We have been on “vacation” this week, going to the beach every morning. Anyone who has been to the beach with children knows the struggles involved… Today, as we were trying to leave without bringing the whole beach home in our car, I was fed up, tired, and lost my patience with my son and the situation. I was berating him as we were loading up when I noticed a man walking by on the seawall and I felt ashamed because I saw how I must have looked to him–like a bitter, nasty, mean woman foaming at the mouth. This was not the only time this morning I lost it–about an hour before this event, I had a similar experience while trying to get the children covered with sunblock–I was talking to them in an unfriendly tone when another man walked by and, again, I felt embarrassed about the person I have become. Parenting and marriage are hard. I know that God is using this vocation that he has given to me to make me more like him. (I have a long way to go.) I never knew I had anger issues until I had to live with this constant pressure and frustration that comes with family life.
Anger can destroy your life. When you are angry, you tend to say and do things you would never say otherwise because you are not thinking clearly or seeking God’s heart on the matter. You lose control and the Enemy has you where he wants you. In an argument, when trying to get the last word with my preteen son (acting just like the preteen), I have already lost because I am teaching him to do the very thing I am telling him not to do. If I hurt my husband with word-daggers, I have been defeated, not him, because I am tearing down the very home I want to build up with him. If I am angry at someone in traffic and act out, I am only raising my blood pressure–he will not care about my feelings, but he may get out a pistol. St. James teaches us:
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6-8)
I don’t think he was exaggerating. How can we resist this temptation to erupt in anger and say hurtful and destructive things when we are weary from the frustrations of our daily grind? I think the first thing to do is to notice the problem and be watchful–notice when the fury starts to tighten your belly and make you want to choke something. Notice, then stop, shut up, then you can pray and listen for God’s perspective. Once the feeling of peace is restored, then act. St.(Mother)Teresa said:
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
I cannot always get away from the exterior noise of my life, but I can try to quiet myself on the inside so I can listen to God and choose what noise I will add to the environment. When I start to feel that old familiar rage building, I can remember to step into my interior fortress of silence where I can breathe, take some time to pray and let the pond scum of my mind settle down to the bottom. I can recollect myself and remember Who is in charge and Who I am working for. If necessary, I can let people know I need a moment to pray and can’t talk right now. (Better to be weird and quiet for a while than hateful and hurtful and make things worse.) When I take the time to pray, I step back from the situation and consider the best plan of attack from God’s perspective.
God’s perspective is, first of all, that he is God–not me. Perhaps the best thing to do when there is a disagreement with someone (even if I am right) is to just let them think what they think and trust that God will show them the truth rather than try to control their psyche and opinion myself. Maybe there really was some wrong done to me, but I should use it as a chance to offer it up to God and pray for them. Maybe God will show me (if I shut up long enough) that I actually was wrong and need to apologize. It could also be that God shows me a better approach to solve the problem.
There is actually a war going on–I am on a battlefield fighting for my soul and the souls of my loved ones. I need to resist the temptations to anger by communing with my Commander in the fortress of silence–from there I can find refreshment, be strengthened, get my marching orders, and get reinforcements to help me win the fight.
We are the Church Militant and must struggle in this life, but since our Commander in Chief is omnipotent, I trust that all this will work out for the good of everyone who loves him.
How have you been able to overcome anger?