Anger: the Cancer that Kills

By Danielle Mincey, Ph.D
Updated: May 14, 2005

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — I am convinced that anger is killing each and every one of us, slowly, but surely. Oh, I know that each of us has his or her particular season. Each of us has his or her time to pass on. However, I believe that anger and its “partner”, unforgiveness, are cancers that attack our spirits and manifest themselves through physical ailments.

Throughout my life I have had migraine headaches. Doctors still don’t know what causes them and, like most sufferers, I don’t care how they originate. I just want to be free of them — forever. Throughout my life, I have also “swallowed” a lot of pain — pain from words or deeds that were inflicted upon me by family members. I have told myself over the years that I have gone on, that I was not bothered by the constant turmoil of being the “baby” of a blended family that, to this day, still hasn’t “jelled”. Oh, I’ve gone on by distancing myself from the family members whom I remember as having made comments about my father being too old (43) for a baby, and my mother being too young for my father (29). I have found lately that the repressed anger is oozing out of all of the places I thought I had successfully hidden. The migraines have reappeared.

The repressed anger has triggered the migraines because I have not forgiven my family. I have mouthed the words; “I have forgiven XYZ for saying that I would fall flat on my face.” Yet, for as many times as I have mouthed those words, I have relived incidents as vividly as the day they occurred. The other day the anger spilled out as I was driving my two daughters to basketball practice. I had been on the road all day. The oldest had a doctor’s appointment, so I picked her up from school early, then returned her to school in time for track practice. Then, I had to rush home to meet the middle girl at the bus stop because my husband was working second shift, and she had basketball practice 27 miles in the opposite direction. I was stressed, to say the least. On days like that one, I’m usually trying to stick to an impossible schedule. I tell myself that I can leave my house in rush hour (have you ever driven in the DC metro area?) and pick up my oldest 1 hour and 15 minutes before the middle girl is due at practice. On those days, I am setting myself up for an implosion (not an explosion because the damage is done to myself). So, when I arrive at the high school, my daughter is not outside waiting to be picked up (the child doesn’t believe in wearing watches), and my 8-year-old announces that she needs to go into the school to use the restroom. Oh no! These two were ruining my schedule. Once we were headed towards practice, the anger began to bubble from way down deep.

As I was driving, I began to let loose on my daughters. I told them that they did not value my time and that because of their not valuing my time, I was angry. This opening statement was the beginning of my recognizing just how much pain I was holding and how much I needed to release the pain. I have never been in an anger management program. I don’t think that an anger management program that wasn’t based on biblical principles would be effective for me. As I have intimated in many of my columns, I am a Christian and believe in the Word of God as the beginning and the end of all I need to know about growing as a human being. So, as I began to grapple with the rapidly recurring spillage of anger in my life, the Word began to minister to my spirit in just the manner that I would receive it. Forgiveness is the key.

Forgiveness IS the key, not WAS the key. Forgiveness is active, never passive, and always in the present tense. Daily, I deal with forgiving those who have hurt me either intentionally or unintentionally. Daily, I pray for God’s mercy so that I will walk in love with my fellow man. My life depends on the utterance, “Forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive those who trespass against me”. My life depends on my remembering that regardless of whether or not the person(s) who inflicted the pain have acknowledged and apologized for bruising my feelings, I must forgive them. I must forgive them because what I continue to hold onto will remain with that person and also with me. My trespasses will not be forgiven me.

Forgiveness is necessary for physical health because anger manifests itself in the physical. For me it is migraine headaches. Many African Americans go through life expecting to become diabetic, or hypertensive, or even develop cancer. So many of us do develop these deadly diseases and I soundly believe that anger and unforgiveness are the causes. I look within my own family and see my mother, aunts, uncles and, now, cousins, all living with diabetes, diagnosed as they enter their 40’s and 50’s. I see cancer taking the lives of my cousins as young as 22. I see these physical illnesses and think of the incidents that have caused them to swallow pain and I know that anger and unforgiveness are the culprits.

Anger and unforgiveness are the cancers that are killing us. Do we have to fall prey to the ravaging effects of these two deadly emotions? No, we can — I can — feel the pain and while I am on my face, hold onto Mark 11:25,26: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” I have confidence in this anger management technique working for me. As with any technique, it will only work, if I work it.