Yesterday when my son was cleaning some dishes he accidentally sprayed water all over himself, the counter and the clean dishes in the dish drainer. I started yelling at him because 1) he was getting wet and had to leave for school in a few minutes, 2) he was getting the dishes wet that I had to put away, and 3) I have told him at least 634,899 times to hold things down in the sink to avoid flooding my kitchen.
Do you know what he asked me when I questioned him a little more harshly than I may be needed to? He asked me why I had to get so angry. Not generally a good question to ask an angry person while they’re in the middle of being angry, but he said it. I paused and said sheepishly, “Yeah. I’m working on that. It’s not going so well, is it?” The sprinkler incident begged the question I have been struggling with lately (my husband had also questioned me about my anger last week. I’m not good with math, but I noticed a pattern here). Why am I so angry?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about why a dirty house, kids walking thru instead of around dirt or mud and milk rings on my counter turn me into the Incredible Hulk. Why do so many things irritate me and why couldn’t I have been born a laid back, rarely-gets-mad kind person who is happy all the time? I could poke my husband in the eye with a pencil and he wouldn’t get mad, but if someone looks at me funny I want to clock them. Once again however, asking why doesn’t really help. If I can blame my parents, a particular incident or a defective gene for my anger issues, it doesn’t help me respond more nicely. So I have been asking the Lord instead, what now?
How does God help free us from things like anger, jealousy and fear? First of all as I have prayed and asked God to help me with my anger, the Holy Spirit has made me more aware when I am getting upset (when you’re really good at getting angry, you don’t notice/care when you are about to lose it). Secondly, He helps me pause. Am I going to say something I regret or keep my mouth closed? Am I going to dole out a consequence before praying about it? When I step in a sticky spot on the kitchen floor will I blame those clumsy, oblivious children or will I respond with a nicer tone, calmer demeanor and more Christ like response? Yes, I still feel like yelling but God is helping me respond a little more gently. And seeing how my family has responded the slightly nicer me, makes me once again overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord for his care, love and real help when I ask Him for it.
“Dear Lord, thank you for not only helping me be aware of my anger, but also helping me become aware of how my anger affects my family. Thank you that you don’t condemn me for my anger, but gently help me look more like you when I ask for your help. I know anger may always be my default, but I am confident you are able to help me gradually become “slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) if I keep asking and yielding to your Spirit. In Your Name, Amen.”