The other day, I threw a fit. I’m talking feet stomping, doors slamming, voice shouting fit. What would cause a fairly reasonable forty-something woman to engage in such childish behavior? Trash. More specifically, a trash bag ripped in half.
You see, my husband and I have a game we like to play. It’s loosely called, “Who Can Shove The Most Trash Into the Trash Bag Without Emptying the Can?” For two days, the trash bag inserted into the kitchen trash can had been at max capacity. And yet, each morning, I shoved day-old coffee grounds and paper towels deeper into the bag. My husband and our two boys did the same, until things came to a head late one afternoon. The bag was ready to burst. Try as I might, I just could not shove one more piece of garbage into the can. Sighing, I began the arduous process of removing the bag from the can–pulling and pushing to get the overstuffed bag past the bars that are designed to hold it in place. However, the bag was literally full to bursting, and burst it did.
Prior to the burst, I had called my 11-year old into the kitchen to help. Instead of getting to help, as the bag tore apart in my clenched fists, my son was treated to the rip-roaring raging wrath of a mother who had let anger get the better of her. In the midst of his mama’s stomps, shouts, and kicks to the trash can, he humbly apologized for the bag catastrophe.
“Oh, no!” I yelled, slinging coffee grounds around the kitchen. “It’s not YOUR fault. It’s your father’s!” I grabbed my cell phone to call my husband and let him have it. Never mind that he was on a pastoral visit. This was all his fault, and he needed to know.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit intervened as my thumb swiped across my screen to unlock the phone.
What are you doing? it gently asked. You’re making a fool of yourself in front of your son over a trash bag. You’re being dumb.
In that moment, I considered my anger. I dug deep to see if it was righteously placed. And guess what? It wasn’t. The full to bursting trash bag was as much my fault as anyone else’s. And I was setting a terrible example for my son. The truth is, I have a great husband. Is he perfect? Of course not, he’s human. But, he is perfect for me. He cooks. He cleans the kitchen. He talks to me about decisions. He talks to me–period. He lets me do whatever I want with generally very little fuss. He encourages my work, is my number one fan, and doesn’t get too upset when I make a mess of things and he has to fix it. He’s also a loving father and helps the kids with their math homework. Really, what more could you ask for in a partner?
There’s a reason that Scripture cautions us about anger. As Jame says, an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. Anger is an all-consuming fire. It burns through our souls and spreads to those around us. Anger destroys. It destroys our spirits. It destroys our relationships. It destroys our ability to problem-solve. It destroys our peace. Read what what the psalmist says about anger:
Anger only leads to evil. Think about that for minute. Anger is a powerful emotion rooted in self-centeredness. It is a dam of self-entitlement that breaks open and drowns us in bitterness, envy, and hate. Anger consumes our reason and suffocates our ability to love, thus leading us into careless words and actions that seek to harm others. We justify our anger by placing the blame for situations that cause anger on others–making ourselves victims in the process. It’s easier to blame someone else than to take responsibility for our own culpability. However, this need for justification and descent into anger is contrary to Jesus’s teachings. Jesus cautioned against anger, focusing instead on the power of love. Where anger destroys, love builds. Where anger suffocates, love gives breath. Where anger burns, love quenches. Love is the ultimate power for good in a world that seems bent on hate.
That is not to say that there is no room for righteous anger. Jesus, himself, showed a righteous anger when he cleared the money changers from the Temple. However, righteous anger is outwardly focused. It is not based on the self, but a response to the oppression and injustice worldly powers inflict on others. Righteous anger is based in love, and an understanding that God designed the world to operate in a different way than what it currently does. Righteous anger leads to positive change. Selfish anger leads only to destruction.
This week, consider the things that make you angry. What is fueling your anger? Give your anger to God, and ask him to replace it with his love.
Blessings and Peace,