The Leakers, Stuffers, and Spewers
About the Guest
What do you do with your anger? Pastor Chip Ingram talks about the three most common ways of dealing with anger: leaking it out slowly, stuffing it inside, and spewing it out all over everyone around you.
What do you do with your anger?
The Leakers, Stuffers, and Spewers
Bob: —it’s your show.
Dennis: I’m going to ask our guest on today’s program, Chip Ingram—
Bob: I’ll be here if you need me for anything, but I’ll just be sitting over here. You go ahead.
Dennis: Now, Bob! How often do I—I try to respect your—
Dennis: —beginning the program—
Bob: That’s fine.
Dennis: —on numerous occasions.
Bob: Are you apologizing?
Bob: No? Alright; okay—because—
Dennis: I’m really not.
Bob: Alright—just move along then.
Dennis: You just need to get over your anger. We’re going to have somebody here—
Bob: I’m not angry
Dennis: —to help you—
Bob: I’m frustrated.
Dennis: —get over your frustration.
Chip Ingram joins us on FamilyLife Today. Do you think there’s any hope for Bob, Chip? You’ve been here a few times.
Chip: I think there is. I think there’s hope for everyone, and that means there’s hope for Bob. [Laughter] I’m wondering, right now, if there’s hope for me! I’ve not been on a program quite like this. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’ve not seen one start like that in a while!
Chip: I never really have. I think it is going to be a lot of fun.
Dennis: It is going to be a lot of fun.
Bob: You haven’t done “Car Talk”in quite a while, I guess. Is that right?
Dennis: Yes, we’ve been compared to the “Car Talk” guys.
Well, Chip has written a book called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy. What do the spewers, the stuffers, and—what was the last one?
Chip: The leakers.
Dennis: The leakers! What do they have in common?
Chip: What they have in common is that those are the three faces of anger. Everybody gets angry—whether it’s that there’s not enough toilet paper, or the guy is going too slowly, or someone walks out on you, or someone you love dies. Every single day there are multiple, multiple circumstances that evoke this response of anger. People deal with it in about three different ways.
Some people spew it out, and we know who they are. We keep our distance. They intimidate and, often, feel very bad and guilty later—some of them don’t. Then, other people stuff it. They believe, like Bob was saying, that anger is a sin: “It’s wrong. I should never be angry.” So, they often struggle with depression and have a lot of physiological issues because, when we stuff anger, it’s very unhealthy.
Chip: And, finally, leakers are what psychologists call passive-aggressive. We’re sarcastic: “If you hurt me, I’m going to take that on a safer playing field. I’m going to come around the back door and see if I can pay you back in ways that, if you catch me, I’ll say, ‘Oh, I was just kidding.’”
Dennis: So, as we look around the table here, let’s just do a little poll because everybody has their tendency; right?
Chip: Right. We do. We have our major face, and some of us can do a couple—
Dennis: Yes; and what’s yours?
Chip: You know, I hate to admit this. My dad was a spewer—I mean, scary spewer, at times—before he came to Christ. So, I learned anger was a dangerous thing.
So, I tend to be a leaker. I tend to be a little sarcastic—and I think, now and then, I don’t like to admit it—but I’ll stuff a little bit of it.
Chip: Those are my two; how about you guys?
Bob: I don’t get angry. [Laughter] I think that, if you read your Bible in the morning and if you spend some time in prayer, I think you just—that won’t happen.
Dennis: Okay, let’s poll a real person. Keith is out on the control panel, out there—
Bob: Okay; now, I’m getting angry. The fact that you’re going to Keith is making me angry.
Dennis: Yes, we’re going to Keith. Which one are you, Keith, since Bob won’t answer the question again.
Keith: I think I’m the “approved Christian”—that’s a leaker/stuffer.
Dennis: The “approved Christian.” Kind of piously allowed to kind of slide out in sarcastic statements and stuff?
Bob: I guess it’s a good question. Are leaking and stuffing—are those the ways Christians are taught to handle anger?
Chip: You know—there are a lot of undercover spewers; but, for most of us, we have learned that that is not a good way to go. So, we tend to leak; or we tend to stuff. As a result, it produces—
Each way has its strengths and weaknesses, but all of them are dysfunctional in our relationships. All of them are not God’s way to deal with our anger in a healthy way—that produces unity and intimacy in our relationships.
