Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Our Anger Isn't Under Control

I never remember being angry as a child. When I was a teenager, I never really rebelled in the true sense of the word. As an adult, there have been moments of frustration, but anger? Not really.

Something happened after our first born child arrived. All of a sudden this quality I had never really known or experienced started veering its ugly head.

For the first time, I started really losing my cool. I began to yell, throw, kick (not the kids), even curse. Mama threw some mean temper tantrums, and I finally justified my red hair and Irish roots. The Incredible Hulk in me emerged.

My struggles with anger are real. I pray daily for the Lord to help me give gentle answers and a patient heart to my children. I pray for my love to grow and my anger to shrink. I thank God for grace and mercy and try to give myself a healthy dose every day, knowing that my perfectionist tendencies are what set off this anger. 

In my mind, I have a picture of how my children should look, act, speak, and in reality--as we all know--kids are kids. They don't measure up even though I have 3 pretty terrific girls. 

My too-high expectations hurt everyone: my kids, my husband, my self. 

To be angry is not a sin. Throughout the Bible we see countless examples of God's wrath. Consider the Israelites who continually rebelled and Balaam whose greed angered God to the point that He opened the donkey's mouth. We also witness Jesus' righteous indignation with the money changers in the temple. 

Being angry is not a sin.

We are created in God's image and thus we are like God: that means--like God--sometimes we get angry.

How we act, though, when we are angry is the key.

I've taped a verse to the lampshade beside my bed. It's a reminder that when I get angry, I need to retreat. I need to be quiet. I need to examine my heart. I need to ask myself: Why am I angry? Is my anger righteous or self-righteous indignation?  

"In your anger, do not sin, when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." 
Psalm 4:4

There are countless things we as Christians should be angry about: child abuse, exploitation, sex trafficking, violence against the defenseless, poverty, to name a few. But unless that anger is properly directed it accomplishes nothing. That anger must serve a purpose; it must motivate us to change.

The anger that my children incite in me also needs direction. I can't let it bottle up inside until I explode. I don't need to speak hurtful words that will damage their little hearts. They don't need to witness me break another lamp because of improperly directed anger. 

I have to come to a place where my anger is under control and not controlling me. 

That means:

  • Reining in the self-righteous (e.g. I deserve this...) anger
  • Letting go of perfect
  • Redirecting my anger towards more worthy concerns
  • Retreating for a moment to be silent, pray, & examine my heart
  • Continually assessing the causes of my anger and finding applicable solutions/remedies

I am still on the journey and probably will be for some time.

What about you? How do you handle anger? I would appreciate your {healthy} suggestions.

Blessings to you,

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  1. Great post! I have really been working on trying not to lose my temper with my daughter. I think meditating on that scripture is a goood idea.

    1. Thanks, Salena.

      Meditating on scripture helps me but so does lowering my expectations of my self and my children. A 4 year old isn't quite capable of as much as I think she should be. Maybe I need a reminder to let my kids be kids ;)

      Blessings to you as you mother your precious girl.

  2. Keri,

    I struggle with anger as well. And part of it comes from the same place that yours does. I am in counseling and I also pray quite frequently for Jesus and/or God to help me with my anger.

    As I uncover each seed of anger and deal with it, my anger seems to become less.

    Praying for you, as well.

  3. You're described me. I was a very calm, easy going person before I had children. Since then, I've been through seasons of constant, simmering anger as well as seasons of peace and calm. I think I've leaned a few things through it all... When I'm struggling with anger, I'm probably neglecting 3 things...

    1. Sleep! I need 9 hours of sleep every.single. night. Or I will be impatient, angry, nasty. Period.
    I've also noticed that I can get by with a lot less Me Time when I am well rested.

    2. Time with God. I can't explain it, but if I miss my quiet time, it shows!

    3. Focusing my thoughts on God. There have been times that I have become obsessed with housekeeping. Results? Better housekeeping skills, but panic to get it all done, and running roughshod over people.
    Other times, I've focused intently on parenting. Result? Better skills, but a fierce perfectionism, harshness, mommy guilt.
    And then, there have been times when I've centered my mind on God, being thankful, and prayer. Result? Peace, calm, joy, better attitude in all areas of life.
    I'm still working on this, but it really makes a difference!

    4. I should stop, but will add this for good measure. I subscribed to emails. The morning musings have really helped brainwash the protectionism and unrealistic expectations out of my mind. In all areas, not just housekeeping.

    Note. I an a work in progress! But I thought I'd share what I've learned in case it helps someone out there. :)

    1. Love this post-this could be my house! Oh the guilt that follows after I've thrown my adult temper tantrum! And Paige, I have to agree; I have come to learn that those same things are what is missing when I lose it with one thing to add-for #3, I find that even with just one of those areas somewhat under control I can keep it together, but when EVERYTHING is out of control (could be just an unusually busy time with other life things happening causing us to be "off" our game for a short time-company, sickness, etc.) then I almost feel like I am going to have a meltdown! Notice that word repeated-CONTROL. My sin is that I want to CONTROL everything and when I can't, I lose it!
      Thank you all for opening up in this way. I don't feel so alone now in my struggle with anger. God bless!

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  5. Now I realize there are exactly moms like me! I agree with Paige! I love all coments!