Mildred is probably in her seventies and has short, straight, gray hair. Her life is clearly displayed on her face as it is so often with the elderly. Her bottom lip protrudes sharply from her face as a young pouting child’s often does. However, hers is fixed there due to many unhappy years. I don’t believe I have ever seen her smile.
In spite of all that, I love Mildred. She has been a resident at the County Infirmary for the nine years our family has participated in a church service there on the first and third Saturdays of the month. For years, I asked Mildred if she would come to church. With lip out, she would shake her head back and forth and say, “I don’t want to.” I would pat her shoulder, maybe speak with her briefly, and go down the hallway.
Then, to my surprise, Mildred, one day a year or so ago, said, “Yes.” I couldn’t believe it, but not wanting her to change her mind I grabbed the wheelchair handles and whisked her away to the dayroom. Since then she faithfully answers, “yes,” and I push her down to church, patting her shoulder and talking to her all the way.
There are others I would share about as well, if we had time. By patiently expressing love and encouragement, we have seen God do a wonderful work in their lives. However, I’m convicted that I will often expend greater emotional effort and patience with these elderly friends than I do with my own children! It gets worse than that. I know that there are times when I’m more patient with our golden retriever than with the children! Truly, that is something I have pondered and am not very proud of.
Anger Damages Relationships
Anger has to be the most damaging emotion a father can pour out on his children, whether I raise my voice or simply have an irritated tone. I know that, and yet I still will choose to let myself get angry. It really is a choice. If we say it isn’t, we are lying to ourselves. A good test is if our children do something wrong when someone we want to impress is present (perhaps at church), versus when we are at home by ourselves. Do we respond in the same way? I know I frequently don’t. But unless I want to damage my relationship with my children, anger cannot be allowed.
To begin to overcome anger, I have to first acknowledge that my anger is wrong and simply a matter of choice. I will not control my temper unless I see it first as sin. “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. . .” (Matthew 5:22). It is clear that 99.9999% of our anger is sin. I know some will say that Jesus was angry, and the above verse referred to a “cause.” However, I believe that seldom, if ever, do we dads really have a just cause that Christ would agree with. I’m not referring to larger issues such as abortion, but matters of the home. Jesus’ anger was righteous anger, and I expect if we critically evaluated why we were angry at home we would see it is sin.
Disobedience is not an Excuse for Dad’s Anger
Perhaps I will get angry because the child did not obey me. That is pride. It is not out of concern that my child has broken God’s command for him or her to obey me. I want the child to obey me. Simple. If one child hurts another, and I am angry, is my anger because they sinned against God by not showing brotherly love? No. My anger would be due to my desire for peace in the home and it has been disturbed. Yes, it is possible that it could be righteous anger but ever so unlikely. We would be far better off to allow the Lord Jesus to be the One to demonstrate righteous anger.
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Even if it was righteous anger, the question is whether I will sin or not when I’m angry. We would not be commanded in Scripture to “sin not” if we couldn’t control it. I believe that even when I have an irritated tone in my voice, that is sin. I’m not being loving and patient, and God has called me to serve my family, not my own selfish pleasures.
Last weekend our family was returning from Teri’s grandmother’s funeral in Iowa, and I had a wonderful opportunity to be kind and patient. The children had had no naps for two days previously, and it was their naptime. They were all quite tired, and soon the situation was definitely not Christ-like. Complaining, crying, and other less admirable activities were taking place in the back of the van.
I was content to drive and did not want to have to pull off the side of the road to deal with it. It was laziness on my part, and as a result, I became angry. After a while, I was tired and wanted Nathan to drive while I got some rest. An amazing thing happened! As soon as I was in the back with the children, they settled down and there were no more problems. Had I been willing to stop earlier when it was needful, it would have been a far more pleasant trip, and I would not have gotten angry.
We have worked hard to teach our children proper table etiquette, but that had become a real source of frustration and anger for me. This may sound stupid to you, but it is true. I had one child in particular who would not chew with his lips together and others who would either eat with their elbows on the table or not sit up nicely. I would remind them and remind them, and eventually I would get angry. You can imagine that did not make for pleasant meals. God is so gracious though. When we desire to please Him and if we cry out for wisdom, He is faithful in answering our prayers.
Find Creative Consequences
I asked the Lord to help me train them without getting angry. The idea came to me that if a child is demonstrating poor manners I could catch their attention and then raise my pointer finger indicating the first mark. If I see another problem with the same child, I will raise two fingers indicating two marks. If I see a third occurrence, they are excused from the meal. I have found this very freeing. I have a way of communicating the problem without getting angry, and there are consequences that the children will work hard to avoid. Seldom has anyone had to be excused from the table, and I now have children who are striving to demonstrate proper manners. The best part of it is I don’t get angry any longer over training the children at the table.
I have found that if I confess my anger as sin, repent of it, and cry out to the Lord for ways to avoid it, He will meet me at my point of need. Anger and love will not coexist. I have to be willing to die to my own agenda to get a grip on anger. I know that I cannot go wrong by grieving and repenting over every occurrence of it. May we be men of God and turn our hearts to our children by choosing not to get angry. Christ will be glorified and our children will flourish in our love.