Anger…Anyone?

Here is a personal story of my struggle with anger.  I still fail – sometimes, daily – but with God’s help, I’m learning the truth, which is able to help me become victorious over this dangerous emotion.

Let me begin this by saying that your belief system will, ultimately, determine how you act. I am trying to allow God to change what I believe – not just in my head but also in my heart – so that I will act in a way that will bring glory to Him. Like many, I know the bondage that comes with a life of anger and bitterness, and I know the weight of the chains of addiction. I have felt the sting of abuse and grief.  Through my pain, God has truly given me a heart for other hurting women. It was something that I received long ago.  I am writing my testimony as a tool to share with those, who may ask “for a reason for the hope” that is in me.

1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV) “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

I pray that something I share will help you, but more than that, I pray that you will see Jesus in spite of me. I pray that I will stay out of His way, and that you will focus on Him and His glory.  As you read this, I would suggest a couple of things to keep in mind.  Recently, my mom sent me a little card that read: “Don’t worry that you’re not strong enough before you begin your journey.  It is in the journey that God makes you strong.”  I would encourage you to take your battle just one minute at a time. If you fail at 8am, don’t just “give up” on the whole day. Work from 8:01am and make it to 8:02am. If you try to view it in large block of time, such as a full day, you will find yourself failing in large blocks of time as well. A single minute is much easier to handle. I know it has helped me to be more willing to change my attitude right away, instead of being mad all day. Don’t “mess up” the next minute too! (hope this makes sense…) Another thing that will help is to know WHAT the battle consist of (drugs, alcohol, loss of a loved-one, etc.) or WHO you are angry with…God? Your spouse? Your children? Co-workers? This makes a huge difference in how to handle things too.

From my young childhood through early marriage, I found myself harboring bitterness and anger towards those who had wronged me.  I also felt myself full of discontent. I had a very elaborate and very lonely pity-party most nights. I cried so much, and I was angry…very angry. . Often, we lash out at those around us in the hopes of “hitting” the person(s) responsible for our pain. I yelled a lot. I didn’t want to be in my current circumstances. This was not what I imagined life to be like. Because of my behavior, I felt so “unworthy” and hated myself, most of the time. I used to apologize to my husband daily for not being a good wife and for not being more perfect. I felt so undeserving of his love and patience.

After being diagnosed with a spinal disease that left the idea of pregnancy in question, I tried to enjoy my job, but it was not what I wanted to be doing. I did not want to work forever.  I wanted to be taking care of my family at home! I’ll never forget one thing my husband said during this time of uncertainty. He told me that if I didn’t learn to be content NOW, I would NEVER be content. He was right… (A book by Jeff VanVorden, “Tired of Trying to Measure Up,” helped me, years later, by using God’s word to show me how to change the type of “filter” through which I viewed myself and the world around me. I am worthy because of Jesus Christ – nothing more, nothing less.  My identity was not found in whether I was a Mom or not.)
Even after our seven year wait for children ended, and we had been blessed with a family, my anger didn’t go away.  It just re-focused on something else.  It has been said that anger is the distance between your expectations and what actually happens. I have found that to be true over and over in my life. The more you can line up your expectations with reality, the less angry you will be. If I learn to expect my children to be frustrating and get into trouble most of the time, I won’t respond with the same anger that I have when I, foolishly, expect them to act like little adults. It’s my joy as a mother to guide them. Yes, they will still do surprising things at times, but when I do blow up, I need to quickly find the humility to ask forgiveness.  Sometimes screaming and fighting helped to hide the worthlessness we feel as a parent.

One book I found helpful on the topic of Biblical parenting was the Dugger’s new book, “A Love that Multiplies.” Michelle Dugger has 19 children and they are all incredible! She said she used to yell, until she began to apply the verse:

 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 

Now, she said that she actually gets quieter, when she is correcting them. They know that and respond in like. When I do this, it does seem to work. We are not called to force our children into doing what we want them to do. We are called to teach them how to live like Christ wants them to and to ultimately obey Him, because they choose to, not because we made them to. We need to seek to change their hearts, not just their actions. I love the book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp. It is very deep, but every word is useful and Biblical. It is well worth the difficult read.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

As for my on-going lessons on patience and controlling my anger towards other people, I pray daily for the wisdom to bestow grace. I’m trying to remember that everyone has a story. They might not be brave enough to share it, but they often live it out in actions.

But by the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15:10a

I try to take what others say as a reflection upon where they are in their life, not upon me, and pray for them. It’s not always easy. They are not in the same place that I am, and maybe God hasn’t dealt with that issue in their life yet, just as I may struggle in an area that God has already perfected in their life. Give grace more readily than I expect it. I remind myself daily of this. I continue to seek Godly counsel and keep praying for wisdom.  Try to “act,” not “re-act” as much as possible.  This comes only from knowing the truth and allowing it to set you free.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:4-5

I leave you with three quotes:

“You can’t cease to be angry about things simply by trying hard not to be.  You need to change your mind about how important some things really are; get your priorities in order.  Then, when something is withheld or damaged, or you are criticized or slighted, anger will not be your first response.”

“A joyful spirit is evidence of a grateful heart.”  – Maya Angelou

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”  – from a Chinese fortune cookie I got years ago

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2013. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp28p02-25-13

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