Today, we’re talking about anger. I want to begin with a quote by my mentor, Jay Stringer, who says “I have never met someone who struggles deeply with lust who is not also battling with unaddressed anger.” In conversations about porn we often address lust, but we forget to talk about anger because we don't even realize we're angry or how that's fueling our behavior.
I had a client a few months ago who told me “I'm not an angry person.” Since then, he has discovered he has oceans of unprocessed anger. He grew up in a family where anger was not allowed. So where did all that anger go? Into pornography. This is what Patrick Carnes calls eroticized rage. For some of us, porn is the only place where we feel like we can be angry.
Today, I’m tackling two big questions: How should I think about anger and what should I do with anger?
I believe anger is not a problem. Anger is a prophet. So if anger is a prophet and we often prefer to plug our ears and say, “LALALALA, I'm not listening,” what's a prophet supposed to do to get our attention? Just read the Bible. Profits performed crazy stunts, like Ezekiel burning his beard and eating his own poop. Profits often used graphic or violent or sexual imagery to communicate their message. In the same way, if we push down our anger and we refuse to receive it, that anger will show up in the porn we pursue, sometimes in strange, bizarre, graphic, violent ways, just like a prophet trying to get our attention.
Anger is like a profit because it destroys our illusions, including the illusion of being a good Christian boy in a good Christian family in a good Christian nation. Listen, anger is waking us up to the reality that something is wrong in our lives. It's sounding the alarm. It's our radar for injustice. It shows us that a boundary has been violated and must be addressed.
We need to learn how to receive our anger as a prophet, instead of reacting to it as a problem. There are two equally unhelpful ways of reacting to anger: acting out and acting in.
I want you to imagine that you have an anger gun. When you act out and externalize anger, you point that gun away from yourself — maybe towards another person by exploding at them. This doesn't help.
You can also point that anger gun towards pornography and into sexual behavior. This is what we call eroticized rage — anger that has morphed into sexual arousal. So we don't even realize we're angry, we just think we're sexually aroused. In reality, porn has become an outlet for covert unprocessed anger, especially when it leads us to more violent forms of porn or into sexual fantasies that involve power, domination, or submission.
We can also aim that anger gun inward. This is called acting in. When we beat ourselves up, we take that anger and we turn it towards ourselves. We internalize the anger that we feel towards others or that others have aimed at us. We often do this directly after using pornography. I've externalized and eroticized my anger by using porn, then I take that anger gun and I turn it right back at myself.
This reaction to anger breaks my heart. We beat ourselves up so badly for our sexual behavior, reinforcing the harm we have survived, reinforcing the shame the enemy has been whispering in our ears. And this violence that we do to ourselves is so often done in the name of God.
If all we ever do is externalize and internalize our anger, we never actually heal. The anger becomes like this boiling hot magma below the surface, and all of our attempts at surface-level solutions for our sexual behavior are like trying to put a cork in a volcano.
Until we can actually receive the healing message of anger, we will continue to struggle. What actually helps is hearing what anger has to say to us. It's inviting us to investigate the areas of our lives where we have been hurt, where we have been wounded. Sometimes this hurt is in the present, but more often it’s in the stories of the past.
This is the healing message anger has been trying to tell us all along: a boundary has been violated in your life. No matter how you have been hurt — physically, sexually, emotionally, even spiritually — what happened to you was not okay. There is nothing you did to deserve it. There is nothing you could have done to deserve it. It was not right. It was not fair. It was wrong.
If you want to hear this healing message in the depths of your soul, I believe you actually need to look underneath the surface of anger, into the stories behind it and into the specific sexual fantasies that appeal to you when you're angry. That will give you a shortcut to access those stories and jumpstart your healing process.
If you want to learn more about how to do that, I invite you to attend our live episode this week on power, domination, and submission. You'll hear some case studies from guys who have been healing their unprocessed anger and dealing with eroticized rage in their specific sexual fantasies. If you want to join us, go to husbandmaterialmen.com. I'd love to have you.
Now, for just a moment, I want you to sit with your anger. I want you to listen to your anger. And as you do, realize that the anger you feel is actually evidence of love. It's love in the face of opposition. It's love in the face of violation. And in that way, it's actually a reflection of the image of God. So I invite you to get close to your anger, to move toward your anger, to receive it as a prophet with a message that just might heal you.
Always remember, you are God's beloved son and in you, he is well pleased.