Monday, June 15, 2009

In Your Anger, Do Not Sin

The title is from Ephesians 4:26 and continues, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Eph 4:26-27)

I decided to make Father's Day a theme and I wanted to talk a little about a common sin as a father, anger. If you're a dad, I'm sure you can relate. You come home from work, you just want to relax, and you come home to your child's messy room. Depending on their age, either they want to jump all over you or they ignore you altogether. Your child who is a "reward from [God]" (Ps 127:3ff) is not the source of joy he or she should be but is instead a source of frustration. You want to be a good father so you hide your frustration- you either stuff it or let loose on something else (video games, sports, the weights at the gym). But you never really deal with it and that frustration grows and grows until it spills over. I don't know what form that will take for you, but I fear of the form it will take for me. By not dealing with it, I'm "giving the devil a foothold" and he's just waiting to take advantage of it.

So what do we do? We need to talk about it; share it with a brother in Christ, and calmly confront the source of frustration. Either it's something that can be addressed, or it's something not worth the emotional cost. Remember, you're the leader of your family. Leader, not manager. What's the difference? Leaders are proactive; they set the course. Managers are reactive and deal with things as they come.

Chip Ingram spent the last couple of weeks on this subject and his lessons are worth a listen. Admittedly, the series promotes his most recent book, Overcoming Emotions that Destroy. But if nothing else, listen to the last two broadcasts of this series, and evaluate how you deal with anger.

Speaking of books, I also need to give a shout out to Susan Titus Osborn (one of the panelists at the AV Writer's Conference I attended last month) who wrote Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse. The sad truth is, often our anger and frustration shows itself in our words. James compares our tongues to the rudder of a ship or the bit in a horse's mouth in describing the influence our words have. He goes on to write, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." (Js 3:9-10) We need to recognize the damage our anger and our words are capable of.

I'm reminded of this parable: A young man struggles with temper tantrums and his parents are at their wits end trying to curb his anger. So the dad comes up with an idea. He gives his son a hammer and a bag of nails. He tells him, "every time you get angry, pound a nail into that old wood fence out back." After some time, and several nails, the son stops having angry outbursts. He's simply tired of pounding nails. "Good," his father tells him, "now go and remove all those nails from my fence." The son does as he's told and returns to ask his dad what the point was. "See all the holes that are now in my fence?" the father asks. "You can take out all the nails, but the damage is already done. So it is with your anger. You can take back all the words, but you can't take back the hurt you caused."

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