The Gift of Anger

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a problem with anger.  There are those who are obvious about it (because they can’t control their temper and so are blowing up all the time) and there are those who aren’t.  The folks in the latter class internalize their anger but it’s still there.  They toss and turn in their sleep and beat themselves up over the problems in their lives.

However, anger is not an inherently bad thing.  For example, to love someone in this fallen world means you will get angry with them.  C.S. Lewis somewhere writes that the more a man loves his son, the more he hates the drunk, the coward, and the liar in his son.  The father wants what’s best for the child whom he loves, so he gets angry about the traits that will, left unchecked, lead to his son’s destruction.

The key to healthy relationships is not to never get angry (that’s impossible).  The key is to be slow to anger.  “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  James 1:19-20.  Being slow to become angry means that you harness your anger and control it so that it can be used in a productive way.

For example, if you have kids, they will make tons of mistakes that will frustrate you.  Screaming, yelling, and beating your children  will only make things worse and land you in jail.  No one needs that!  But ignoring their transgressions won’t help your kids either.  They need to know when they’ve done wrong.  They need to be corrected so these mistakes don’t turn into habits that will bring them far more pain when they become adults.  Anger helps motivate you to do this.

When you get angry at your kids, think of it as a smoke detector in your life: something is burning somewhere, and you must do something about it before the whole house comes down.

Maybe the smoke is coming from yourself, in which case you need to change.  You can’t be such a perfectionist, so impatient, so selfish.  Nor can you be angry all the time.  What do you call a smoke detector that never stops beeping?  Broken (and incredibly annoying!).

But maybe the smoke is coming from your kids.  Their sin is causing them to burn.  The anger alerts you that you must intervene but to do so under control.  Instead of immediately losing your temper, take time to pray and make sure your anger really is directed at them.  Then, come up with a plan to address what’s wrong in a clear, biblical, and graceful way.

As parents, our job is not to perfect our children.  We are not qualified for that task and we must lay that burden down if we want to remain sane.  Our job, rather, is to impress upon them what God has said, and when necessary bring just enough unpleasantness in their lives so as to get their attention.  When we do that, God will be faithful to do his work in their hearts.

It’s hard to lovingly confront the people in our lives.  It would be impossible without God’s help.  But when you see how patient God has been with you, you’ll find the power to love others as he has called us to.  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  Psalm 103:8-12.

 

 

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