Roots of Anger

                                 Written by Guest Blogger Jennifer McGowen

My name is Jennifer McGowen. Let me tell you a little bit about myself  before we begin. I’m born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. Went to NC State University in Raleigh, graduated with a degree in Animal Science, because back then I thought I wanted to be a vet. During my senior year I realized I didn’t really want to be a vet. I didn’t want to take biochemistry. I didn’t really want to work 80 hour work weeks. I didn’t really want to be in ½ million dollars debt and start out making around $40,000. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point, but I was enjoying finishing up college.

One week before I graduated, I met a boy. One of those moments when he walked into the room and everything was shining right on him. He was Davis, and within just a few months into dating we knew we wanted to be each other’s forevers.

After graduating I worked as a vet tech at a local vet hospital, and Davis was finishing his senior of college. I then realized I wanted to go to nursing school. I saw how great nursing was for raising families and not having to work 80 hour work weeks. Just after we got married I got into nursing school. One and a half years later I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. Just before finishing school I got the job offer of a lifetime at Rex Hospital in Raleigh in labor and delivery: only because a good college friend of mine’s worked in human resources, and basically put my application on top of 800 others on the nurse manager’s desk. I was so excited, I was going to get to deliver babies at the hospital who delivers the most babies in the whole state of NC! Usually someone has to die in order for a position to open up in labor and delivery, and here I was fresh out of nursing school getting to start.

Not but 3 days later, I was home with my husband when he gets a phone call. He’s getting a promotion to move him to Myrtle Beach. I couldn’t believe it! I grew up vacationing to Myrtle Beach every year! I mean, it’s the beach!  BUT I had the job of a lifetime! We talked for a few days of how we could make it work with me living Raleigh 3-4 days a week and then joining him in Myrtle the other days.  We were newly married, we figured it could work.  But then we decided that since we were still young and freshly 2 years married, it was best that we start a new chapter together in South Carolina.  I know I cried my eyes out, leaving the house we thought was going to be our forever home for 30+ years.  My mom even said once, “Can’t you just stay in NC and Davis go work there?” I said, “No mom, I’m going with him.” 

Two months later we packed up our house and moved to Myrtle Beach.  THE very day the movers came I pulled Davis to the side. “So you know that thing that starts on a Wednesday every 4 weeks in the morning for the past someTEEN years of my life? Um well it didn’t start today.”  “Are you worried?” He said. “No, I bet it’s just stress from the move.” Several days later after being here, I was working on getting a job. I walked into Grand Strand Medical Center and spoke with a lady in HR, and she told me a position I’d be perfect for.  We didn’t have internet yet so I had to go the public library to apply for the position. After leaving I thought, “You know this predictable every 28 day visitor still hasn’t shown up.”  I swung by the Dollar Tree on the way home, because I knew from nursing school it was the same “pee in a cup” pregnancy test that your doctor gives you.  As soon as I got back into my car the nurse manager from 3 East called and said “Your application and resume look amazing, can you come in in 1 hour to interview?” “Sure!” I said.  I called Davis to meet me at home because I needed him to drive me. So silly of me to think it was a good idea to take a pregnancy test 45 minutes before a job interview. What was I thinking. Well, sure enough, positive. Elation, vomiting, crying, calling my best friend all ensued. Davis walks through the door and I tell him. That face. That is a face I’ll never forget. That smile and tears in his eyes I’ll never forget.

I end up getting the job. We have a baby 8 months later. And fast forward 5 years, Davis has had 3 more promotions and I work PRN, or basically 2-4 days a month at the hospital mainly weekends.  AND we have a 5 year old, 3 year old, and just turned 1 year old.

I tell you all of that because I don’t remember being angry or mad back then.  I remember getting upset about certain events or situations.  I don’t remember holding onto things that made me mad back then.  B U T we didn’t have kids. We didn’t have jobs that required more than we thought we could give. (And by jobs I mean paid jobs and dad duties and mom duties.)

In the past five years, I have been so angry that I’ve thrown remotes at the wall. I’ve gotten so angry I kicked 2 holes in the wall, the last one I was one inch on either side from kicking a stud, and that would have broken my foot, which would have made me even more angry. I have been so angry that I screamed at the top of my lungs for about 30 seconds straight and then was hoarse after. I’ve been so angry I just collapsed to the floor and bawled my eyes out.