Dennis: Well, I’m going to answer the question for myself. I think I’m a little of all three. I’ve thrown some hammers. I’ve told the story, here on FamilyLife Today, of getting angry about Christmas—and throwing the hammer that hit the wrought iron on our front porch so all the neighbors could see me storm out of the house and take the Christmas tree back to K-Mart. I have stuffed, and just tried to deny it; and I’ve also felt like I’ve been a leaker, where you just kind of make caustic comments.
Dennis: I want to go back to a big-picture question for you, Chip, because you’re a pastor. You’re also a student of the Bible. We are made in the image of God.
Dennis: Genesis, Chapter 1—I was looking at it just a few moments ago—verse 26 says: “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’.” Now, when He made us in His image, it wasn’t just that we, physically, somehow represented who God was, as human beings; but He made us body, soul, and spirit. A part of that is our emotions. Do you believe the emotions are a part of our reflection of the character of God and who he is?
Chip: Yes, I do. I think that God gets angry. I mean, Jesus got very angry; but an old term—in fact, we might talk about it a little bit later—is that anger is not a negative emotion. It can be very negative; but when you see injustice—when you see a child abused—anger is a God-given emotion.
When rightly understood, it provokes us into the kind of action and dealing with stuff that we need to deal with. So, yes, I think we are made in the image of God. I think the wrath of God is His response to what spoiled the earth—to sin / to wickedness—that destroys lives and ruins the beauty of what He has created.
Dennis: You share a story in your book about how you were in a laundromat—
Dennis: —and you got angry.
Chip: I got as mad as I had ever been, at that point. I was a young pastor. I was in rural Texas. We didn’t have enough money to have our own washer and dryer. A lady came in. She looked a little disheveled, with a little 18-month old. They walked in together, and she just seemed a little mean. This little baby picked up a piece of lint on the floor, and she just screamed at her. I thought, “Wow, man, she is really going off.” And then, the little baby did a little something—an 18-month-old can walk around. This lady ran over, grabbed the kid, almost yanked the arm out of the socket, swung her, and slammed her, face-first, into one of the dryers.
Without thinking, I jumped up. I got about one inch from her nose. I said, “Ma’am, you touch that kid again and so help me, I will knock you out.” And then, my thoughts were: “Local Pastor Punches Woman in Laundromat.” But I emoted. I thought, “I don’t know what to do with that.” You know, sometimes, you have an experience—and you tell your wife or a friend, and it goes away.
But for three nights, I couldn’t sleep. I mean, in the middle of the night, I thought, “How much of this is happening?” In the area where we were, it was one of those situations where there were a lot of people in some difficult times; and you saw a lot of that. I, eventually, went down to the courthouse and said, “What do you do for stuff like this, and to whom do you report it?” I found out they didn’t have enough foster care, and this was happening everywhere. Then, they said, “Well, we have a committee.”
You can imagine a small town of 4,000, in a rural area, and a group of people sitting around: “Well, Ethel, what do you think we ought to do? There are a lot of problems.” “Well, maybe we could have a bake sale and raise some money for some kids.”
I sat there, going, “Give me a break.” Well, I spoke up a little bit too much. I went to one meeting, and I left as the chairman of that committee—and, eventually, recruited about five or six people from our church. I said, “We’re going to do something about this.”
We ended up partnering the churches in the whole area. Every week, a different church would say: “Okay, we need size three clothes / five clothes / seven clothes. We need a home for two weeks for an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old.” And then, the other thing we did was—we saw the environments were so negative—so we ended up raising money and built a child welfare center—because someone got mad.
My thing is—I think a lot of Christians—we need to deal with their anger. But when I watch television / when I see where the values are going, I think we, as Christians, need to be way more mad—that provokes us to righteousness—doing it winsomely, lovingly, non-judgmentally—but we need to get off the couch! I think anger is an emotion that helps us do that.
Bob: I think you’ve identified something that is really key—as we try to discern our own anger and whether it’s legitimate / whether it’s righteous—that is: “Is it focused on how we have been offended—how we have been wounded? How much self is caught up in our anger?” To the extent that there is self there, there is probably unrighteousness there.
Bob: But when our anger really is about what God has created and ordained—and how that’s being abused, how it’s being twisted, how it’s being turned around—that kind of anger is probably the right kind of motivating anger. I’m guessing that that anger that motivated you also—there came a time of compassion because you described that you started caring about these people who had made you angry, in the first place.
Chip: I was livid—so much that the adrenaline was pumping and I couldn’t sleep.
