant. A while back, we worked with some awesome clients who had figured out the link between taking care of their bodies and taking care of their minds. When she became overwhelmed, her boyfriend immediately asked questions such as, “When was your last meal? When did you drink water last? How much sleep did you get last night?” And, with just a small tweak to her body, she changed from frustrated and panicked to relieved and productive. When I feel down, I occasionally evaluate my physiological needs. I should do it every time! ~smile~ And, when I do (more often, than not) I need hydration or nutrition – most often hydration. If you are cranky, start with 16 ounces of water and then re-evaluate. If you are still grouchy, move on to a snack. Notice if you have symptoms of a cold, stomach issues, or other sicknesses which could be making you uncomfortable and testy.
- Is there a spiritual reason I may be feeling this way? If you are well-rested, well-fed, hydrated, and symptom-free, but you are still experiencing a negative mood, it is time to consider your spiritual life. Is there something or someone in your life creating tension in your relationship with God? Have you been in a spiritually dark environment? I recall a young mom at our church playground acting uncharacteristically grumpy. Then she piped up and confessed, “I have not prayed this week! This is how I am when I don’t pray!” Her honesty was refreshing and not one of us could throw the first stone! Search your heart and repent of any lingering sin. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV).It is amazing how much lighter we feel when we humble ourselves, confess our sins, repent, and are reconciled back to the Father.
- What is happening in or around my life which may be influencing how I feel? For those of us who feel others’ pain deeply, it is easy for our moods to be influenced by what our friends, family, and society are If your best friend has a broken heart, it can weigh on you even if you are a thousand miles away. If a family member is going through some medical problems, that concern or fear may always be in the back of your mind. If you watch the news before work each morning, or even glance at the top stories on your news app, that is enough to make a lot of people feel anxious, upset, or depressed. If you have taken care of your body and your spiritual life is good, determine what might be happening around you which could be contributing to your mood.
- Is there a project looming which is causing me to feel weighed down? Eric was just back here in our bedroom figuratively banging his head on a wall. He is working intently on a project and it is not going smoothly. Sadly, the magnitude of it is looming over him and affecting his mood. As soon as he conquers it, all will be well again; but, in the meantime, he feels understandably agitated. A couple of years ago, a sweet woman with a podcast contacted me and asked me if I would be willing to come on her show. My initial response? Panic. I burst into tears when Eric read me her email. Then he stared at me in disbelief. ~smile~ It is safe to say I am a little bit shy. After I got myself together, I agreed to be on the show, but everything in my life revolved around it. Christmas was before the show. Easter was after the show. My dentist appointment was a few days before the show, but Ramsey’s grooming appointment was a few days after the show. My nerves tap danced inside me as I waited for that day to arrive. But, I survived, and my mood lightened once I finished the interview! Do you have an upcoming event or project hanging over your head causing you some anxiety?
- Is what I am experiencing misinterpreted anger? Have you ever felt off, annoyed, or even violent… thinking you were in a bad mood… only to discover you were truly angry? What do you mean you did not know you were angry? Some people are flawlessly in tune with their emotions. As soon as they experience emotion, they are fully aware of what they are feeling and the source. And, it can be difficult for these people to understand others who are not as in sync with their feelings. Eric is quite a bit more controlled in his emotions than I am. Typically, I can pinpoint what I am feeling and why quickly. Eric is extremely quick to understand data and to formulate words and ideas, but he is not always as quick to pinpoint emotions. Sometimes he exhibits irritability without being fully cognizant of the source, only to approach me later and say, “You know, I guess I am a bit hurt that you….” Before you write off your grrrrr moment as a mood, be sure you are not pushing aside true anger. If you uncover anger, deal with it. Do so calmly and respectfully, but confront it and resolve it. Otherwise, it will lead to more bad “moods” in the future and likely burden or sever your important relationships.
Before we take our moods to God and our anger to our husbands (or wives, girlfriends, or boyfriends), we first have to get to the root of what we are feeling. We can take the avoidance route and hope everything resolves itself. We can choose the amusement route and distract ourselves with fun. We can opt for the get out of my way approach and take our moods out on anyone who crosses our path. Or, we can take the step back and process approach, which is the healthiest route.
Stepping back and systematically walking through each question until we find the root of our bad mood is the most efficient and relationship-friendly way to answer the question, “Why do I feel this way?” (This process would have helped me the day I kicked a hole in Ramsey’s dog food bag, the day I shattered a gel pad on the floor, and the day I lost my marbles on my poor college roommate.)
As long as we are human, we will have moods – some of us more than others. For our relationships to survive and thrive, we have to understand them and catch them before damage is done. When we find ourselves in an off mood, we need to take that mood to God in prayer and ask for His help and His grace. When we discover anger brewing in our hearts, we need to confront the problem. Repressed anger never yields anything positive… ever.
So, what do you think about taking your moods to God and your anger to your significant other? The advice might have seemed strange fifteen years ago, but after twelve years of marriage, I sincerely appreciate my professor’s wisdom:
Take your moods to God and your anger to your husband. – Dr. Philip Captain
Do you ever take your moods out on your significant other?