This week I made dinner as usual around 5:15.  Now with a kid in elementary school, I pretty much have to feed dinner at 5, baths at 6 and bedtime by 7.  I made the most sophisticated meal that actually takes me so much time in the kitchen.  I had to start the fire in my built in kiln, then I had to unfasten the sides of the package, place this round sustenance into the kiln and establish the correct cooking period to enable perfection. 18 minutes later, I cut this pizza into tiny kid sized pie-slices, arranged so neatly onto a paper plate with grapes and apple slices, and voila, a feast. Big kids Ada and Thomas started eating. The 1 year old, Jayson, buckled into her high chair for her keyboard letter size pieces of cheese pizza heaven. I actually made a grown up salad for Davis and me. I devoured mine while standing in the kitchen between getting milk cups and napkins and cutting things smaller and whining this and “I can’t scoot closer!” crying. Around 6 pm Davis walks in. Everyone is so happy to see him. I make him an actual plate of supper to enjoy at the table with the kids, and before he can even take his shoes off, Thomas is crying that he needs to go to the bathroom but it’s too dark in the hallway and he can’t go. Davis is trying to convince him to just go, just go! Just go already to the bathroom. He even turned on the light for him. I’m now sitting at the table finishing my salad and pizza, when now Ada, Thomas, and Davis are in the bathroom or right outside the bathroom or the hallway, or something, either way. This is what I hear.

Ada “I was just taking my shirt off!” Davis “Well I don’t know why you need to take your shirt off to go poopoo but you’re taking too long.”  Thomas “But I really needed to go!” Davis “Well next time don’t take so long when you said you needed to go.” Thomas continues to cry, comes to me. It’s the not real I’m hurt cry. Yall know this whine. Davis “Thomas you’d better hurry before someone else in this house goes before you. You’d better hurry before Jayson goes.” Thomas now whining crying walking back to the bathroom, “Jayson just goes in her diaper.” Davis “Well most of the time.” Thomas walks down the hall weepily out loud crying and goes to the bathroom. 30 minutes AFTER I’ve made Davis’s plate he sits down to eat.

I’m cleaning up at this point and all I can say to him is, “See?! Do you see why I’ve gone crazy?!”

My husband always says to me, “Why are you so angry? Why are you so angry all the time?”  I respond “I’m not angry I’m just mad!” Of course that response is just because part of me doesn’t want my husband to be right all the time. Of course me saying “I’m just mad” makes me feel like somehow that’s not as bad as angry.

When researching about this anger topic, I was surprised to find this:

It is common in informal everyday expressions for the word "mad" to be used for "angry." Anger" (Angry) means a strong displeasure and antagonism directed toward the cause of a possible wrong or injustice. Example: I am angry.
Madness (Mad) means a suffering from or manifesting severe mental disorder; insane; lunatic; psychotic; crazy. Example: Madness is a severe mental disorder.

So of course after reading this I was like “Damnit, he’s right. Er well, wait a minute, I mean he’s right because he thinks I’m just displeased with so many things all the time. But also, I could be right, because being in charge of 3 small people all day long is driving me crazy!”

Let’s try this little quiz. I’m going to give an example and chose whether you think it means angry or mad.

1. If a person is mentally ill to the point of being insane, we may say that the person is angry/mad.
2. Mother is angry/mad about your report card.
3. The person became so wrathful and loud that we feared the person was angry/mad.
4. Do you know that I am really angry/mad with you?
5. The player got angry/mad when the referee called a foul.
6. You must always be in control when you become angry/mad.
7. You must be angry/mad if you think I’m going to help you rob a bank!
8. Seeing things that aren’t there can be an indication that someone is angry/mad.

So it turns out, I’m actually not mad all the time. And in all honesty I’m not angry all the time, but my husband only sees me at the end of every very long day, where I have been talked to TOO much, asked TOO many questions, touched WAY too many times, NOT sat down, NOT peed by myself, had to talk TOO many people out of back breaking meltdowns and tantrums, convinced TOO many people that a scratch was not going to kill them and did not need 4 bandaids, cleaned up the high chair from 3 meals, picked up a gallon size amount of food up off the floor from around the high chair, wiped every bottom and changed clothes…


As God’s children, we are all born with sin.  Anger itself is not a sin.  Sin is a transgression against God.  Sometimes we as Christian women might confuse our anger with thinking we’ve sinned, and that only messes more with our ability to think rationally and reasonably. I can tell you that anger always makes me think IRrationally, and UNreasonably.