Then, I started thinking about the little kid. Then, I started thinking: “What in the world happens in a woman’s life? I mean, what has to happen in her heart—
Chip: —where she is responding and slamming her own kid into a dryer?” I thought: “We’re the church. We ought to address that on both ends.”
Chip: You’re right. That’s a good word there.
Dennis: You know, there is that good side of anger—like you’re talking about—where, as you illustrated, you used your passion about something that was unjust—that was taking place—and turned it around for something good. But there are a lot of our listeners, who are in marriages or in families where anger is being misused. It’s abusive. It’s destroying human beings, children, marriages, and families.
Those listeners are pulling back; and they’re going, “What do I do with that?”—
Dennis: —because it’s like sitting at the base of a volcano and having hot lava spewed out, all over you, day-in and day-out.
How does someone, who’s in a marriage relationship, deal with somebody like that, Chip?
Chip: Well, one, that is a loaded, loaded question because there are so many different reasons for anger. But I think the first thing—if you can get the person to do—is to be honest that it’s an issue. Very, very angry people often—you talk about denial: “I don’t have an anger problem. That’s you—you just respond. You’re too sensitive.” And so, sometimes, people feel very trapped.
I think the big key for me was learning that anger is a secondary emotion. Very, very rarely, if ever, is anger the problem. It’s a picture, if you will—if people, who are listening, can think of—when you drive your car, if the red light on your dashboard starts flashing—if you stop the car, get a hammer out of the back, and smash the red light on the dashboard—I’ve got news for you. You didn’t solve the problem—you just got rid of the light.
Anger is like the red light on the dashboard of your soul. It tells you that something else is wrong underneath.
It could be an unmet need—it could be a legitimate unmet need. It could be the distance between our expectations—of what we are expecting—and what life delivers for us—
Chip: —some fair / some unfair—some, just our perception of it—or it could be our basic insecurity that we all have. If you don’t get underneath that, then people can deal with anger managing and really not have any long-term solutions.
Part of the reason I teamed up with a psychologist to write this was—she really had some insight and some practical tools to give people because this isn’t one—where you say: “God, I’m really sorry I’m angry. Will you take it away?” There are some pretty deep issues that are behind people’s anger, who are listening.
Dennis: Biblically, how does God instruct us, then, if we have a problem with anger? Let’s talk about a person who finally can say, “Okay, Chip, you’re right.”
Chip: He says, “Be angry,”—a command—“but don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26.
He says, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve or accomplish the righteous life that God requires.” I think what God says is: “That emotion—that you feel angry—fine. That’s legit. Now what do you do with it? How do you express it? When do you express it? To whom do you express it?—in what way?” Basically, what we’re talking about is learning how to do that.
Dennis: So, to that spouse, who is in a marriage relationship—who may be at the point where the anger gets spewed, or maybe they have no relationship because the other person is stuffing their disappointment—
Dennis: —and totally retreating in the relationship. What would you say to the spouse who is in that marriage relationship—dealing with that, day-in and day-out?
Chip: Well, this gets a little too close to home; but in my second year of seminary, I was in a class that Paul Meier was teaching on Pastoral Counseling for Pastors.
My wife’s dad was an alcoholic, and my dad was an alcoholic. We love each other very much, and we’re both very dysfunctional.
When I listened to what I was supposed to be helping these other people with, I remember I went down—of course, after everyone left because I was very embarrassed—I said, “Excuse me, Dr. Meier; but what you’re talking about—man, I need help.”
Dennis: Was it a foreign language to you, at that point?
Chip: One, I didn’t know I was angry. Two, we didn’t know how to resolve anger. For some people—where you are really locked in this and this is a huge, big problem—he basically said: “Look, my brother is an excellent counselor. He used to be a pastor—so, he’ll understand you. I’ll get you a student rate.”
So, I’m making $1000 a month, in seminary—a wife and three kids—barely making it. I paid $90 a week for 12 sessions that taught me how to express my anger, how to send “I feel” messages, how to understand why my wife felt the way she felt, and how I responded.
It’s the best money I ever spent. Part of the tools that we put in the book came out of: “I just want these people to know I paid $90 a shot for this stuff, and you get it for free!” [Laughter] My point is: “Sometimes, if it’s really intense, you’ve got to go get some help. It may be from a Christian counselor or a pastor.”
Bob: And “intense” doesn’t necessarily mean it is all spewers. We go back to where we started.
Chip: Oh, no.
