Well-Being with Whitney: Lessons from Volcanoes

Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of the parks I visited during this U.S. national park service centennial year, shows the incredible energy of volcanic activity at work. The park comes alive with boiling water and roaring gas exploding up to the ground’s surface from deep underground. Brightly colored minerals escape in the process, creating a lovely landscape that’s contrasted by noxious smells and silly noises like gurgling and thumping. Spending time in nature is always good for our well-being, and a volcanic natural environment is especially useful to enhance our wellness through anger management.

We live in an angry world — one that’s full of problems because of its fallen state; one where hurt people hurt others through their anger on a regular basis. All of us get angry sometimes. It’s fine to get angry, since anger is a natural emotion that’s meant to direct our attention to something that should be changed. Where the trouble comes is when we react to that anger in harmful ways rather than responding to it wisely.

Volcanoes symbolize anger. Some volcanoes are mountain cones with magma seething beneath for a long time that occasionally explode lava at the top with tremendous force. Others are flat fissure vents in the ground that ooze lava slowly.  Lassen Volcanic National Park features every kind of volcano that exists on Earth (plug dome, cinder cone, shield, and composite). Every person on the planet has a temper, as well. What kind of “volcano” is your temper? Do you blow your top suddenly, erupting with force that damages others around you at the time? Or are you passive aggressive, with anger that seeps out at others in hidden yet still dangerous ways?

My own style of expressing anger is passive. As a result, sometimes I don’t realize when I’m angry until I realize that I’ve spoken mean words or avoided spending time with people who have upset me. When that happens, I know I should pray for God’s help to deal with the situation. The Holy Spirit empowers me to change so I can respond to anger in positive ways that lead to good results, rather than reacting to it in negative ways that prevent real progress.

How about you? Whatever your temper style, volcanoes are useful reminders that anger is a fire that needs to be managed well so it doesn’t lead to destruction. Let volcanoes inspire you to figure out the reasons behind the anger you experience, and get to work addressing those issues in positive ways. Prayer is the best way to start. Ask God to show you why you’re angry and what you can do about it to find peace of mind and try to to resolve the issues behind your anger. Then — here’s the hard part — take action on whatever you discover will bring healing to the situation. Sometimes that involves challenging decisions, such as forgiveness.

Anger is an emotion that we will all feel sometimes. Just like fire from volcanoes, anger has incredible power. If we respect that power and respond to it well, we can use it to accomplish something good.

What’s making you especially angry right now? How can you respond rather than react to the situation?

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