Saturday, April 21, 2012

What to do with anger

Lately I've been searching my heart a lot. Doing a lot of "house-cleaning" you could say. When you are 9 months pregnant and anxiously waiting for a baby to arrive, you have a lot of time to think.

The topic that's been on my mind the most lately has been anger.

Anger is not a bad thing. It is a natural feeling. God felt anger. It's normal to get angry.

But it's what we do with our anger that matters.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV) says, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

Psalm 4:4 (NKJV) tells us, "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still."

These two verses have been stuck in my head for many years ever since learning them early on in my faith. I am thankful that I've learned through studying Scriptures that being angry is not a bad thing. If that were the case, I would be beating myself over the head with a book 50 times a day due to guilt from getting angry!

I am not normally an angry-type of person. Usually I have a lot of patience and can hold my tongue. But after getting married and having a child, I've seen how I can become easily angered and react with harsh words or tone. Honestly it has shocked me. It has humbled me. It has shown me how much I truly need to be forgiven- Christ's sacrifice on the cross for my sins has become so much more real. I thought I was a pretty nice person- but then all this yucky junk rises to the surface the older I get and I realize time and time again how much I need a Savior!

My version of "being mean" or "lashing out" due to anger might not be the same as others... I don't throw things or yell or scream or slam doors or stomp off or give the cold shoulder. But that doesn't mean I should rationalize my sin, just because I feel it's "not as bad as others". I shouldn't compare myself to anyone else but Father, and Him alone. If I keep just comparing myself to other people, then after a while I'll plateau in my faith. I always need to be striving to be like Him if I want to keep growing spiritually.

Lately I've been struggling because of my pregnancy hormones (on top of aches and pains) and taking care of Sitora at the same time. What normally wouldn't anger me before, suddenly trips my trigger now and sends bolts of thunder up my spine. My patience level is running a bit on empty these last few weeks of pregnancy. Something simple like Sitora spilling her milk all over the counter and floor (for the third time this week) brings out my frustration immediately. Something simple like when she whines when it's time for a nap or time to leave a play-date. You get the idea. Small things, right?

I've made mistakes in the past where I snap when something happens and say something too harsh like, "What are you thinking?" or "I'm so annoyed right now!" I don't want to scar my children with these words. I know they will remember them forever. I want to stop myself before these words leave my lips. So lately I've adopted a new method of dealing with my frustration and it seems to be working!

When Sitora does something to anger me, immediately I take a deep breath and either look down at the floor or put my hands on my forehead to calm myself. I say nothing. At all. Then I think about the situation. What course of action do I need to take with Sitora right now? Was this an accident, or was she being disobedient? I ask the Lord to guide me and help calm my nerves. Then I take another deep breath and remind myself to speak in a soft kind voice. I might say something like, "We all spill our milk once in a while, don't worry honey. Next time can you try to be more careful? You are a big girl now and I want you to be responsible for your food and drink on the table." Or I might say, "Honey, the way you are acting right now is disrespectful. You are not allowed to talk to mommy that way. You need to say sorry to me, and then change your attitude. Do you want to chose to obey, or disobey? Because you know what will happen if you disobey." Then I look at her and wait for her response. By this time, the initial shock or spurt of anger I felt has started to dissipate and I know I can pretty easily act calmly from this point on.

This quote keeps running through my head, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This has helped me in my first few seconds of frustration, reminding me not to say something I would regret. Sitora has caught on to my new method the minute I put my head down or take a deep breath. Immediately she sputters, "Mommy, are you frustrated right now?" I am honest and reply, "Yes, I am." "Why?" she asks. I reply, "Mommy is frustrated that you did that. I am thinking about what I need to say." I think my silence and quiet voice have more of an impact on her than angry, harsh words can. She notices that something is bothering me because I suddenly became silent. It's okay for her to know I am frustrated. I am human, and I can't hide that from my child. I can't plaster a fake smile on my face and always pretend I am the perfect mom. I think it's good for our children to see us as parents experiencing all kinds of emotions so that they can learn from example how to deal with them. (Granted, I'm not going to cry my eyes out in front of her when I'm dealing with a hard issue. She has seen me cry before but I will always use caution in how much I tell her or what she sees me dealing with.)

Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV) says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger." Why do we as parents sometimes think this verse does not apply to us? Why have I thought in the past that it's okay to get raise my voice in anger at my child? Of course this doesn't apply to situations where she could get hurt or hurt others, like running out in the street or holding a lit match! I'm talking about raising my voice because I'm angry about something and can't control the feelings before I speak. If I don't want my daughter yelling at other people, then why would I do it? I don't want her yelling at her younger siblings someday either, passing on a legacy of angry words.

I have been praying about this and asking the Lord to help me in this area and give me grace in the years to come when we have more children. I want to make sure I work on this issue early in my parenting years. I know I will mess up, I know I will make mistakes. But I will repent and get right back on my feet again and start anew.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NIV)  "Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools."

Lord, help me to always turn to you with my anger and frustration. May I always act in a way that is pleasing to You!

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