English Standard Version (ESV)
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
I am a person who has struggled with anger. I remember being angry a LOT as a child. I was generally angry about things that I felt were "not fair" to me. It was a selfish, childlike brand of anger that can not be reasoned with. As I grew into a teenager, I continued to battle feelings of anger that seemed out of proportion to whatever the precipitator happened to be. I was the kind of girl who walked in two worlds. I tried to share my faith and make Jesus Christ a priority in my life but at the same time, I was the girl who would easily get into a fist fight with another girl if I heard she was "talking about me". As I entered college and began to develop some spiritual and personal maturity - not much, mind you, but some- I recognized my anger as something that was a monumental stumbling block, both in peer relationships and my relationship with Christ. I tried in futility to improve but ended up being angry on the inside with a smiling exterior. I was becoming a Pharisee.
As a young mother with two small children, I would feel hot rages come over me in response to seemingly insignificant events. I never physically hurt my children but I sometimes spoke harshly, answered sarcastically or went into my room to scream into my pillow when they needed help or guidance. I blew up at my husband unfairly on a regular basis. He was gone all day and I spent too much time lamenting the hard work of mothering, the isolation of staying at home and the frustration of not having all the pocket money I wanted. I should have been counting my blessings instead.
I had swallowed the world's advice on men and motherhood and I was angry! I was trying to bow down at Oprah Winfrey's altar of "self love" but coming up unable to muster even "self LIKE". I was untrained in a Biblical world view but was drinking the koolaid offered in self help books and by talk show hosts without so much as a scrutinizing glance. I believed that if I did not stand up for myself, I would simply disappear. I would be no more than a maid, caretaker, cook and call girl. I had needs, too, right???? What about ME? I believed my husband's lunch hours at work were more like "boys' night out" and why should HE have restaurant food and friends to chat with when I was home making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watching Barney?
But I was raised in a Christian home.
I knew many things about my own heart and attitude were contributing to my underlying, ever present anger. I think I had known it all along. I just didn't know WHAT to do about it. Wanting to change does not change a thing. It's a nice start but it's kind of like wanting to be physically fit but sitting on the couch all day.
The world told me that if I did not release my anger (through confronting the target of the anger) it would build up like a pressure cooker and I would just explode!!! The world told me it was actually DANGEROUS to keep my feelings inside so I HAD TO let them out. This is a foundational, fundamental lie that is in direct opposition to God's word. The Bible says
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man quietly holds it back". Proverbs 29:11
hmmmm . .. that stands in complete contradiction to what I believed but it settled in my spirit as pure truth.
God's word had some other amazing revelations for me as I began to pray about changing my heart. One scripture that I shared regularly with my children but seemed to forget applied to me as well is:
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in HUMILITY,
consider others better than yourself." Philippians 2:3
So . . . when someone at the grocery store has that "me first" attitude and tries to push ahead, I should just let them? When I think my husband should walk in the door from a busy day at work, drop his lunch box and immediately take over "kid duty" I may be off base?
These are hard principles, friends. Easy to memorize and hard to live out. Holding back anger and letting others be FIRST or letting their needs take precedence over our needs-those are habits that have to be cultivated. First, through daily reminders, prayer, scripture cards and conscious effort and later, they become a part of your internal schema and you find yourself - a little more each day - living them out more effortlessly. Rome wasn't built in day.
I share this with you, not as someone who has arrived and conquered the "anger beast" but as someone who is striving to live in this paradigm shift and who has much regret over the selfishness and anger manifest in years gone by. If ONE young mother reads this post and finds freedom, it would make my joy abound. If any person can take the shortcut to deliverance that I found when taking the "scenic route", it would be marvelous. What a load of time I wasted ruminating on ME when I should have been marinating in God's word - seeking His plan for my life - using my youth and energy and gifts to make HIS name great among my friends and family.
It is my deepest prayer that I will use whatever time I have left and that YOU will use whatever time YOU have left to do those things that bring Him glory. When all is said and done, there is nothing else that lasts. It's just HIM.