The Case Against Anger – Part 4

To read Parts 1, 2, and 3, please see this link. We have been evaluating the real-life problem of anger in moms. While our hearts’ desire is to be “victorious, joyful mothers of children,” it is not unusual to find a mom struggling instead with angry feelings—perhaps day after day after day.

Let’s return to the situation of Spanish time with my son. Remember that by God’s grace in my life, yelling at the children was overcome ten years ago. I didn’t raise my voice with my son during Spanish. However, he sensed anger in me. I like to call it frustration because it sounds better. When Joseph kindly confronted me with my attitudes, I tried to deny it. After all, I didn’t yell, stomp, or slam a door, so I must not have been angry. He was right, though. I was no longer interacting with him in my normal way.

What about choosing simply to close my mouth and say nothing if I am beginning to feel at all angry, irritated, or frustrated? Proverbs 19:11, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Consider my Spanish situation with Joseph. In this case, I am not even sure we are looking at a transgression on Joseph’s part. It only would have been a transgression if Joseph wasn’t trying to learn the Spanish phrase as we worked on it, but instead purposing to be uncooperative. Whether it was a transgression or not, the verse still applies in this instance. Had I just continued to repeat the phrase for him without the other comments I was making, we would eventually have moved beyond the problem. How much better to spend the rest of my tutoring session on this one area than to be angry with Joseph simply so we could complete the material at a faster pace!

Another step toward overcoming my anger is awareness of all my angry responses—from the first feelings of anger to irritated tones in my voice to an outwardly evident angry response. My struggle is with wanting to justify that anger, especially when it seems under control and unnoticeable to others. I don’t want to fight a battle with anger, and if I am not angry, I won’t have to do that. It is much like the proverbial ostrich with his head in the sand. However, when I admit that the angry feelings are there, then something can be done about them.

The Lord has also shown me the importance of physical touch and closeness in overcoming anger. When I am feeling angry, I want to distance myself from the other person. I don’t feel close; therefore, I don’t want to be close. Distance between the child and me then fuels the angry feelings. On the other hand, if I choose to put my arm around the child, pull him into my lap, hold a hand, or pat a back, the anger begins to dissipate almost all by itself. It is very hard to be angry with someone you are loving on!

Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” When I am faced with a situation concerning my children where I feel like responding angrily, obviously the Lord’s way would be to handle it instead with love, kindness, and gentleness. Proverbs 25:15, “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Anger seldom knows anything about a “soft tongue.” That does not mean there won’t be consequences for wrong behavior in the children. However, it does mean that I am not contributing more to the problem by being angry.

Sometimes I have been told, or heard it said, that anger is a human emotion, and we must express it, within limits. Consider with me a comparison of two moms, one who believes anger is an acceptable human emotion and another who sees anger as sin, praying and working to overcome it in her life. In which home would you want to grow up? In which home do you think the children will feel more loved? Which home will produce angry children? Which one will produce children who are sometimes angry, but know how to deal with it in a godly manner?

Recently I took three of my children to the public library. There we had the opportunity to watch the interactions between an angry grandfather and his angry grandson. My children were mesmerized by the scene unfolding before them. It was a bit frightening for all of us even though the anger did not go beyond words and raised voices. On the drive home, we discussed what we had observed. The children were very aware that if people will act like that in public, they will be considerably worse in private. We had an opportunity to talk about what happens in lives when anger is not dealt with properly.

Again, recall with me the situation of my boys bickering while cleaning their room. My goal is to encourage them to learn to work diligently and responsibly. I also want them to be young men who will praise each other while seeking to motivate, in a positive manner, the brothers who aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Here were the words I found myself speaking with a tone in my voice that my boys can recognize as irritated—fueled by angry feelings although you might not recognize the tone since you don’t know me well. “Here I have given you time to do your pickup that you should have done before school started, and what are you doing? Being unkind to each other! You should each be working hard, thanking each other for the help, and responding positively if your brother tells you that you need to put something else away.”

I believe the results I desired would have been more quickly achieved had I been quiet longer, listening to the boys’ interactions and really evaluating what was going on. That would have given me time to pray, asking the Lord for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in my rebuke of the boys and thanking Him for the opportunity to teach them God’s ways. Then my tone could have been sweet and gentle. My words would have pointed out their wrong behavior and consequences given if necessary—all without anger!

Truly, as I evaluate the road I have been walking along toward victory over anger, I realize it has not required much of me. Here is what it has entailed:

  • An awareness of the problem
  • A heart’s desire to change
  • Humility
  • Time (but not all that much compared to the joy to be experienced on all sides)
  • Putting self aside

While there were times I wanted to give up and decide I was an angry person and always would be, God never allowed my heart to be satisfied with those thoughts. I yielded; He is doing the work! He has brought me to where I am in this battle—not having yelled or slammed a door for ten years. He continues to work as He molds and refines me to overcome even the tones in my voice and concealed reactions that stem from anger.

