The other evening was pretty bad. I come home and bug the wife and some of the kids as usual while she is getting dinner ready. Half the kids are in the house, half are out in the yard. My 13 year old son is sitting on the couch reading a book and the girls are milling in the kitchen. Soon, my six year old comes in and says our two year old is trapped under a laundry tub with a bunch of bricks on it. This made me mad, certainly my 8 year old knew better than to treat our toddler like that. I shouted out for him, getting ready to spank him. Then, my 13 year old pipes up, “That wasn’t him, I did it”. At first I thought he was joking, or trying to cover for him. Nope, as soon as my 8 year old came in with a bewildered look on his face, I knew my 13 year old was telling the truth.
Not since I was a kid has my temper risen so high. Normally, I am a mellow guy, but this put me over the edge. Had he not been my son, I would have punched him square in the face and not backed off, and my son knows it. Stuff got broken, explicatives were shouted, and punishments were delivered. This was not becoming of a regular Church going guy who is normally patient and mellow about things. After it was all over, I had to issue apologies to the rest of my family, my son, and to God. If I were to do it over again, I would have sent him to his room, and waited an hour for my blood pressure to come down, and then issued out a punishment that is reasonable. Instead, like a girl, I let my emotions get the better of me, and I totally lost my composure.
The Vice of the Virtuous
There are a few vices that are universal. Selfishness, pride, and wrath (or a hot temper) are among them. It indicates a lack of self-control. Often, in the heat of the moment, we will say or do things that we will later regret (as did I). We may turn our wrath on others and hurt them.
If we bottle in our wrath, we may avoid hurting others, but as we hold onto the rage, we change our moods, we shut down, and we hurt ourselves in the process. Being bitter about something you are unwilling to handle is no way to live life.
Some are told to “let your anger out” through a punching bag, or venting to your friends or family. However, psychologists are learning that this does not work, and is in fact, counterproductive.
So, if raging against whatever is making you angry is a bad idea, bottling up anger is a bad idea, and venting anger to others is a bad idea, what are we to do?
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
One Passover, Jesus goes to the temple at Jerusalem, and finds a bunch of money changers, trying to make a buck at the sacred location. Instead of just charging ahead, He takes the time to make a scourge of small cords, and then drives them out of the temple. (John 2:13-16).
From what we read, he takes charge of the situation, but we do not have any indication that he loses is composure. This is where I went wrong. Before confronting my son, I should have taken the time to create a scourge of small cords, thereby reducing my anger, and dealing with the situation in a calm manner.
Almost every day, we come across irritations that get our blood pressure up. Running into a deer, being cut off, politics, or snarky people all have the potential to get our dander up. The best thing you can do is learn to laugh and not care. So, a rude driver goes around you or blocks your entrance. At most, it will cost you 5 minutes to the next exit. The ZFG attitude is very important if you want to have a low stress life.
Utilize empathy if you are dealing with people. Perhaps the guy who cut you off is late for work, or on his way to the hospital. If you assume better in people, you will lower your blood pressure and have a more pleasant disposition.
Perhaps you just got mugged and beaten up, or fired because someone lied about you. Maybe your wife decided to cheat and divorce you, leaving you with half your stuff, and child support payments. Not only did this hurt you, it hurt your family who is depending on you. For instances such as these, it is understandable that you carry some anger with you. You would not be human if you didn’t. However, if you take revenge irrationally, hold onto that anger too much, or endlessly complain to everyone and their dog about it, you just end up hurting yourself more.
Like the grieving process when a loved one dies, there is a time that you should feel angry. Have a beer, talk with some friends about it, but then the time comes that you have to get over it. Like Forest Gump and his running phase, sometimes you need to move on with life in your own way. Christ is there to help you let go of that anger. Once you are over it, move on with your life, and try not to look back. The damage is done, try not to let them hurt you anymore.
I reflect back on my life, and look at the times I was least happy, usually those are filled with anger. Coincidently, those are the times when people around me are hurt the most by me. Some people may think of having a hot temper is masculine, but it really is the antithesis as you are relinquishing your emotions to someone else’s control.