Topic Progress:

What it looks like | Emotional explosions are often the first way stress expresses itself. If you’ve raised (or watched) a 2- or 3-year-old, you’ll know that no one has to teach a fellow human how to explode. Sadly, many adults do not learn how to control their emotions, and like an overgrown toddler, use outbursts of anger, frustration, hurt, and fear as ways to try and gain the upper hand in stressful situations.

As someone in a vocation of helping people, you have likely been at the receiving end of many an explosion, leaving you with scars, if not permanent damage. Plus one of the “perks” of your job is that you get to deal with both unrealistic and unreasonable expectations placed upon you by those you serve. Some of these include:

  • You are expected never to be discouraged or defensive in the midst of unkind comments from others whose hostility is inconsiderately disguised as concern.
  • You are expected to never struggle with resentment or envy.
  • You are to be a model spouse and parent.
  • In a moment of self-preservation, you are expected not to become withdrawn, disengaged or controlling.
  • You are expected to enthusiastically execute an unrealistic job description that would be overwhelming to anyone this side of heaven.

Unless you learn how to deal with stress in a healthy way rather than simply stuffing it, the long-term stress of being on the receiving end of others’ explosions as well as unreasonable expectations placed on you can lead to you exploding.

Explosions are outward, aggressive, and intimidating. Often, the frustration is vented on an innocent bystander such as a spouse or child. Some individuals have small explosions several times a week. Others let the stress build and it explodes like a volcano. People who are quiet, calm and easy going can cause great damage the very first time they explode outwardly. Having allowed pressure to build up over the years, their explosions can result in physical damage, even murder … and jail time!


Answer the questions below and share insights with your spouse or a trusted friend.

  • Minor explosions are quite common, with folks exhibiting “sideways” behavior, lashing out at colleagues, at service staff in a store or restaurant, at relatives. Have you been guilty of this? What healing steps do you take when you notice this behavior in yourself?
  • Have you been on the receiving end of someone’s major explosions? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you sometimes explode at your spouse or family? What can you change today to address this?
  • What strategies have you found particularly helpful in defusing explosive behavior in others?

Because exploding is viewed as so unacceptable in most people-helping vocations, the three other options for expressing stress are more common among pastors: Somaticizing, Underhandedness, and Whipping Post.