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath . . .” (Psalms 37:8). Dear Sisters, may anger be a feeling that we want replaced in our lives by the fruit of the Spirit. May we be zealous enough in our efforts to give it no place in our hearts that we will spend time in earnest prayer about it and seek forgiveness when we fail. Let’s draw our children close to us with hugs, squeezes, and whispered sweet words, fostering an environment where anger cannot thrive. May we truly allow the Lord to give victory over anger in our lives.

Aspects of Being a Good Leader – Part 8

(To read the prior parts to this series, please see here.) A short time ago while Teri and I were on our morning walk, she said, “I’m feeling like you have a critical spirit toward me lately. Is that true?” I didn’t enjoy hearing her question because that told me she was not feeling loved. Even worse, she was sensing a negative, critical spirit on my part.

“No, I don’t think so,” I responded, and the conversation drifted onto other things.

I’m not sure of the exact chain of events, but over the next few days the Lord started speaking to my heart. He convicted me of times when I had allowed negative, judgmental thoughts in my mind about Teri. Yes, I finally had to admit it; I did have a critical spirit toward her!

“Mr. Webster” defines critical as “inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably.” Criticize “implies finding fault especially with methods or policies or intentions.” It was true. I was looking at Teri with the predisposition of finding fault. I was allowing myself to criticize certain actions and behaviors of hers in my mind. When I was looking at what Teri did through a magnifying glass, was she able to do anything to my satisfaction? Was she hearing praise and gratefulness for all she did in our home? Clearly not!

Perhaps some might wonder what is wrong with having a judgmental spirit, as long as the negative thoughts aren’t expressed. If you are going to be critical, might it not be acceptable to do it secretly? I suppose in a similar way we might justify being angry on the inside or having secret lustful thoughts, as long as we don’t outwardly show them. The problem is that we can’t be one thing on the inside and another on the outside. We truly are what we are in our hearts. If we lust in our hearts, we are adulterers. If we are angry in our hearts, we are angry men. If we are critical in our hearts, we are critical people. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee” (Proverbs 23:7).

Just like Teri noticed something was wrong, the person our judgmental spirit is directed at will not feel loved. It poisons our thoughts about them. It will affect our words, actions, and attitudes towards them. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:10-12). What is in our heart directs our speech. “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).

Harboring secret, negative thoughts will damage a husband’s love for his wife. If you have been struggling with loving your wife deeply from your heart, evaluate whether you have a critical spirit. A judgmental spirit will also put up a barrier between you and your child. As loving as we may try to be to them, our spirit will be shouting even louder that we don’t accept them the way they are, we aren’t happy with them, and they’d better change.

Think of a possession that you have that means a lot to you. It very likely isn’t perfect, as few things are. However, for some reason or other, you really like it. Maybe it is your car since men often have some attachment to their vehicles. When you think of it, why is it pleasing to you? What aspects of it come to mind? When you are thinking pleasant thoughts about it, are you thinking about anything negative concerning it?

For example, I spend a great deal of time with my computer every day. I appreciate it, and I am very pleased with it. I seldom think about its negative aspects. It is fairly slow by today’s standards because it is only 450 MHz. It doesn’t have a large hard disk so I have to be reasonably careful with what I store on it. The display has a very large footprint and takes up a great deal of desk space as opposed to the sleek new flat panel displays that are out. It’s in my office in the basement where I don’t have any windows, and it gets quite stuffy in there with the door closed.

Now, what if I started thinking about how slow my computer is, the small hard disk, the clunky display, and how stuffy it is in my office? Would I still have pleasant feelings toward that computer? Of course not! That is the way with anything we allow ourselves to think negatively about. Concentrating on what is not pleasing will erode positive feelings.

We may think we are doing this in secret, but just like hidden anger or lust, it always shows. It comes across loud and clear, as I realized when the spirit of love that Teri normally felt was being dissolved away.

So what do we do if we have a judgmental spirit? How can we stop it? I will share what I did to be free from it. First, I was convicted that it was sin. I am to love and cherish Teri, to die for her if need be (Ephesians 5:25). I am not to sit in continual judgment of her. I confessed this to my Lord Jesus and asked His forgiveness. Next, I went to Teri and confessed that she was right and asked her forgiveness. Then, I asked the Lord to convict me of judgmental thoughts when I was allowing them into my mind. I also asked that He might give me an attitude of gratefulness. I purposed to cast every negative thought down. Not only has Teri not had a husband who is looking at her with faultfinding eyes lately, but she now has a husband who has found a new sense of appreciation for her.

A critical spirit is a cancer that will destroy your ability to delight in the one it is focused on. It isn’t healthy, and it certainly isn’t enjoyable. Do you want to rejoice in the wife of your youth? Purpose to love her and not judge her. What if instead of loving me, Teri were to concentrate on my faults? Now that is a scary thought!