Bob: It can be intense just because the temperature of the house is down to about 40 degrees.
Chip: My wife was a stuffer. Here’s what happens—when she stuffed—when she shuts down—and let’s get real specific how this really plays out. You get angry. As a man—often—you get more verbal. Well, then, guess what? She’s not feeling very romantic. The sex life is going down the tube. You get more resentful. So, the guy gets more vulnerable to sexual temptation on the outside of his life. She feels unappreciated. It’s a vicious spiral. Even as I’m talking, right now, I can almost see the lights going on in people’s heads, saying “That’s us.”
There’s hope, but you’ve got to get that stuff on the table.
Chip: We had to learn—here’s the key—you can learn to express your anger that deals with the issue rather than attacks or rejects the person.
Bob: You see, I think most people will hear a discussion about anger—and they will think, “If it’s not spewing, we don’t have an issue.”
Bob: You know? You wouldn’t go to a marriage counselor and say, “Well, we get quiet with each other,” because that just sounds foolish; but what you’re saying is that’s just as toxic as spewing is.
Chip: Well, what happens is—and I can vividly remember—you guys bring out the worst in me, I think. I remember all these stories of my worst days.
Dennis: We’ve had several guests tell us that we’ve done that to them. So—
Bob: Share that.
Chip: I’m going to have to listen to that car thing—whatever you were talking about—so I can get prepared.
Bob: Actually, this will cost you $90 at the end of the session.
Chip: That’s right! [Laughter]
Chip: I vividly remember being so frustrated; and especially because I loved God with all my heart—I was preparing for the ministry—I knew my wife did—but there was this wall.
It was this huge ice wall, and I didn’t know how to resolve it. I just thought, “If she would just apologize.” I remember I would put my hands behind my head—you know, while you’re lying in bed? She would turn the other direction. I would kind of “Huh”—sigh—and then I would roll to the other side. So, your rear ends are toward each other. There’s big communication, you know—like: “We’ really love each other.” [Laughter] I wanted her to know I was awake, and then we would just fall asleep. Then, we’d pretend nothing had happened. Then, about two days later, we’d treat each other nice. I had no idea it was like we were pouring poison down the soul of our relationship.
When we began to deal with that anger—and part of it was—it’s not all over big stuff. I mean, I was home late for dinner, on a regular basis. Part of it was the way I thought and the way she thought. It wasn’t all that big—
—but “I lied to her.” Dinner’s at 5:30. I get home at 5:40—the basketball game went a little bit late or whatever. I’m a big-picture guy—between 5:30 and 6:00—that’s dinner; right? Not to her. She thinks in dots—I think in dashes. To her, I said 5:30—I gave my word.
So, we have an integrity issue. I’m coming home; and she says, “Why did you lie to me?” “What do you mean?— ‘Why did I lie to you?’ Give me a break! I’m ten minutes late. I’m supporting three kids; I’m in school, da da da da da.” Can you hear how this would start?
Bob and Dennis: Yes.
Chip: And now, she thinks I’m a liar. When I understood—she’s very exacting—she thinks very concretely / she’s very structured—guess what? That’s how God made her. That’s why all our bills have been paid on time. That’s why I have great kids. That’s why our house is always clean.
Dennis: And it’s why you married her in the first place—
Chip: That’s exactly right!
Dennis: —because she’s different from you. Those same differences are what end up repelling us and making us angry.
Dennis: I just want to reread what you have already quoted here, but I’m going to back up a little bit in Ephesians 4 to verse 25. It says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
I’m just going to say, parenthetically, there is no neighbor that you’re closer to than your spouse—so a relationship that’s real means you must speak the truth to one another. Paul goes on and says: “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Then he finishes up and says, “And give no opportunity to the devil.”
Dennis: There is an enemy who wants to destroy relationships. He is using anger, today, either by having it stuffed, or leaked, or spewed.
Dennis: He is using it to destroy marriages, families, children, leaving a legacy for future generations. I think, as Christians, we have to be biblically-astute, Bob. We have to have a language.
It’s why I like Chip’s book. It’s something that will, I think, give a couple something to talk about that’s of substance, while at the same time, being anchored in Scripture.
Bob: And we have copies of Chip’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. If listeners would like a copy of the book, Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the book from us, online. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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Thanks, in advance, for joining with us. It will be great to have you on the team.
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how anger can leave everyone else in our family feeling scared and not wanting to be at home. We’ll talk more with Chip Ingram about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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