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Monday, April 11, 2016

How Not to be Angry, AKA How to Dwell in Joy!

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls." -James 1:19-21 NLT



Joy and Anger Junk (PART 2)by MissDaniChan

I've always had a short temper. It was really bad at times when I was younger. Cross me, and I would erupt into destructive forces like you may have never seen before. 

My oldest children were often privileged to find themselves the witnesses of "Scary Mommy." Scary Mommy would go from happy and calm to angry and potentially violent (not toward them, mind you...but five year olds get scared when Mommy yells and throws things). I'm not proud of who I was then. I wasn't proud of my outbursts even then. It was all I knew. 

I'm not going to blame anyone for my behavior as an adult. This was the kind of parenting I received as a child. It was all I knew...then. But that has never been a justification for the way I behaved. It just took me a while to understand that I didn't have to be who my mom had been. I didn't even have to be who I was acting like I might be back then.

I needed only to accept my shortcomings--For everyone has sinned...Romans 3:23a--and to make a conscious choice to do something different. 

But do what?

I knew I was angry. I knew that my anger was destructive. So what is the opposite of anger?

JOY.

But how do I learn joy? What is it?

Joy comes through the slow practices--slow to speak (quick to listen), slow to get angry (quick to forgive and understand). Joy doesn't abide in the world of right and wrong.

There are three practices of Joy, I believe:

  1. Joy pauses. When someone says something that makes me mad, I'm learning to pause. Sometimes I walk away. Sometimes I stay. But I strive to stop and not speak.

    Yet.

    I need a moment to process through what happened. This is where the second Joy practice comes in.
  2. Joy looks for the motive behind an action.  It asks why someone has done what they've done. Joy listens for the answers even when no words are being spoken.

    When my children drew with a permanent marker all over the kitchen table while I was in the bathroom, Joy asked what was behind their action. What was the reason they drew on the table? To make Mommy angry, or to draw a beautiful picture?

    In day to day life now, I try to always stop and look at the reasons behind actions that irritate me. That driver who cut me off, what is going on in their day? Maybe his wife is leaving him. Maybe he just got laid off from work. Maybe he is rushing to visit his mother in the hospital.

    Stopping to consider the motive allows me to see another person as human and flawed (just like I am). When I see the person I'm angry with as I see myself, identifying their motives in a way that see the person not just the action, my anger is thwarted. It's replaced with empathy and compassion. And where there is Empathy, Joy is close by!
  3. Joy speaks only after a pause and thought. When I dwell in Joy, I speak words of kindness guided by a break in time and the practice of empathy. Empathy requires me to shift my focus from me to another person. I have to see their circumstance before I process and respond to my experience with them. 

    Joy then reminds me that my words can either build up or destroy another person--The tongue can bring death or life (Proverbs 18:21a). It chooses words carefully to build up others in the manner that I crave words to be spoken into my life. Joy repays harsh words with love and kindness. 
As I struggled to own my actions, my responses to others, I learned there is a great reward in owning my behavior and changing it. It turns out, I always had a choice but I had to discover that first. 

If you are struggling today with anger, I challenge you to find where you can make a choice and to act on it. See what works and what doesn't. Try something new. Choose to try something new today!

Where do you struggle the most to control your anger? Where is Joy trying to creep in? How will you encourage Joy to make a home in your life?

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