Unresolved anger is often tops the lists of issues that affect adults with divorced parents. While anger is rarely considered a gift, there is often a GIFT in our anger. Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers (both adults with divorced parents) write that anger is a secondary response to one of four basic emotions:
- Trauma or pain
Thus the acronym GIFT.
When anger is triggered in us, it’s important to ask which of these four is likely to be the real reason we’re angry.
The GIFT Questions
- Am I feeling Guilty? – maybe you did or said something you regret, but instead of apologizing you stonewall and get angry.
- Am I feeling Inferior or Inadequate? – males land here frequently. This is a major issue with ACD because of the lack of control many felt at the time of their parents’ divorce. Add to this feeling inadequate as an employee, spouse, parent, parent’s child, or student and anger can erupt—particularly with males. In their book, “Adult Children of Divorced Parents,” the Rogers write, “Often, we become angry because we know our partner’s criticisms have a morsel of truth, but we do not want to accept it. In order to deflect their disparagement, we become angry and project.”*
- Am I experiencing Fear? ACD fear conflict, being inadequate, abandonment, rejection, marriage collapse and more. Without knowing it, anger can be our go-to method of coping with those fears.
- Am I being triggered by a past Trauma or pain?
Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” **
The GIFT exercise helps with this because:
- it gives us time to think and calm down.
- it changes our anger focus from “you” – you are making me mad to a “me” focus – what is triggering me to react this way?
- it works in a wide variety of situations. For example, if people are always “doing things to make you mad” allow the GIFT exercise to uncover the real reason for your anger.
Gary Chapman (the Five Love Languages author) writes, “Many of the problems Christian families struggle with are rooted in misunderstood and mismanaged anger.”** The Bible says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
Anger is not a gift anyone wants, but understanding our G.I.F.T. can help us change our behavior to one that is a true gift.