Anger has 3 forms, raise your hand if it’s:
  • immediately explosive and blowing up
  • stewing, brewing 
  • irritability, exasperation or resentment.

Silent anger is just as offensive to God as explosive anger. How are you prone to express your anger? Throwing a plate at the wall? Slamming doors? Yelling at the kids? Blaming their spilled cup or plate on all the other angry things in your life?

Here are some things that make me angry:
  • -being hot
  • -my shirt being pulled down by kids
  • -stubbing my pinky toe again and again
  • -“Momma, Momma, Momma, Momma, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, MA! MA! MA! MA!” “WHAT?!” ok hopefully you all know that form Family Guy
  • -the thought of any child going hungry or living with people who don’t love them and tell them they’re loved and hug them and rock them
  • -the presidential race this year
  • -the retired community in Myrtle Beach who think that they’ve lived a hard 67 years and cut me off with their shopping carts or don’t hold open doors for me or keep driving when they see I’m wearing 1 child and holding hands with 2 others.
  • -kids pulling my glasses off or whacking me in my glasses
  • -my guilt of the things that I haven’t gotten done yet.

Mandy Arioto, the president and CEO of MOPs and author of Starry-Eyed, wrote about that anger is like fire – it can be used to save the world or burn it. With all that power it is no wonder we don’t know what to do with it. And so me yelling at Davis at the end of the night is because I don’t really know what to do with all the fire inside of me.

Being a Christian woman, maybe we think that we’re not supposed to get angry. Mandy the president of MOPs said that’s why she finds Jesus so fascinating. “He got angry and was completely unpredictable. Even the friends he hung out with every day weren’t sure how he was going to respond in certain situations. One day he is embracing a woman who slept with a married guy, saving her from getting stoned to death, and the next day he is throwing tables around in the church and yelling at the religious leaders for creating rules that were too much for anyone to follow. Some people find this disturbing, a God who gets angry, but I would find it more disturbing to think about following a God who sees exploitation and injustice and does not get angry. After all, some things are worth getting angry about and other things are just inconveniences to be acknowledged. Anger is simply an emotion – what defines it is what we do with it.”

So here are some tips for what we can do with our anger, find a justice to the injustice:

So when I’m hot, I’ll just start taking my clothes off.  If I’m not wearing a shirt there’s no shirt for a kid to pull down.
Instead of constantly stubbing my pinky toe, I’ll wear shoes.
When we see terrible things in the world, we won’t be tempted to be angry at God, we will be angry alongside God.

Kelly Gray, a licensed practical counselor, wrote a great article for Hello Dearest, the monthly MOPs newsletter, in July called The Roots of Anger. She describes having a safe word at her house. If someone declares themselves to be “flooded” or they suspect someone is flooded, the expectations for that moment must shift. Flooded means someone is totally overwhelmed, melting down, has lost their rational thinking and therefore is at a great risk to say or do something regrettable. Saying “I’m flooded” means get clear, slow down, stop speaking, don’t provoke and don’t corner.

This is me often.  When I have obligated myself to too many obligations, whether out loud confirmations to friends for playdates or whether I’m thinking in my head all the obligations I have, like grocery shopping or running errands, I get flooded. But I have no one to take it out on except Davis at the end of the day.  He hasn’t been there all day, but somehow I make it all his fault.  That’s when he says “Why are you so angry?!”

Kelly Gray, that LPC I just mentioned said these are ways to get to the roots of your anger:
Make sure your spouse and close friends know your triggers. Say it to them out loud.  “You know when you come home and it’s the end of the day and dinner isn’t cooked and the house is a mess and the kids are screaming and I need to wrap a present for our niece’s birthday?! I’m flooded.”  This enables them to mobilize quickly to help ground and comfort you when you’re spinning out; a quick text to the right person in a hard moment can bring a dose of relief.
What doesn’t help moms get calmer or more patient is beating ourselves up, demanding patience from ourselves when we have none to give or never exploring our triggers and just hoping they don’t come back again.
So once you’ve figured out your roots of anger, and hopefully it’s really just anger and not true madness, figure out what you’re going to do with that anger. If you or someone you know have gone to counseling, hopefully they’ve learned cognitive behavioral therapy, which means: I can’t control the event or situation, only how I respond. Learning how to respond with your anger is key. It’s ok to be upset. Take a time out, say you’re flooded, take a walk, lock yourself in the bathroom. Pray about what is important to you: the health and safety of you and your family. Hopefully you can return to the situation in a better state.