James 1: 20
How relevant is this verse. We get angry but it sure doesn't make things right around us. We want things to be right – be it our own responses to things, be it our kid’s behaviour, be it the neighbour across the street, or the state of the politics in our country. But getting angry doesn’t make these things right.
Colossians 3:17 reminds us to do whatever we do in Word and Deed, to do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. When we get angry we are not doing anything in the name of Jesus. There are other verses in the Bible that encourage us to talk with gentleness, kindness.
So how do we make this jump from the natural response of anger when things aren’t right to the godly response of giving thanks, gentleness and kindness?
What is anger
First of all anger is an emotion. Some people say that they can’t control their anger that it just comes out of them. I know the feeling – it is like feeling out of control – you open your mouth and out comes the anger. I believe there are ways we can control this – yes, it is called self control but just saying
I am going to have self control and curb my anger just isn’t going to work.
I have always struggled with the story where Jesus got angry. This is the verse that is thrown at you whenever this topic comes up – where is the example for us.
Jesus got angry. Yes, he did but he had the choice to get angry (fullstop!) or to get angry and use it for good – he had self-control. This was the choice he made and this is the choice we can make.
- Eph 4:26 In your anger do not sin.
It is not telling us not to get angry – it is telling us not to sin.
- James 1:10 Be slow to anger.
It is not telling us not to get angry – it is telling us to get there slowly.
Do you get angry?
You may think that you don’t get that angry. What about these emotions?
- Hot & bothered?
- Up in arms?
Though we may not think it, all these emotions are an expression of anger – to some degree or form. It makes you think doesn’t it? We have to ask ourselves the question again – Do I get angry? When I do express any of these emotions do I sin? Remember Eph 4:26 In your anger do not sin.
What is sin?
Because any one of these emotions generally involves another person I think we can focus our thoughts on the people we hurt as the sin in these situations; Be it ourselves, our spouses, our children, our friends etc.
So how to keep ourselves from anger?
As parents we know about the little person’s anger, a toddler’s tantrums. Can you think of some of the tools we have with a toddler?
- Look for the warning signs – they will be there
- Reflective Time out – helps them get their self control
- Help them choose a right response
- Walk them through Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration
The same steps can work for us. Lets look at them closely.
First of all we need to look for the warning signs – they will be there. In a toddler or child the warning signs may be whining, crying, high pitch little squeals, sarcasm, deep breathing, rolling the eyes, fidgeting.
What are the signs for you? Hopefully they are expressed a little different!
- Raised voice?
- Body tenses up?
- Or do you go through certain body movements?
What happens to you when irritation starts to set in?
We want to be able to recognise these clues so we can step in and stop it before we sin, before anger gets to full pitch and before we hurt someone.
There are times though that we don’t catch it in time and we find ourselves angry (remember all the different expressions of anger I listed before). When this happens we need to take a break – We need to send ourselves to Reflective Time Out. Yes, this works for us adults as well as it works for the kids! The goal of this time is to think about what is going on, to change our hearts so that we can gain self-control.
Last year I read the book
Good and Angry by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, and two things have remained with me
- Anger is good for identifying problems but not good for solving them.
- Behind Anger is Physical pain, blocked goals, violated rights, unfairness or unmet expectations.
These are the things I think about in my Reflective Time Out. I need to know what was going on and I need to change my heart and be ready to restore relationships I may have broken.
Real Life Situations
Here are some scenarios where I have diagnosed a problem through recognising my anger.
- I get angry when the kids are slow at their chores. This is a Blocked Goal and Unmet Expectations situation. I expect chores to take only ½ hour and when it takes longer my desire to have the house to myself while the kids go outside for ½ hour is blocked so I can’t do my things when I want to which then appears Unfair!
- I get angry when the kids loose their shoes as this slows us down when we are trying to get out of the house. This is a Blocked Goal. I want out of the house at THIS time. It also annoys me because at these times I see the junk and the lack of discipline we have to put things in the right place so they can be found when needed. I guess this covers Unmet Expectations.
- I get angry when I see the mess in the kids bedrooms. This is Physical Pain. The stuff is horrible to look at. It is also Unmet Expectations – as I expect the kid’s rooms to be reasonably tidy.
- I get angry when we run late. Once again Blocked Goals. I have a goal to be on time and people stuff me around and make that not happen.
- I get angry when a kid whines, or argues a point with me, or is excessively silly or even when a kids expresses anger themselves. At first glance it appears to be a lack of graciousness to their emotional immaturity but it slows me down and I have little time for it. As I look at it from an anger perspective my rights to have a happy life are violated, my expectations to have a peaceful existence is messed up. Violated Rights, Unmet Expectations and Unfairness!
If and when I can identify the cause of me getting angry – and as I have shared, sometimes it is a lack in me, a fear or pain, then I can use that to either change myself or see it as an area that I need to train in with my children. Either case, I can do something about it rather than just letting the anger happen.
- I can train to do the chores faster
- I can train in the areas of order and responsibilities
- I can work on systems to help us get out the door
- I can train in the areas of self-control, and boundaries.
Once I have diagnosed the real problem, which is really getting to the heart of the matter I can go forward. I can step out of my bedroom, out of my Reflective Time Out ready to put things right.
This leads to Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration. Am I prepared to do that with my children – can I say,
I am sorry I got cross before? Mummy was not handling us running late well. Will you please forgive me? Whether you discuss your strategies for not being in this situation again depends on the ages of your kids and the time you have at that moment but you need to show the kids that you are working on it; that you are working on the things that make you run late as well as working on the anger.
We had a situation the other day where a child did not heed my warning and they ended up hurting a relationship. I gave a warning – this was to help them see that they were getting angry. It was ignored. I suggested that they leave the room and gain self control but because the warning was ignored the anger had stepped up a pace and they ignored that instruction and stayed there arguing and ended up yelling at me in a cross voice. This is a classic illustration of these steps – they didn’t heed the warning signs, they didn’t remove themselves to think about their hearts and therefore the child did wrong in their anger – they sinned! Oh, my heart broke – because I gave the warning – I tried to help them see where they were heading but they chose not to listen and broken relationship was the result.
Addressing the Real Problems
Lets not think that this is only a child’s problem. It is ours. We get angry, we don’t listen to the warning signs, we don’t remove ourselves to get our heart right, and we continue in our anger and we sin, causing havoc in our relationships.
Now for the practical bit – I want you to think of five scenarios in your house where you regularly loose your cool, pet peeves, times when you get angry.
Now - using the following list of the things that are behind anger – think about what is really going on in your house.
Anger is good for identifying problems
but not good for solving them.
Good and Angry
Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller
The list to consider what is behind your anger
- Physical pain
- Blocked goals
- Violated rights
- Unfairness or
- Unmet expectations
The next time you find yourself angry think about this. Are you trying to solve the problems with your anger? It won’t work.